Beyond Boredom

There is no excuse for being bored. At every turn we are assaulted with an onslaught of optical and audible amusements. Video games, television, music and movies can easily keep boredom at bay, but at what price? Entertainment often pacifies our mind and neutralizes our imagination. As we all know, the deepest discussions arise during long drives and the most insightful thoughts flow forth from sleepless nights. Silence is a friend to the thoughtful, an essential ingredient in meditation.

There are certain circumstances in which the mind is permitted to wander, but they only come to pass once one has crossed the threshold of boredom. Sleepovers are a great example of this. As children, we all knew the adventure of spending a night at a friend’s house. For some reason, our friends’ toys always seemed more interesting than our own, so much of the day was spent enjoying the things that our friends found tiresome. But once the Sun had descended and the house was still, it was time for the real magic.

After making camp in the living room and watching an R-rated movie, the television was turned off and, after a few moments of silence, the conversation would begin. Conversation like this can only happen once all avenues of entertainment are exhausted, once boredom is no longer an option. Dreams, fears, love and weakness are exposed as we confess our deepest longings to each other.

Another situation that allows for the transition beyond boredom occurs when children are dragged off on a family camping trip or brought to their grandparents’ house for a holiday dinner. Entertainment is scarce, forcing children to use their imagination and environment to find excitement. Basements become dungeons, sticks turn into swords, dolls transform into audiences and younger brothers become slaves. When children don’t have toys, they make toys. This behavior is another example of restriction fathering invention.

In many ways our minds function as distinct bodies with muscles and a digestive tract. Our minds need input (food) which can be anything from rock concerts to romance novels, or even blogs. Obviously, some of this brain food is nutritious and will promote a healthy, robust mind. Video games would rank as something like mental McDonald’s – it will keep us alive, but just barely. If we were to exclusively consume lower forms of input, our minds would decay into lethargic dependence, only craving the next dose.

Our minds also require output (exercise) such as composing music, painting a picture or writing an exam. These mental workouts can vary in length and intensity, with some offering more benefits than others. The more intense exercises, such as writing an essay or organizing an event, would be the metal equivalent to weightlifting or long-distance running, while activities such as writing e-mails or having a casual conversation, would be akin to a mild walk or chair aerobics session.

Too often our brains are oversaturated with low quality input and never stretched by high intensity output. Most of us don’t even know what it’s like to be bored – to have a hungry mind. This is why boredom should be embraced, not avoided. Boredom forces us to exercise our minds, to stop cramming it full of nutrient-stripped waste and be creative.

Put your brain on a diet. Get bored.

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