In today’s society, it is not hard to find even a single moment of relaxation to reflect on life and the many decisions we make unconsciously every single day. From the time we develop independent thought, our time is taken up with education and the many extra-curricular activities that we are involved in. Eventually, we graduate from college and take our place in the real world, with work and starting a family becoming the focal points of our lives. Couple both of these major, busy stages of our lives with the technology that now dominates our society, and one can see why we are so hard-pressed to find a moment of rest. It is an amazing testament to how far society has advanced, but it is also a cripple to society. Without moments of reflection, we can easily live immense periods of our life without even thinking about what we are doing. Our view of boredom has developed such a negative connotation with the chaotic norm of our present-day society that we avoid it at all costs. But boredom is exactly what we need. It is within boredom that we can evaluate our decisions in life and bring ourselves to a sense of clarity.
Leisure Boredom: What it is/isn’t
When I say that boredom can be a very beneficial tool in life, I am speaking about a very specific type of boredom. Obviously, the boredom one feels in forced situations is in no way beneficial to our mental state. The boredom one feels as the minutes drag during a lecture, a workday, any unavoidable event, is not the type of boredom that I am referring to in this post. That type of boredom, which is the type being referred to in the cartoon above, is almost a painful sensation in which our mind is invaded with thoughts of when the suffering is going to end. The type of boredom that is vital to a successful life occurs in those moments of stagnancy found in free time. That type of boredom is commonly referred to as leisure boredom.
Leisure boredom is voluntary due to the fact that is only experienced in moments of downtime. One can choose whether to be bored during their moments of uneventfulness, and this type of boredom is the one suffering from the false, negative perception shared by the majority of society about boredom. Because heavily negative feelings are constantly associated with unavoidable boredom, leisure boredom is automatically familiarized with negativity. But it does not have to be viewed that way, and it definitely should not be. Taking a moment to slow down the chaos of life and think over the many decisions we make can be monumentally important and even change one’s life forever. It can only take one moment of clarity to bring the truth behind anything to the surface. All too often, we get caught up in the high-speed nature of life and do not truly think through what we are doing. Leisure boredom gives us a brief moment to review what we are doing and if it is truly what we want. An article I discovered on the internet entitled “The Benefits of Boredom” (http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-benefits-of-boredom/#axzz2yAvUywqY) encompasses my feelings completely about how boredom does not always have to be negative, and that it actually can reveal a detail or truth that we may have overlooked.
The Age of Technology: Efficient, but Detrimental
As society has advanced, humans have constantly created new pieces of technology to make life more efficient and easier. In today’s world, technology dominates our everyday lives in an attempt to connect everyone to everything in an effective manner that benefits everyone. Smartphones are one of the most monumental developments of our time. They allow us to connect to anyone and anything we can think of. We can connect with friends across the globe, play games, and look up any miniscule piece of information in a matter of seconds. It is all just a few buttons away from us at any given moment. However, the smartphone has become too efficient and easy to use, and now has a unrelenting, inescapable grip on almost all of its users. I can attest to this and how controlling it can become in my life.
As an adolescent moving from his hometown to a University that he does not share with any of his former classmates, I used to constantly feel the need to keep track of what everyone else was doing with their lives. Through social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, it was fairly easy to accomplish this. I would monitor all of my friends’ tweets and posts just to see what they were up to, usually several times during the course of a day. This voluntary monitoring turned quickly into a uncontrollable obsession that needed constant attention. It became so a huge part of my life that I would check social media sites automatically without even thinking about it. Given enough free time, I would check this sites several times within a five to ten minute span. Obviously, I knew that there would not be too many new things to look at within such a short period of time, but I still checked. Sometimes I would not even realize that I had just checked one of the social media sites and return back to it within a minute’s time. It was that hard-wired into my daily routine, and took up most of my free time. It filled the time that I could have been spending thinking over my life with useless information that served as a distraction from boredom. Luckily, I have realized how dependent I had become with my smartphone and have recently begun to limit my time on my phone and used my free time to reflect on myself rather than fill it with useless information that I was going to forget within a few minutes anyway. An article entitled “The Effects and Influences of Technology on Society and Human Kind” (http://scienceray.com/technology/applied-science/the-effects-and-influences-of-technology-on-society-and-human-kind/) does an excellent job in expanding my thoughts that technology has become a cripple to societal development.
Logan Smith’s Story of the Benefits of Leisure Boredom
In his time on Wall Street, Logan Smith had become one of the most powerful stock brokers in history. His ability to persuade even the largest of corporations to buy into up-and-coming businesses was unmatched, and it almost always ended with both parties satisfied and with more money in their pockets. His immense success quickly spread all over the nation, and ever major businessmen and companies seemed to be lining up at his office door for a only tiny morsel of his insight into what stocks should be bought up and which stocks should be sold. Fellow stock brokers were always trying to pick his brain to figure out what he knew that they did not and how he could utilize it with such accuracy and efficiency. Every single time, he would tell them all the same exact piece of information: he lives, eats, and breathes stocks.
Logan Smith was extremely dedicated to his work and viewed it more as a craft that could be honed and perfected rather than an obligation. Everyday, he spent over ten hours in his office, speaking with clients on stock trends, when to buy, and when to cash out. He took his lunches only when he had clients that wanted to personally meet with him, which would happen once or twice a day at anytime. He could eat lunch at 9:00 A.M., or he could eat it at 5:00 P.M. depending on when the client could meet with him. This sporadic lunch schedule may sound unappealing to a normal person, but for Logan Smith it worked perfectly. He viewed eating as a necessary part of life, but he was able to control his desire for it. He was so busy throughout the work day that he gained the ability to curb his hunger until he found a moment to eat. After leaving the office late into the evening, he would eat again and head home. But, just because he had headed home did not mean that he was done for the day. Once home, all of his time was spent researching stock trends and looking over numbers that would help him with the next day’s work. His only break from stock broking was when he was sleeping, which was only for a few hours per evening. He loved his job, so he was able to devote all of his free time to making it more successful. That is, until the market crashed.
On September 16, 2008, Wall Street crashed as several massive financial institutions failed. A market crash was one of the most disheartening events a stock broker could experience, and Logan Smith definitely felt its full effects. All day, he was constantly selling shares of scared clients that did not want to lose anymore money. After a long day of disappointment, Logan headed home to begin his daily research. But tonight was different. The day’s events were so depressing that all Logan could do was sit at his computer and stare at the screen. As his eyes glazed over the multitude of numbers placed before them, Logan’s mind was finally able to think over the last few years of his life. And the clarity it brought to him was shocking. Logan realized that he actually hated his job. He had no free time to do the activities he used to love, he had no friends other than his clients, and he could not remember the last time he had any type of relationship. He had become so consumed in his job that he never took the time to think about whether or not he truly wanted to do it. Within five minutes of this realization, Logan decided to never go back to Wall Street. He had accrued enough money to support himself for the rest of his life, so he was able to retire at a very early age and enjoy the things he used. He was finally happy with his life, and it was all thanks to a few moments of leisure boredom.
“Listening to Nothing in Particular: Boredom and Contemporary Experimental Music”
This scholarly article looks at how boredom can be therapeutic, and how contemporary music can be utilized to invoke a sense of boredom. Like this blog post, Eldritch Priest (the author) examines leisure boredom and its benefits. He view of leisure boredom is “a lessening of one’s capacity to affect and be affected- a diminishing of our potential engagement with the world.” This definition describes my views perfectly. Boredom is a detachment from the chaos of everyday society that allows us to take step back and view things unbiasedly.
Waiting becomes focal point of the article, but not in the typical sense of the word. Most of us view waiting as a period of stagnancy in between events in our lives. We wait for a show to come on television, we wait for school to be over, we wait for a friend come over to our house. But this type of waiting has definitive terms and a sense of time that comes with it. The type of waiting that Priest speaks of is an infinite one. This infinite form of waiting becomes a major sense of detachment because we are doing nothing with ourselves over an extended period of time. This is where contemporary music comes into play in the article. Some pieces of music can last for hours on end, with repetition and monotony experienced the whole way through the piece. Within the immense length of the musical piece, a sense of waiting for change becomes a forceful influence on the crowd. Everyone is waiting and wanting for something interesting to happen with the music. But it never does. The crowd is left waiting indefinitely until the piece reaches its uneventful end. This unfulfilled sense of waiting becomes leisure boredom in respect to the fact that the crowd will become unattached to the music and let their mind wander to whatever it may please.
This type of long, unrelenting monotony found in contemporary experimental music is also a benefit of the performers. A long piece of music that utilizes a only a few changes in its structure allows the performer to enter a state of unconsciousness. Their hands are able to play their instruments without actively thinking, and so their minds are left to wander in the boredom of the performance. Priest cites a quote by Canadian composer Chedomir Barone with his encounter with boredom in performing Piano Installations. Barone stated that after half through the piece he “realized that nothing made much sense. I was smacking some wooden box with my hands for some reasons unknown, and somehow sounds were happening as a result of my actions. Everything – the music, the piano, the concert, the people sitting there – seemed utterly foreign and utterly ludicrous.” These feelings could only come to Barone through the leisure boredom invoked by the long piece of music he was performing. It does not make sense why we play instruments for others’ amusement, but there are thousands of musicians all over the world that make a living out of it. This realization could only be discovered once Barone had distanced himself from society through an enveloping sense of boredom.
- Priest, Eldritch. “Listening to Nothing in Particular: Boredom and Contemporary Experimental Music.” Postmodern Culture 21.2 (2011): n. pag. Print.
Although boredom is a menace that haunts us all in our daily lives, it can be very spiritual if viewed/used in the correct manner. If one chooses to do nothing in their spare time if for even a few moments, the details that can easily be overlooked in the chaos of today’s society are revealed. Leisure boredom is one of the few sanctuary’s from the constant and distracting drone of modern day technology, and should be viewed as such. When you give your mind a break from it all, you will be surprised in discovering your true feelings towards the things that you do everyday.