Boredom, we’ve all felt it and feel it. Almost daily I hear my kids complain of boredom. Clients too and when I look around there’s plenty of visual evidence that boredom afflicts the majority of people at least some of the time. It’s a state of being that indicates a general lack of interest or lack of interesting things. Most of the time I think individuals look outside of themselves and blame their boredom on the latter. Most of the time I think they’re wrong.
If there’s one thing that we have plenty of in modern times are a variety of things to do that are easily accessible to most in the developed world. Many of those things, as well as countless innovative ideas and actions, came from a place of boredom. Too many seems bent on treating boredom or drowning it out: TV, video games, spectator sports, recreational drugs, and even anti-depressants have this in common. And yet, Einstein’s theory of Relativity is the classic example of a remarkable insight that came in a time of apparent dullness. He was obviously too smart for most common activities and they were or quickly became boring. This was the stew for his pot of gold as he credits curiosity and imagination with being the primary movers of his lasting legacy.
“The monotony of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.” — Albert Einstein: Civilization and Science, October 3, 1933.
Busy-ness is an antidote for boredom. Problem is, boredom doesn’t require an antidote. Boredom is the space in between all the doing where we dream, rest, connect, listen, and feel. Most people in the modern age have silenced boredom with the drone of noisy activities and once these activities cease, the inner noise is felt as a nuisance.
I think we should practice welcoming the boredom, entertaining the mundane, and surrender to the ebb and flow of life… taking notice of everything in and around us, letting our imagination lead us to surreal realities, laughing with the kids, spending time with our partners, playing at work, listening more than we speak, being kind to ourselves, breathing, and to have “no gaining thought” as Shenryu Suzuki proclaims in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.
The truth is that the gate is often obscured. Simple and without embellishments, it escapes our view and mocks our incongruities… this is boredom in a nutshell.
Speaking of nutshells, when’s the last time you saw one? For most of us, our edible nuts come pre-packaged and, rather than requiring a skillful crack, one must pop the top and “commence shoveling” as Bart Simpson ‘amens’ after the proverbial grace period. A nutshell is an amazing piece of work that nature does with such ease. Yet each nut is unique, a perfect design for what lies inside. Totally fucking beautiful if we have a moment to spare. Each tastes totally unique as well if only we stop the shoveling and savor the flavor.
Turns out I’m partial to the cashew. Not roasted or salted, just raw. Turns out that’s the healthiest way to enjoy them too.
“I believe that a simple and unassuming life is good for everybody, physically and mentally.” — Albert Einstein: The World As I See It, 1930.
Why does it take such a brilliant mind to make us aware of the benefits of simplicity and possibilities that exist within an unassuming life? Why isn’t is apparent to us all? It seems a pretty obvious conclusion from a bird’s eye view, but we aren’t birds!
My guess is that our feelings of insignificance has led us astray. In our attempt to be something, we forget that we already are. Even those striving for Enlightenment have skipped past the reality that they were born enlightened beings blessed with higher consciousness right from the start. Our parents see this at first glance, but quickly lose sight as the separateness creeps in and they begin labeling and comparing their children as anything other than enlightened. Certainly it must take years of skillful practice and dedication to reach such platitudes and how quickly the child walks and talks are surely signs of their potential to reach these heights. As a parent I am guilty of this conditioning that not only fails to see, but also condemns the youngster to never being good enough. Thus begins the relentless pursuit as the donkey never reaches the carrot.
In what ways might you be acting like a donkey? In what ways are you riding it’s back taunting it toward the edge? Can you feel the spectre of Death riding you like a donkey?
Life shouldn’t be so cruel.
Might boredom be a blessing and not a curse?