More people seem to be getting interested in boredom. Now the World Economic Forum has a video about the value of letting your mind do nothing at all:
— World Economic Forum (@wef) July 26, 2017
It’s kind of a follow-up to a piece by Silicon Valley author Jordan Rosenfeld about why we should “Learn how to be bored instead” of constantly reaching for our phones during down moments. Since writing The Distraction Addiction and Rest, I’ve become more of a fan of taking those moments and just doing nothing at all, staring into space and letting my mind wander.
Of course, what Rosenfeld and the World Economic Forum are talking about isn’t really boredom, per se, but rather treating those moments when you don’t have to focus on anything– that time in line at the store, for example– as an opportunity and positive thing, rather than a negative space defined by an absence of stimulus. As I argued in my Maria Shriver Sunday paper article this weekend, boredom isn’t a state that’s determined by the world around us. It’s conjured by us.
Boredom isn’t like a thermometer that measures how dull our environment is. it’s a more complex reaction of our selves and our surroundings. We might be bored by a movie that we’ve seen many times; we might find a conversation at a reunion dull because our lives and our classmates’ have gone in very different directions; or we might find a place dull because we were dragged there by our stupid parents who think stupid Renaissance paintings are cool. All kinds of things can be boring, as this piece of graffiti in Oxford reminds us:
Still, the underlying idea that when the world doesn’t offer us stimulation, it’s offering us a gift, is one that is worth repeating, even if I think we need a better term than “boredom” to describe it.