Reframe boredom as a force for good
I feel bored.
You must have felt bored at some point, too, no? I think boredom comes with the human condition. We live, and sometimes we have things to live for, and sometimes, we forget to notice those things and there find ourselves in idle discontent.
Sometimes it can be hard to feel bored. Who has time to be bored? ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that!’ People who work full-time, commute part-time, and have families or friends to tend to in their off-hours, it can be hard for boredom to slip in. But when it does creep in, what do we do?
The truth is boredom can be hard to deal with. And I think it can be even harder to talk about than depression, which I feel has become easier in recent times to discuss. But what about boredom? Because boredom can be perceived as a privilege, it can be all the harder to discuss, even confront.
But boredom is not just hard to talk about, it’s harder to deal with. Not because it’s hard for reasons we control; it’s hard because we can’t control it. Boredom is an unwanted force that usurps our attention and disables our mental facilities. It envelops us, all of us, and as a result, we experience time slower.
Boredom can be better characterized as a kind of anxiousness. Think of it as a DDoS attack on our attention, pivoting us from being concerned about things that matter to epitomizing a lack of concern for all things, matter-some or not. I suspect most of us without our work and friends are doomed to boredom.
So what do we do?
How do we deal with boredom?
Here’s what I can offer. When experiencing an unwanted emotion, whether loneliness, depression, boredom––whatever negative, unwanted emotion, imagine the countless times upon which these emotions have visited humans across all time and space.
These emotions are ancient.
These emotions are human.
And these emotions have and will continue to drive our species.
With the context that we don’t experience such emotions in isolation, rather, we as a species experience these emotions, it can therefore become so much easier to reframe the question of ‘How do I deal with boredom?’ to ‘What can I do to help others with their boredom?’.
Recognizing we share these unfortunate visitors can be more empowering than how disempowering these emotions are. I argue, in this context, we can again regain control because we are not our emotions. Our emotions––however, for better and for worse, have designed us.
But we too are also designers.
And we can intervene.
Of all the common miracles our brains provide us, one of the most astonishing miracles is that we can re-contextualize a problem; we can re-contextualize an emotion. In programmatic terms, this could be understood as error-handling. Don’t believe me?
Listen to a song.
Now listen to it 50 times.
Does it make sense (that some of us) can listen to the same song 50 times without feeling bored if it speaks to an emotion? Well, it shouldn’t, because the music itself is a kind of purposeful reprogramming we seek. Hell, people go to concerts to do this en masse. What (good) music does is it surrounds us, like a friend, with unwavering courage to confront an emotion. Even if it’s just all in our heads.
Using that same power, what if when we experience a negative emotion, we instead focus on the countless times those emotions have been visited upon our species. These numbers would break the upper limits of a
float64. But we can also arm ourselves with the cognizance that we––as members of this species––are doomed to experience such emotions.
And that’s OK.
That’s what makes it OK.
Understand that humans are inseparable from emotions. And those who cannot feel emotions are often characterized as inhumane. You are not special for having said emotions, but empowering oneself to think for and about others is special. And using the miracle between our temples to regain control over ourselves, and to share that same power to help others is not just special, it’s also human.
Because we can do good for ourselves, we can do good for others.
In the era of the internet, I think we should find more outlets and mediums to recognize and support each other as human. We’re all screwed up, but we’re still capable of greatness. Distributing our attention and care for others is one such behavior we can exercise to help.
Don’t just be bored. Be fed up with the incalculable amount of times boredness, and all the other distasteful emotions, has visited our species. Think about someone else––the whole species, goddammit! I hope that in writing this, I’ve inspired someone, somewhere, to re-contextualize their boredom as a force for good.
Thanks for reading.
Please share if this made an impact.
Some videos I thought about in writing this: