Let Them Be Bored

When you read (or hear) a really good story, you find yourself stepping out of your own life and into the life of the story.  You see the story through their eyes, minds, and hearts. You experience it in your own inner life.  Being able to do that is the sort of skill one needs to see another point of view, to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes, to imagine from a wider perspective than one’s one immediate experience.

People who don’t do this, whether because they won’t or can’t, lack something, a warmth, an ability to emphasize. They tend to be more rigid and inflexible in their thinking.  They are also often rather boring, as their interests are limited,  sometimes severely.  There’s something missing- curiosity, perhaps, the ability or willingness to be interested in something wider than their own immediate lives and amusements.

When you are curious, you want to know, so you explore further.  If you are not curious, you are apathetic and apathy deadens mind and soul.

Children are born naturally curious. They have a wide interest in the world.  We do something to squelch it and they are not better and more interesting people because of it. We allow them to feed that healthy, nourishing sense of curiosity with the artificial substitute of entertainment- largely screen time.  They spend their time scrolling through multiple screens, being spectators, amused, entertained, seldom having to actively think about or wonder about anything themselves. We fear boredom when it is in those moments between wondering, thinking about something, and not having the answer immediately at our fingertips, that discoveries are made, as unanswered curiosity provokes the wonderer to do something about it, to think, ponder, explore, discover.

Creativity is born of boredom, of the space we give ourselves to be bored rather than entertained.

Removing the electronics, or limiting them, is a big step toward restoring that bright, healthy sense of curiosity that makes us doers and makers rather than consumers and takers.  It’s a good start.

City living also contributes toward our weak attention spans.

“A study from the University of London, for example, found that members of the remote cattle-herding Himba tribe in Namibia, who spend their lives in the open bush, had greater attention spans and a greater sense of contentment than urbanized Britons and, when those same tribe members moved into urban centres, their attention spans and levels of contentment dropped to match their British counterparts. Dr. Karina Linnell, who led the study, was “staggered” by how superior the rural Himba were. She told the BBC that these profound differences were “a function of how we live our lives.”

“Photos of nature will increase your sense of affection and playfulness. A quick trip into the woods, known as “forest bathing” in Japan, reduces cortisol levels and boosts the immune system. Whether rich or poor, students perform better with access to green space. And a simple view of greenery can insulate us from stress and increase our resilience to adversity. Time in nature even boosts, in a very concrete way, our ability to smell, see, and hear. The data piles up.” (The Benefits of Solitude by Michael Harris)

Go to the beach, a park, a lake, a garden.  Put some greenery in around your house or apartment. Get a fish tank and put a comfortable chair nearby for observation.  Leave the electronics behind.


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