Boredom is but a window to a sunny day beyond the gloom | Neel Burton
A great read on boredom and why we should embrace it in our daily lives.
Let’s look more closely at the anatomy of boredom. Why is it so damned boring to be stuck in a departure lounge while our flight is increasingly delayed? We are in a state of high arousal, anticipating our imminent arrival in a novel and stimulating environment. True, there are plenty of shops, screens and magazines around, but we’re not really interested in them and, by dividing our attention, they serve only to exacerbate our boredom. To make matters worse, the situation is out of our control, unpredictable (the flight could be further delayed, or even cancelled) and inescapable. As we check and re-check the monitor, we become painfully aware of all these factors and more. And so here we are, caught in transit, in a high state of arousal that we can neither engage nor escape.
Ever wondered why you get bored while waiting for your flight in the departure lounge? Well there you go.
In 1918, Russell spent four and a half months in Brixton prison for ‘pacifist propaganda’, but found the bare conditions congenial and conducive to creativity:
I found prison in many ways quite agreeable … I had no engagements, no difficult decisions to make, no fear of callers, no interruptions to my work. I read enormously; I wrote a book, Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy … and began the work for Analysis of Mind … One time, when I was reading Strachey’s Eminent Victorians, I laughed so loud that the warder came round to stop me, saying I must remember that prison was a place of punishment.
I don't know if it's just me, but I find that hilarious! “Prison was a place of punishment” said the warder haha.
But rather than fighting a constant battle against boredom, it is easier and much more productive to actually embrace it. If boredom is a window on to the fundamental nature of reality and, by extension, on to the human condition, then fighting boredom amounts to pulling back the curtains. Yes, the night is pitch-black, but the stars shine all the more brightly for it.
That's a nice way to put it. One of the things Cal Newport says is that we have to be comfortable with our own mind when we are bored.
Next time you find yourself in a boring situation, throw yourself fully into it – instead of doing what we normally do, which is to step further and further back. If this feels like too much of an ask, the Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh advocates simply appending the word ‘meditation’ to whatever activity it is that you find boring, for example, ‘standing-in-line meditation’.
Sounds like legit advice from a Zen master. I'm going to try applying that in my daily life. Then I can tell my coworkers in the break room, I'm performing a “wait-for-the-microwave-to-be-done meditation”.