Finding Boredom

So far I’ve published everything I’ve written.

This is really just a brain dump. Cleaning out the attic on a daily basis, to just make sure that I don’t have a lot of cobwebs swinging around in there mucking up the works.

But this week I started to write something, and just flat out hated it. It was self aggrandizing, while also being self critical, and made me feel like I was just bragging about something to make myself look good.

I kept trying to write it though. Because I felt like the point of the post was good. I felt like there was a “there” there. It had something that I wanted to get out.

But I just couldn’t do it without feeling icky.

Even though I don’t like it, I think this informs my thoughts on why I wanted to write about writing… so here’s how the post started:

It’s really weird to be a nerd these days.
There’s just too much content available. As a result, I listen to about 10–15 different podcasts on a weekly basis, read a lot of random articles, and I have to sort through the weird ideas in my head.
It’s just too much to go through.
Which leads to something I really think a lot about, which is that there are only two real options for us nerds these days:
Deep dives on specific topics — learn everything on a single topic, end with narrow but deep knowledge
Renaissance Person — learn a little bit on a lot of topics, have a wide breadth of knowledge that is shallow
I desperately want to be in group #1, but… I definitely am not. I think there’s a lot of merit to being a Renaissance person, but, there’s something so fundamentally interesting about someone who has the knowledge and discipline to do deep dives on any given subject.
For instance, one of the many nerdy podcasts I listen to (and LOVE) is Vox’s The Weeds (The Weeds Podcast — Vox — listen to it!). And I love it specifically because it gives me a little bit of depth about a lot of issues. I always learn something more about a topic I’m interested in, or something a topic that had literally never occurred to me.
And listening, it leads me to realize that being able to deep dive into the weeds is incredibly hard… for me.

So, re-reading this about six times, there’s only one direction to go in from here: calling myself a Renaissance person. Which is just… swell.

I’ve got a couple of problems with my own rhetoric here:

  1. There is a joke, that there are two kinds of people: people who say there are two kinds of people, and people who don’t. But more to the point, limiting people to these two options seems like a silly premise. It’s something you do to try and create a point. But it’s not an actual reality, it’s a metaphor for… something. But there’s not something that I want to say about dichotomies, I wanted to say something about the difficulty of consuming media and information.
  2. The whole thing seems to lead to the idea that while I want to be a deep dive type of person, I am actually a Renaissance person. And it’s actually cooler to be a Renaissance person. Which is clearly not true. There is nothing inherently cool or uncool about either.

So what did I really want to say? I wanted to say something simple: It’s too hard to consume all of the information, media, entertainment, sports, family time, work time, and everything else that takes up our days.

I truly wonder if we’re doing the right thing by exposing ourselves and our society to all of the details and options that are available.

I started writing this after listening to a couple of podcasts where Malcolm Gladwell was discussing his latest experiment, the Revisionist History podcast. And during all of these discussions, there was one thing that you could hear coming through: he truly values boredom.

And that got me thinking… when was I last bored?

I always have something that I can do. Something I can listen to. Something that I can consume. I have podcasts, I have live streaming television on my phone or iPad or computer, I have silly time consuming games on my phone or iPad, I always have more work that I can do (and I can now do it anywhere), and even this morning, I woke up at 4 am because I couldn’t sleep… but I had a ton that I could DO.

And I wonder, am I better off? And then taking that out of myself a little bit, I’m wondering if WE are better off.

That’s part of why I’m writing at all. I want to explore my own thoughts and feelings. Which by it’s very nature we do when we are bored.

I tried to start medidating earlier this year. I was really stressed, I was feeling terrible about myself, and just needed some space to breathe. So I tried it. I sat, I listened to some instructional audio to get me to medidate. But I just… I just didn’t like it. I think I didn’t like it because I started getting into my own head. And once I was in there, I couldn’t shut it down. The entire goal is to shut it down. But I just wasn’t able to.

So I took it a different direction and started working out again. And I thought, “this is great, I go, I listen to music or a podcast, and it’s a nice little breather to get my body and mind focused on something”.

And it’s been positive and gone in the direction that I was looking for. But then thinking about Malcolm Gladwell’s thoughts on boredom, I’m wondering… could I do more by unplugging my headphones? Could I do more by waking up in the morning and just having silence instead of needing to have a TV show, podcast, or music playing?

I think the answer is: maybe.

I’ve written before that I’m interested to see how technology is going to change and morph our society. There’s no way it won’t change or morph. It’s just a matter of how. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t explore how to retain some of what we used to have.

I’m going to start by trying to find some boredom. I hope you find some too (maybe you just did by actually reading this thing!)!