Boredom. Nobody wants to experience it, yet we encounter it almost everyday. Some people try to combat boredom. They try to avoid boredom. When we are bored, we are unengaged in whatever activity we are participating in. It is a signal from our brain that we don’t care about what is going on. But that doesn’t mean that the brain isn’t completely disengaged. I like to take my boredom as an opportunity to let my mind wander. This is why boredom (in moderation of course) is good and shouldn’t be completely avoided.
Classic Classroom Boredom Phase 1
We’ve all been there. You are sitting in a class that you have no interest in taking. Let’s use Indo-European folktales as an example. Today in class you are talking about the not very well known folktale called “The Pancake,” a story about a pancake that rolls out of a pan and through a village. The teacher asks the class what this tale tells us about the culture of the time. Here’s where the boredom starts. The first stage of this type of boredom is anger. You are actually upset by what the teacher is saying. He is trying to tell you that a story about a pancake has a profound cultural meaning. You don’t buy it. You won’t buy it. Then you start to think, why am I here? Who cares about the pancake?How could this possibly be something that I am required to take? This is where you start to forget about your surroundings. You forget about the pancake. You “black out” so to speak.
Classic Classroom Boredom Phase 2
Your mind isn’t doing nothing. It starts thinking about that new guitar you want to buy. Then you picture yourself as Slash from Guns N’ Roses. You think about that sports car you saw driving down the street. Suddenly you are Paul Walker in Fast and Furious. And then you think about that Red Ryder BB gun that you want for Christmas…
Classic Classroom Boredom Phase 3
Now that you got that out of the way, you start letting your mind wander more. You are still completely disengaged from the class discussion. They could still be talking about “The Pancake,” but you don’t know. You don’t care. And you aren’t going to find out. This is where your realistic scenarios start playing out in your head. Subconsciously, you start to think about what you would rather be doing than sitting in class. You start thinking about what you are going to do on Friday night. You start thinking about that paper that you have to write for that class that you actually like. You begin to plan things out for yourself. Are you starting to see it now? Boredom isn’t completely useless. But it gets better. Now that you have planned out your week. You start planning out your life. No, you don’t sit there and think to yourself “I’m going to get married at twenty-eight, and then have kids around thirty-two, but only two kids because I don’t think I could handle three and then…” No it isn’t like that. You begin to think about what you genuinely love doing. You start thinking about that guitar again. What does that mean? It means that guitar is something that is important to you. What is it about guitars that you like so much? Is it the design of different types of guitars? Is it the music that you can make with the guitar? You start to think about how you can take this obvious interest and make it into a career. How can I make money doing something that I love? Maybe you start to think about a cool guitar design. You sketch it down in your notebook. Maybe you start thinking of a guitar riff you made up a while ago and turn it into a song. Maybe you think of an idea for a new platform for musicians to share their music. The teacher is still talking about the pancake rolling through town. You have just opened the door to several career opportunities for yourself. The class is over. You have no idea what happened, but you don’t care. You can’t stop thinking about your new idea. Some might call this laziness. They might say if you aren’t making yourself pay attention in class, you are being lazy. Yeah, I guess that is lazy but that laziness isn’t a bad thing. If you force yourself to pay attention to the pancake, you will know why the teacher thinks it embodies some sort of cultural belief but you are still going to be bored. Why not be lazy and use that boredom to really get something out of the time you are in class. Engage in some productive boredom. Use that time to figure out what is important to you and what you really want to learn about. In the scheme of your life, the cultural significance of “The Pancake,” isn’t a big deal. AT ALL. That is why we need boredom sometimes. That’s the keyword though. Sometimes…
Game of Thrones Boredom
This is a type of boredom that you may experience at any time, but it is easy to explain using Game of Thrones. “Oh my God. You aren’t caught up in Game of Thrones? What? You haven’t even started it?” As someone who doesn’t watch the show, I get this all the time. Naturally, I need to see what all the excitement is all about. I find myself sitting in my house with nothing to do. Every season of Game of Thrones is on OnDemand, so why not start watching? So I start watching season one. I get through the first episode. Moderately exciting. Definitely not binge-watching worthy, but it ended on a nice cliff hanger so I go to episode two. “Boring,” I tell everyone. “Yeah you have to get through some boring episodes, but it gets so good.” I watch another episode. I’m still bored. But this isn’t the same as that classic classroom boredom. This is a type of boredom that is painful. That’s why we need boredom sometimes, but not in every situation. This type of boredom forces you to pay attention to what is at hand. You cannot disengage from the show because if you do, you don’t know what is going on. Your mind can’t wander. This is the type of boredom that is completely unnecessary. The point of a show is to keep us engaged easily. It is supposed to conquer the boredom that pushed us to watch the show in the first place. It is supposed to be entertaining. Okay, so maybe Game of Thrones gets good later (I couldn’t tell you because I gave up on it), but how did people know that when they started it and it was boring right off the bat? Did HBO send out a press release telling everybody that Game of Thrones was going to be boring for the first five episodes and then it was going to get really good? I don’t know. But what I do know, is the type of boredom that Game of Thrones puts us through, is not that productive form of boredom I was talking about earlier. It is boredom to the point of exhaustion. Engaging yourself in something you really have no interest in is hard work. When I was seventeen, I got my first speeding ticket. According to state law, you get your license suspended for three months and have to take an eight hour “Road Rage Management Course.” While sitting in this class, I became disengaged with what was going on. This wasn’t like the classic classroom boredom either. I didn’t think about what I was passionate about. I just kind of sat there and doodled. But now that I think about it, I should’ve used that time to have some “productive boredom” like I described before. Now why I brought this up might be confusing, but what I am getting at is that I would rather sit through eight hours of this road rage class than sit through eight hours of a show that I have to force myself to pay attention to. Not only is it a waste of time, but also a waste of energy. So if you give Game of Thrones a shot and you think it is exciting, good for you. If you don’t, you are better off letting your mind wander.
Depression or Boredom?
The article “Bored to death?” (http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/39/2/370.full.pdf+html) discusses the findings of a study that said that people who are often bored die at a younger age. While I have no comment on their statistics and findings, I do disagree on what they think boredom is. I have talked about two different types of boredom so far. Classic Classroom Boredom (productive boredom) and Game of Thrones boredom (very unproductive boredom). One could argue that the later could cause some harmful affects on a person’s health. If they are trying so hard to engage themselves in something that they find boring, they will waste a lot of energy and become mentally exhausted. But will that type of boredom kill someone? Can a human being really die from trying to engage themselves in something they don’t care about? No, I don’t think so. I believe that the subjects of this study were not suffering from boredom, but rather depression. Boredom is being disengaged, or engaged but not interested, in a certain activity. Depression is boredom to the next level. Depression is disengagement in every aspect of life. The people who were “bored quite often” were in reality depressed. I believe boredom is healthy in moderation. If it was actually boredom that killed these people, they weren’t trying to engage themselves in “productive boredom” as I discussed earlier. The difference between boredom and depression is that boredom is a state and depression is an illness. Comparing the two can easily lead to confusion. If you are just sitting in your house doing nothing and become bored, what do you do? You turn on the TV and find something to watch. You pick up your guitar. You check all your social media accounts. Suddenly you aren’t bored anymore. If you are depressed what do you do. You try everything you can to make yourself happy, but in the end, just turning on the TV or picking up the guitar or checking social media will not conquer a person’s depression. Boredom might be a symptom of depression, but depression is not a symptom of boredom.