NOTES ON ‘ALPHABET WORDS’

When one loses interest in something but does not have anything else to do that they could use to pass time with like their phone or laptop to get on the internet and look through social networks or play games, also known as Elephant Stomping.  Another solution to pass time when one cannot hold their attention on something is to play the game Alphabet Words.  Some people could also play Alphabet Words because they like how they spend time playing it over using their phone or laptop to check social networks or watching something on Netflix.  Alphabet Words could make people think that they are doing something more production than doing nothing.

The pain one feels when he or she is sitting in a lecture and cannot check or be on their phone due to a professor’s strict rule of no electronics.  To try to put that feeling at ease, one can play a game on their notebook by themselves or with a group of friends.  One can play Alphabet Words.

1. Alphabet Words is used to relieve the feeling having something important to do, but one does not want to do it, and approaches something new.  The main example for when Alphabet Words is played, is during a college lecture, when the students can’t have electronics out.

2. The act of playing the Alphabet Words game involves a base word and making other words using the letters of the base word.  First, one must find a long word and use it as the base word.  Then all players will try to make smaller words out of it using the letters of the base word in any order.  There is a point system that corresponds with the number of letters of the created word, and the player with the most points wins that round.

3. Points for the game would work as:

3 letters: 1 point

4 letters: 2 points

5 letters: 3 points

6 letters: 4 points

7 letters: 5 points

4. Although, the letters can be used in any order, letters cannot be duplicated unless there are multiples of that specific letter already in the word.  Each letter can only be used once in the new word.  An example of this rule is found in Note #8 to further explain the rule itself.

5. My high school government teacher would always talk about how she and her friends would get lose attention from their professor in some of their college lectures.  They would pass the time by picking out the longest word in the lecture and make smaller words out of the letters of the larger word.  Towards the end of the lecture, she and all of her friends would count the numbers of points they made (elaborated in Note # 5) and declare a winner for that round.  They competed against each other and tallied up the winds and the person with the most wins for each class by the end of the semester won a prize.

6.  Alphabet Words was created by my government teacher and her friends.  They called the game Alphabet Words because the first word they played it with was alphabet.  She said that they were all sitting in their Economic lecture.  Most of them were not Econ majors, and had to take Introduction to Microeconomics as a General Education class.  They were all losing interest in the lecture itself, since the professor’s material about supply and demand is self-explanatory after one understands the general concept.  The professor also just went through numerous examples to both concepts separately and together.  My government teacher and her friends had already learned the information by reading the text book and from her high school economic class.  They were losing focus on the lecture, and did not know what to do.  They always went to lecture because they could get extra credit, and there was a strict no electronic rule for the lecture, so they could not use their phone or laptop.  She and her friends always ended up day dreaming, and would sometimes miss notes.  They started playing Alphabet Words to spend time.  The first words was ALPHABET, but then one of her friends realized that if they used a base word that was related to the lecture they would also be able to kind of pay attention to the lecture.  They then made another rule that the person who comes up with the longest base word from the first ten to fifteen minutes of the lecture would get another point.  The next word they used was MICROECONOMICS and they did realize that as they stared at the word MICROECONOMICS, it allowed them to remotely focus their attention on the professor because as they heard their professor use the word MICROECONOMICS, they attention would be brought back to the lecture.  Since they were not allowed to use their phone, they passed notes to tell each other what the base word is and at the end when they declared a winner for the round.  She and her fiends ended up playing Alphabet Words in other classes too, but they always related the base word to the lecture.  They would listen to the lecture until they found a long word.  Alphabet words spread throughout their college campus instantly as it did in my high school.

7. An example round of Alphabet Words using the base word Alphabet would be:

ALPHABET

PLATE (3 points)

BETA (2 points)

PETAL (3 points)

BELT (2 points)

ALPHA (3 points)

HAT (1 point)

LAP (1 point)

Total points: 15 points

8. Using the same example as above, the word BELLA would not work because there is only 1 L in ALPHABET.  This relates to Note #2 about how one cannot duplicate a letter from the original word.  However, the word ALPHA does work because there are 2 As in the word ALPHABET.

9. My high school government teacher told all of her students, who were mainly seniors.  And most people know about high school seniors losing interest in their school work as the year progresses, also known as senioritis.  The seniors started to play Alphabet Words in all of their classes to pass time since phones were banned during the school day.  They played it in classes with underclassmen, too.  The underclassmen started playing it in their classes too.  Soon enough all of students played the game during all of their classes.

10. A personal example of playing Alphabet Words would be during my Government class.  We were watching a documentary of lobbyists in Washington DC.  Our attention was not focused on the documentary, so we decided to try out ALPHABET WORDS.   We used the word REPUBLICAN.  The game ended up taking up enough time until the end of the documentary.  However, every time we heard the word republican, the documentary caught out attention.

11. This ended up being a better way to focus one’s attention on something remotely related to the information of the lecture other than the lecture itself.  It is also better distraction than playing a game on one’s phone, because one could be totally distracted and not pay any attention on the lecture.

12. Another example other than a lecture, could be on a road trip.  Alphabet Words could be played using road signs on the highway of cities and states.  The vehicle passengers could play the game the same way using the word from the sign as the base word, and create other words out of the letter.  Alphabet Words would help pass time for anyone regardless of their age.  Road games like going through the alphabet from A to Z and trying to find signs that start with those letters could get less interesting as time goes on.  Therefore Alphabet Words provides a new approach to spending time when one does not know what to do.

13. They would not be like playing the game Boggle, because, the players are intentionally playing the game.  They are not playing because they have nothing else to do or because they lost interest in something important.  Also the situation is different as various letters are given in boggle, instead of a given word in Alphabet words.  In Boggle, 16 letters are given in a four by four square layout.  The letters of the created word must touch the next letter either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally in any direction.  Boggle also has a time limit of two minutes, while Alphabet Words does not have to have a time limit.  An example of Boggle, to show that it is not Alphabet Words would be:

The given letters would be presented as:

E R F E
B R U M
L I O A
U S O C

Possible words:

EUROS

FUME

SOIL

ROAM

OILS

*Notice how the letter touch each other: EUROS will be bolded in the example to show this*

14. Alphabet Words can be played for fun too.  However, since there are other items that could capture one’s attention like technology or cooking, one is less likely to play Alphabet Words.  It can be viewed more as a last resort, when there is nothing else to do other than sit there and stare at something and daydream.

15. Alphabet Words is a temporary solution to relieving the time spent not doing anything; it does not always work to spend time.  One can lose their attention from Alphabet Words themselves if one cannot think of anymore words to create from the base word.  After giving up on finding more words, one has a few directions to go in.  The first would be to continue thinking about the base word and looking at the letters and try to come up with more words.  The second would be to focus ones attention back to the work he or she was doing before playing Alphabet Words.  The third would be to do something new and production with one’s time.  The fourth would be to continue to do nothing and daydream or something.

16. Although previous notes have claimed that Alphabet Words can help a student remotely pay attention to a lecture, that’s not always the case.  Sometimes people can become completely consumed by competition and the ability to win Alphabet Words.  Therefore they would not pay attention to the lecture at all, and that could be equivalent to daydreaming.  The solution of Alphabet Words would relieve the feeling of not being able to pay attention, and one would be able to focus on something rather than nothing.  However, the student would probably be better off trying to pay attention to the lecture if the student’s goal of playing Alphabet Words is to remotely listen to the lecture as he or she is focusing their attention on something other than the lecture.

17. Playing Alphabet Words competitively could be a limit case.  As one is fully distracted from the main focus, so he or she can not remotely pay attention to the focus.

18. Another limit case would be to use a phrase rather than a word.  A phrase allows more letters so the game is a little easier.  A phrase we used in our government class was “WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES…”  Alphabet Words was defiantly easier because there are more letters to use.

19. Alphabet Words can be played individually as the player could just play until he or she feels like all of the words are found.  Then he or she can move on to play with another word, or go back to what he or she was doing beforehand.

20. This solution is probably not widely used, as other objects can grasp someone’s attention for longer and one probably enjoys how other objects do not require one to use that brain.  An example would be that someone would rather watch TV than Alphabet Words because in Alphabet Words, one must think of words, and once you find all the words you think you can find, then it comes to should I think of more words, or move on.

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On the Formation and Perception of Self

A Contrast in Self: Gaining Perspective

Whenever you look in the mirror, the person you see isn’t exactly the “you” that everyone else sees. Your entire self is flip-flopped. That scar on your right temple or that freckle below your left eye seems to be the opposite in the mirror. This is the only version of yourself that you see regularly which is why it can be disheartening to see yourself in a video or a picture; all of a sudden, the person you thought yourself to be is revealed to be a falsity—the half-self of “you.”

To this day I still remember the first time I saw myself in a video and recognized such a difference. Watching myself and hearing my voice, I felt almost repulsed because that person on the screen was not the person that I thought I was. My voice was certainly higher and my posture was better; I definitely looked more confident, and the left side of my face was not so droopy and alien. For the first time in my life, my perceived-ideal self has met my real self. They were not friends.

I did not discover the difference between my real self and my “spiritually” ideal self until much later in life—that is, who I morally thought and I was and who I actually turned out to be. It took more than a 4th grade video project for me to realize that who I thought I was and could be was not always synonymous to reality.

The first time I felt the splitting of my self was a night that I made some very poor decisions that could have ended horribly. I was lucky; things turned out fine, but when I woke up that morning, my real self—that person that had made a very monumental mistake—did not fit in with my ideal spiritual self. My ideal self never made mistakes or took uncalculated risks. She was an adult in a teenager’s body. That morning though, I felt so awful, physically and emotionally that I could feel the disconnect between who I was then and who I thought I was or who I ought to be. It was as if my soul had been ripped in two. That was the first time I asked myself, “Who am I?” and had no answer.

Most people likely go through some disconnect like this before their 20’s. It’s an age when we are somehow allowed to make some very big mistakes and as long as they don’t kill us, these experiences help us figure out not only who we are, but who we can realistically be with the faults and limitations we have.

Gaining a disconnected perspective of yourself can be painful, depending on how deep the disconnect is between the ideal and the real self. But these disconnects are essential to reform and self-betterment. Without perspective we would go on our whole lives without any self-directed change.

Thankfully, there are several ways to gain perspective like this. One of the most jarring ways is by making a mistake or any uncharacteristic action or drastic change. Anxiety, shame, fear, and regret can be very powerful forces that make it easy to realize what you like and dislike, the types of decisions you want to make in the future, and anything else that shapes who you are to become. Real mistakes that get you in the gut for days build you because they make you ask: was that really me?

People can also gain perspective from looking in on another’s life. It is another’s fears, loves, joys, thoughts, and ambitions that can be powerful enough to deeply contrast our own. If you are open enough, just meeting a person radically different from yourself in a facets of life can serve as a deep and meaningful contrast to things you assumed to be absolute truths. I’ve felt this many times in the past year. The first time I met an atheist (or at least the first time I met one that admitted it openly) I realized that for most of my life, I had experienced the same questions and doubts about religion, but it took that outside perspective to validate an intuition I was taught was incorrect. The first time I met a transgendered person, I was forced to re-evaluate how I thought about gender and personal identity. Both encounters served to open my mind to the lives, beliefs, and experiences that contradicted what I believed to be inherent truths. It turns out the world isn’t black and white. But I digress.

The final way I think a person can really gain perspective is through boredom. Boredom, in all of its forms, can tell us what we dislike, how impatient we maybe, how we react under stress or confinement or restraint. Because boredom can be a lot like the mind’s version of pain, it can provide contrast to an otherwise pain-free existence. Boredom, in its less mind-numbing and signaturely painful form, can also be used as a tool (and less like a self-inflicting weapon) for self-betterment. This form of boredom can lead down a path of self-reflection and out-of-bodiness. By allowing ourselves to feel bored (or sad or angry or any other typically yin emotion in our lives) we open the door to the yang–or positive–aspects of life so we may fully experience existence. 

 Here it is important to note that boredom itself is not what we feel when we reflect internally. Introspection is not boredom. Introspection is a state of mind that we can reach through the circumstances the lead us to be bored. When we shut off the noise of life and allow ourselves to be swallowed whole by boredom, our minds search for something to fill the void. So, when there is no proverbial pill to curb the thirst of stimulation (social events or emails or TV shows) our minds turn in on themselves, searching the essence of “self” for relief.

It is then through boredom, it seems, that we can hack through the underbrush of distraction to reveal uncharted territory that you cannot read about in any journal, book, or play and cannot access without either making a mistake or exposing yourself to a world much different than your own. It is through boredom that we may allow ourselves to journey through the “who” of our own existence.

 

Can We Live without Boredom?

What then, if we were to take away boredom? If there are avenues that lead to introspection, why bother ever allowing ourselves to be bored? (And staying away from boredom is not hard to do. In fact, I already spend most of my time burying it under my stack of work, responsibility, and preoccupation with the future.) If we were to take away our ability to be bored, it would be drastic to say we would take away self-discovery. Really we would only be taking away one avenue for self-discovery, butone that I argue is the most natural, powerful, and least potentially damaging of them all. The path to self-discovery through the dull-enchantment of boredom is a lot like slowly revealing the deep, colorful layers of a jawbreaker. When induced from an outside source (some previously discussed), self-discovery can become a lot more like shattering the jawbreaker to reveal the layers inside.

 

Importance of Self-Directed Discovery

One of my favorite books of all time is Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, and I think that the main character’s journey to enlightenment touches on this inwardly facing method of self-discovery. One of my favorite lines reads, “One must find the source within one’s own Self, one must possess it. Everything else was seeking—a detour, an error.”  This carries the idea that we all try “seeking” for ourselves through the outside world and through other people, but this will never lead us to discover who we really are. Really, the entire theme of Siddhartha points to the idea that gradually discovering yourself is the only way to “clear out the underbrush” of outside distraction and learn who you are and who you want to become.

I think one of the best (practical and observable) cases for the power of self-discovery is that of a religious convert. Take, for example, any person affiliated strongly with any religion. In my experience, I have never seen a person persuaded to convert to another belief system because someone convinced them they were looking at the world incorrectly. (I’m talking to you mother. No matter how many times you explain to the Mormons that they are, in fact, a cult and do not follow the true savior, you are not going to change their minds.) Instead, most people I know that have changed belief systems have done so after a long saga of introspection, study, and thought. It seems this is because self-discovered and self-perpetuated change is the most pure and powerful of transformation. This is something that the outside world cannot give you.

Boredom as a Part of Yin and Yang

Without boredom as a route to self-directed introspection, I imagine we would all go long periods of time without looking into the “source” of the self. As time would go on, our habits, our thoughts, and the very essence of the self would harden like amber.  Without the occasional stirring, what we would be willing to change about ourselves would diminish. When we would encounter change via the outside world, we wouldn’t mold to the new ideas and insights. We would brace against that insight, standing fast in our stagnancy, afraid of the contrast between the self and outside world. Self-discovery would become a jarring experience instead of a fulfilling one.

As you see, it holds that boredom is essential to discovery. Without pain, we would not be able to fully understand pleasure. Without throat clenching grief, we would not be able to fully feel the rapture of joy. Without confusion we could not know the refreshing taste of direction and clarity. There is balance in the world. Each force has an equal and opposite reaction. So can you know black without white? Can you truly know yourself without looking within?

What do we do with Boredom?

Boredom is not something you can overcome or should overcome. Inevitably, we will all be bored.  It is a part of life, like all mental-emotional states we face. And boredom should not be hampered just because it can be unpleasant. Boredom is the mechanism for evolution of the self. Like all things in life, its presence balances something on the scale within us. Too much or too little is bad for us, but if you can get it just right, boredom is no better or worse than the other yin-forces we experience like grief, guilt, fear, and anxiety. Boredom simply is and was and may always be a part of the human condition. It is up to each of us to determine its role in our lives.

 

Waiting for the train

 

TRAIN TRACKS – WAITING (1 A.M)

Two men, BOB and TOM are waiting for the 10:00 PM train. There has been a snow delay and they have been lingering expectantly for three hours with a slowly diminishing sense of hope. The station is empty, barren, devoid of life. More importantly, there is silencea hollow, echoing stillness made by things that were lacking. If there

TOM: Jesus, it’s cold.

BOB looks at TOM but doesn’t say anything.

TOM’s attempt to break the silence that has slowly been solidifying between them has failed for the sixth time, but undeterred, he tries again.

TOM: How long do you think it’s been?

BOB: A while.

TOM laughs. It is a strange laugh, almost resembling a half choked sob of relief. But to be honest, TOM is quite a strange man, so it could be said that it is a rather normal laugh.

TOM: Not much of a talker, are ya?

BOB glances sideways at TOM for a long while, then shrugs to indicate his disinterest and looks elsewhere. TOM desperately tries to regain his attention.

TOM: Aren’t you bored?

BOB looks at TOM, a small spark of curiosity glimmering within the depths of his dark, dark eyes.

BOB: No, I am not. Are you?

TOM hesitates. He feels like he has to give a satisfactory answer. He thinks, of course, he is bored, but is he really bored? He is not very sure.

TOM: Y-yes, I guess. I mean, I believe I am.

BOB turns around and fully faces TOM.

BOB: And why do you believe that?

TOM: Well, there’s nothing to do, and we’ve been doing nothing                            for…uhh, quite a while. So I should be feeling bored.

BOB: What makes you associate inaction with what you believe                           you are feeling?

TOM: Uh, well, we’re waiting at a train station aren’t we?                                           Everyone says that that’s boring. You search up boredom                             on the web and almost inevitably there will be at least one                           article or essay that relates boredom to waiting at a train                              station, or waiting for anything, really. Waiting for your                                  favorite T.V. show to start, waiting for your food to finish                              heating up. Even waiting for your shower water to get                                    hot. That kind of thing can be boring too, I guess. Perhaps                            any moment of our lives that we spend not doing                                                anything productive can be called boring.

TOM looks down and flushes a deep red color, embarrassed by his outpouring of words. He wonders if he has talked too much. He wonders if he has said too little. He sneaks an upward glance in BOB’s direction, only to find that BOB is no longer looking at him. Rather, his attention is directed towards a blinking red light far off in the tunnel.

BOB: I suppose you are right in associating the feeling of waiting                         with boredom.  So many people have told you that it is so                             and you have believed them for so long that it is an                                           undeniable truth to you now. I expect I would be  shaking                             the very foundations of your reality if I told you that the                               act of waiting for a train at a train station does not                                             necessarily induce boredom.

TOM: …Not really, no.

BOB whips his head back towards TOM, surprise and embarrassment plain on his face. It contrasts so sharply with his previous stiff and self-assured persona that TOM has to fight back a giggle.

TOM: Don’t misunderstand. I am a bit taken aback by what you                            said, but it’s not exactly mind blowing.

BOB: Ah, I see.

BOB turns away again. One second passes, then another. TOM looks down at his hands and tries not to fidget. Has he offended BOB? He has counted sixteen blinks since BOB had last spoken, and the silence that had been dissipated by the sound of their conversation was beginning to darken once more. Seventeen. The silence begins to crystallize. He can already feel it sharpening and spreading across the clear surface of the quiet that has pooled between them. TOM closes his eyes. Eighteen. But before TOM can open his eyes again, BOB turns and his coat rustles with the movement, scattering the silence into flight. TOM nearly weeps.

BOB: Well?

TOM: Huh?

BOB: Are you not curious as to why I would say such a thing?                                  You may question me.

TOM: Um, okay. Why would you say such a thing?

BOB: It would be offensive to compare the act of waiting to the                           feeling of boredom. Waiting is just that. Waiting. It is                                       pleasant. It is enjoyable. There is a sense of anticipation                                 and perhaps excitement. Boredom is more complex.

TOM pauses and thinks for a while. A short while.

TOM: Do you find this kind of waitingwhat we’re doing       pleasant?

BOB: No, but I suppose I will be quite relieved when our train                                finally arrives.

TOM: Then you’re bored.

BOB: No.

TOM: This waiting isn’t fun so you can’t be just waiting. Going                               by your definition, waiting is not an unpleasant thing. You                           must be bored…while waiting. I  don’t find this fun either                               so I guess I’m bored too. I was right, then. I’m bored.

BOB: Hmm. Very well, I must revise my previous statement.                                    Waiting differs from boredom in that there is purpose                                    behind an action. Why am I waiting for my undergarments                          to finish rolling around in the dryer? Because I want them                             to be clean.

TOM: So boredom stems from a lack of purpose?

BOB: Yes, if you were to be waiting at this train station for no                                reason at all, then you would be bored.

TOM: But I’m certain that I get bored when riding a bus to work                           or when I go to business meetings. Isn’t there purpose in                               those actions?

BOB: Perhaps.

TOM waits expectantly. His back slowly wilts as time passes, like the stem of a flower that has unknowingly been burdened with the weight of a gently falling snow. Each increment of weight, each second, brought it closer to that moment when the snow would overwhelm flower and it would snap, quick and clean.

To TOM’s credit, he was not exactly a man who feared much. Death, of course, was a thing he would rather avoid. Pain and aches, too. And he was not very fond of that nasty little pair of children in his neighborhood. But fears can change. Ten years ago, he would have laughed if someone had confessed to him that they were afraid of frogs. Three hours ago, he would have questioned the sanity of a man who feared the silence that resulted from the absence of things moving about and making noise.

BOB: Perhaps there is a difference in purposes. Perhaps there was no real purpose behind your riding the bus and your attendance of business meetings. Wallace’s belief that one can become unborable can be translated into something like, ‘if there is a true purpose behind every action in your life, you will never be bored’.

As BOB speaks, his expression become more and more crumpled, as if each word dissatisfies him in some way.

BOB: I believe that the answer to your question is that there is                              merely a confusion in the terms you use. Perhaps that                                    was not true boredom. You have been conditioned to                                      immediately condemn any feeling of restlessness as                                          boredom. Waiting produces a bearable sort of                                                      restlessness, because you know that what you are                                            waiting for will come soon, in time. Boredom is a                                                  restlessness resulting from uncertainty.                                                                    Purposelessness. What am I waiting for? Is what I am                                      waiting for worth this time that I am ‘wasting’? When                                      will what I am waiting for even take place?

TOM: But you have to agree that boredom and waiting do                                          generate the same feelings. Restlessness and anxiety.                                      Maybe they are just synonyms.

BOB: Similarity does not imply identity. Just because A and B                                cause C does not mean that A is equal to B.

TOM: Why not? That seems amazingly logical to me. If I drink                                 soda or coffee, the same things happens. I get energized.                               Because they both have caffeine. I wouldn’t say that soda                             and coffee are the same thing but they share a degree of                               similarity that isn’t present in other drinks. They could be                             used to replace each other for the same effect.

BOB: So you are saying that the ability to be replaced is a                                          condition to being able assume identity?

TOM: Well, if I cloned my sister and replaced her with the clone,                           no one would be able to tell the difference. It wouldn’t                                   really be my sister, but in bodily makeup she is. One body,                           one identity. That’s what philosophers are saying these                                 days, anyway.

BOB: Interesting. However, neither coffee and soda nor waiting                            and boredom are made of the same components. Coffee                                and soda may have sugar and caffeine but coffee also has                              milk and soda has a large number of highly dubious                                          ingredients inside. Similarly, as I mentioned before,                                             boredom lacks the purpose that is present when waiting. I                           feel that you are missing my point.

TOM opens his mouth to speak, purely out of reflex. He knows that he must speak before the moment is lost. But what can he say? Something. Anything.

He cannot.

It is 2:00 A.M, and two men are waiting for the 10:00 P.M. train. There has been a snow delay and they have been lingering, waiting and praying with desperate hope that the train will soon arrive. The station is empty and dark. There are no signs of life save for the intermittent puffs of air that emanate from within the dark depths of a rumpled scarf. The air is cold.

More importantly, there is a silence, and it is a silence of three parts. The first silence was a hollow, echoing stillness made by things that were lacking. If there had been a train passing through, the wheels would have screeched and clacked and stamped the silence away. The doors would have rattled and steamed and opened to enclose the silence in another space. If there had been commuters, they would have grumbled and sighed the silence down the dark tunnel from which it came from. If there had been conversation…but no, of course there was no conversation.

The second was in the endlessly fidgeting hands of a man who stood perfectly still as he waited nervously for the first silence to go away.

The third silence was harder to notice, but if you listened hard enough, you could begin to feel it in the sullen blinking of the red light hanging in front of the dark tunnel. It was in the empty spaces that lay between the worn-down tracks of the train station. It was in the tired sigh of the wind as it slowly wound its way past the solitary forms of two men. It was in the dark, dark eyes of a man who knew that he was perfectly, completely bored.

 

 

Inner Struggle

RAILROAD BRIDGE – AFTERNOON

 

The scene opens with a montage of shots of the surrounding forest. A shot of an abandoned, railroad tunnel comes into view with a large bridge looming on the other side. The camera quickly pans through the dark tunnel. When it reaches the end, a camera shot from up in the sky reveals the old, decaying railroad bridge in its entirety. A pair of adolescents sitting on a metal grate platform on the bridge can be barely made out from up in the sky. The camera transitions to a view of from the bridge right behind the teens. The pair is sitting down, looking out into nothingness, talking about whatever comes to mind.

 

                        PAUL

Man, I am so glad that we found this spot. The bridge, the tunnel, the forest, all of it is so sick. I could stay here forever.

 

                        NICK

Yeah, I mean I guess it’s pretty cool.

 

                        PAUL

You guess? This place is awesome. Just look at that view.

(gestures towards the river flowing below them and the immense blue in front of them)

How can you not like this?

 

                        NICK

Yeah it is awesome, isn’t it?

 

                        PAUL

Yeah it is, but I feel like you’re just saying that to appease me. What’s been up with you man? You’ve been moping around all day, and you are really bumming me out.

 

                        NICK

 It’s nothing, man. I’m fin-

 

                        PAUL

Don’t give me that bullshit, dude. I know when you are lying to me, and I can easily tell you are not your normal self. You usually love cool spots like this, and this is the best one we’ve found yet. You cannot tell me there isn’t something wrong.

 

            NICK

Just leave it alone, man.

 

            PAUL

No I won’t leave it alone. You’re my friend, and I don’t wanna see you feeling shitty. Now tell me what’s wrong.

 

NICK doesn’t respond. Silence envelopes the pair unit PAUL finally cannot take it anymore.

           

            PAUL

Come on, man, you’re starting to piss me off. Just tell me what the hell is wro-

 

            NICK

I’m fucking depressed, all right!? I’m tired of everyone and everything! Do you feel better now!?! Can you go to sleep soundly tonight knowing that I hate my life!?!

 

            PAUL

I… I’m sorry man…

(looks down in shame and sits silently for several minutes)

Do you have any idea what the cause is? I get that depression is more than just a singular cause that can be fixed, but maybe identifying what’s wrong will get you on the right track to beating it.

 

            NICK

I don’t know man. I’m just bored with it all. The things I used to love just aren’t doing it for me anymore. I can’t focus on my studies, basketball is more of a chore now than a passion, and I don’t feel like being around anyone except for you. Everything is just so damn boring. Nothing interests me anymore, and I don’t know why.

 

            PAUL

That’s it? All that is troubling you is that you’re bored with everything you are doing at this point in time?

 

            NICK

Is that it? Is that it?! Being bored with everything in life is fucking awful. How can you act like it isn’t a big deal?!?

 

            PAUL

Boredom isn’t a bad thing, man. Boredom can be an enormously beneficial tool, if you look at it in the right light.

 

            NICK

You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me! How can being bored be even remotely positive? I have come to loathe everything that I used to love. Do you know how awful that feeling is? You know what basketball means to me. It’s the one thing I’ve always been good at. It’s more than just a game. It’s my way of coping with life. Anytime something is bothering me, I’ve always been able to fall back onto basketball. It’s always been there for me. But it isn’t the same anymore. I’m even thinking about quitting the team and giving up my college scholarship. How on Earth can you tell me that boredom can in any way be positive?

 

            PAUL

Boredom is one of the most useful things we have at our disposal. It is within boredom that we can think things through clearly and come to a sense of clarity. I keep deleting all of my social media accounts for that reason exactly. I have discovered that my time is better spent inside of my mind rather than in the Internet.

 

            NICK
I thought you were doing that because you were tired of all the idiotic people that overpopulated them?

 

            PAUL

I’m not going to lie, I don’t miss all the infinite selfies and mindless tweets that almost everyone in our grade posts daily, but that’s not the main reason. It was taking up too much of my time with pointless information. I checked all of those sites automatically, and most of the tweets, post, and pictures I looked at were filed out of my brain within a minute of closing the app. I figured my time was better spent being bored.

 

            NICK

Seriously? I check Twitter all the time because I don’t want to bored. It doesn’t matter that most of the information is pointless. It takes up my time and keeps me occupied, so I use it.

 

            PAUL

You’re looking at it all wrong, man. Boredom doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It is all about how you view boredom. If you think that being bored is a terrible experience, then that’s exactly what it will be. But it doesn’t have to be terrible; boredom can actually be very beneficial if you utilize it correctly.

 

            NICK

Ha ok man, I’ll humor you. How should I be spending my boredom?

(rolls his eyes)

 

            PAUL

I’m not going to tell you how to do anything. You have to come to this view on your own. But, I will tell you about how I deal with boredom. Remember back to when I was thinking about becoming a doctor?

 

 

            NICK

Of course I do. But you ended up hating it and giving it up. What’s that have to do with boredom?

 

            PAUL

It has everything to do with boredom. When I started taking anatomy, I was bored out of my mind with how bland and monotonous it was to try to absorb all the information about every muscle, bone and nerve in the human body. The one night I was trying to study for an exam, my mind began to wander. At first I began to think about how extremely bored I was, but then I began to think about being a doctor. I realized that if I hated the most basic level of becoming a doctor, then how would I be able to survive college, let alone medical school without dying from boredom. So, the next day, I dropped the class. After tha-

 

            NICK

I still don’t see what that has to do with boredom? All you did was move on from something that you didn’t enjoy. So what you’re saying is I should just drop all the things I love because I don’t really like them anymore? I can’t do that man. At this point, I think I would rather di-

 

            PAUL

Don’t say that man. Don’t even joke about tha-

 

            NICK

I don’t think I’m joking man. I used to think that depression was controllable and the people that let it go for months, years even, were just being victims and letting themselves fall into the depression. But, it isn’t a choice, man; it really isn’t. These thoughts have become so overwhelming that I can’t find any relief. I’m running out of options on what to do, and ending it is sounding better and better by the day.

 

            PAUL

Don’t talk like that, man. You only get one life man. You take it, and that’s it. We are only seventeen; we have so much longer to live and so much more to live for.

 

            NICK

What’s the point of living if you don’t enjoy anything and everything is boring? I don’t think I can go live another year if I am not interested by anything I’m doing.

 

            PAUL

I don’t want to lose you man, but I can’t stop you. I’m not going to tell anyone about this either, because I don’t wanna force anything onto you that you don’t want. Will you at least listen to what I have to say about boredom? I know what I have to say isn’t life changing, but it could help you look at things in a different light.

 

            NICK

Sure man. Like I said, I can’t think of anyway to beat this myself, so maybe what you say can be the boost I need to get back on track.

 

            PAUL

Ok, so where was I? Oh yeah, so I dropped my anatomy class. Later that day, after school, I began to think about how easily I was able to figure out that I didn’t want to be a doctor. I was trying to think of what made it so easy while I was doing my homework, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I kept trying to figure it out, but I couldn’t. It was driving me crazy. Finally, I gave up. But, when I went to go to sleep that night, I thought about it one last time. And it finally clicked. When my mind was clear, I was able to figure out what it was that gave me clarity. Boredom was what allowed me to make that final decision about becoming a doctor. I actually laughed at how ironic it was that I came to this realization. I needed to be bored in order to realize that boredom was what I needed to clear my mind and think things through.

 

           NICK

So, what you’re telling me is that you use boredom to think everything over? I mean I guess that makes sense…

 

            PAUL

Just think about it. With all the technology we have, it is nearly impossible to find a moment of rest. So, I use boredom as a type of reflection. Being bored can be annoying, but it is a moment that comes without the distractions that we are constantly exposed to. That’s why I got rid of social media too. I would rather spend the time mindlessly looking over pointless information looking at myself and making decisions on what I’m doing with my life. Ever since I began to think about boredom as being positive, I’ve become much happier with my life.

 

            NICK

So I should begin to evaluate what is going on in my life when I’m bored instead of just focusing on how much I hate being bored?

 

            PAUL

Exactly.

            NICK

But what if I realize that I don’t want to do anything that I’ve been doing with my life? Should I just drop it all and start fresh? I appreciate what you revealed to me about boredom, but if this type of boredom makes me have to revamp my whole life, I don’t see how that is any better.

 

            PAUL

I don’t think that you are going to have to change your whole life, man. I think that something has been bothering you, but you haven’t been able to pinpoint it and it is affecting your whole life. Once you find what that thing is, I am willing to bet you will begin to feel like your old self again.

 

            NICK

You know what, man, maybe you’re right. I’m gonna to give this a shot. I hate feeling this way, and something has to change before these feelings finally do overcome me.

 

The camera rises up into the sky. A bright light dominates the screen and everything fades from view. The screen goes dark.

 

JOHN’S BEDROOM – EARLY MORNING

 

The camera becomes JOHN’s eyes, blinking quickly as it adjusts to the light. The camera switches to being at the foot of the bed. JOHN sits up in his bed. Tears of joy are streaming down his face. He doesn’t understand why it happened, but his dream gave him hope. He reaches under his bed, and pulls out a small, black pistol.

 

RAILROAD BRIDGE – EARLY AFTERNOON

 

The camera shows JOHN’s upper body with only blue sky in the background. The gun can be seen in JOHN’s right hand. JOHN reaches his arm up and releases the gun. The camera shifts a to a close up directly overhead. JOHN is standing on the same metal platform as NICK (NEGATIVITY) and PAUL (POSITIVITY) were having their discussion on in his dream. The gun falls quietly down the several hundred foot drop. The camera closes in on JOHN’s mouth. A smile of joy crosses his lips as the gun splashes into the river below.

“Bueller…Bueller…”

ImageIt was 12:45 pm on a Friday afternoon, and I was in agony. However, my form of agony was particularly unique, one where time slows down and all hope seems to slip away from grasp. My life was an excerpt from the opening classroom scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. As I looked around at the bleak, desolate faces that surrounded me, I realized I was not alone. Personally, I do not think anyone will truly understand the mental torture that runs through the minds of biology students at the University of Pittsburgh. A notorious “weed-out” class for pre-medicine students, biology often went hand-in-hand with countless hours of studying, a relentless fight with oneself about a personal disinterest in plants, and weeks of stress, all for a grade that was often less than satisfactory. As I sat at my desk, trying with every ounce of my being to stay awake, I began to people-watch throughout the 350-student lecture hall. Normally, L9 of Clapp Hall was not this full. However, students concerned about their grades given the impending finals occupied almost all of the seats. Three rows behind me a small group of maroon baseball hats with Greek lettering could be seen above the many rows of faces. A tall guy with glasses sat in the seventh row quietly joking with his friends. Towards the far left side of the room, a girl blankly stared at the sushi she was eating at an extremely slow rate, poking it occasionally with a chopstick. Disgusted with the idea of sushi and attempting to ignore the smell of seafood, I turned my attention to the front of the room. As usual, the student sitting in the center of the first row had his hand raised, ready to answer another question in an extremely detailed and borderline socially unacceptable manner. Dismayed at the sight that nothing had changed in the past 15 minutes, I checked my cell phone for the fifth time that lecture. It was still only 12:45 pm. With only 5 minutes left in class, I struggled to get myself to focus. Did I care about plants? No. Would I ever care about plants? The chances were slim. Either way, I knew that I would be spending my weekend taking endless notes and practice quizzes in preparation for the upcoming exam. To be honest, the thought of spending one more moment on photosynthesis and the embryonic nature of fruit made me want to cringe in horror.

Throughout my time in college, I have learned a few things about myself. I loved chemistry, was decent at analytical research, and was endlessly bored by General Biology 1 and 2, along with the three-hour labs that often accompanied them. However, I also learned that no matter how much I detested Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 12:00 to 12:50, I would still have to endure them if I wanted to pursue my dream of attending medical school. It was then, as I sat in my biology class, forcing myself to take decent notes, that I realized that I would never overcome this sense of boredom. However, I also realized that in order to succeed, I had two choices: I could spend my time evading boredom, or I could accept it. Of all of the things that I have learned within my freshman year, the most important aspect that I have come to realize is that boredom is not as terrible as it appears. In fact, boredom should be embraced.

 

Go for the Gold

Image

Every day, people set goals. While they may not concern setting an Olympic record in gymnastic vaulting and can often go unnoticed, goals are set regardless. While most individuals may have more complex long-term goals, almost all people have a mental “to-do” list of tasks they would like to accomplish before the end of the day. For example, the typical goals of a college student the week before finals may include but are not limited to:

  • Finish up all assignments that were put off until this week
  • Study for upcoming exams
  • Remember to allot the majority of funds towards coffee
  • Attempt to maintain socially acceptable hygiene standards
  • Get a minimum of 3 hours of sleep per night

***Goals 4 and 5 are likely subject to change.

Whether personal goals include finding a cure for cancer or simply waking up in time for an 8 am class, they are a frequent aspect of daily existence. However, it can be difficult to find the motivation and initiative to accomplish these goals. Contrary to many beliefs, boredom can actually be beneficial towards goal-making skills. In the research study, “Is Boredom Proneness Associated with Introspectiveness,” conducted by Gana, Deletang, and Metais from the University of Tours, France, tests have found correlations between high self-focus personalities and boredom proneness. Throughout the study, 154 randomly selected adults took assessments that rated their own personal scores on the Introspectiveness Scale and Boredom Proneness Scale. Results showed that individuals who were especially prone to boredom also showed high levels of introspectiveness and self-focus. High levels of self-focus include the ability to realize one’s own wants and desires, in addition with the goals needed to achieve them. So the next time you are sitting in class or at work, seemingly bored beyond comprehension, remember that boredom is not as negative as many think. Contrary to popular belief, boredom can help you “go for the gold” both in daily life and the long-term. In fact, boredom is positive reinforcement that a person possesses the mental qualities needed to achieve his or her goals.

 

Redefining Definitions

While many people experience boredom, it is often difficult to describe the feelings or qualities associated with it. Even when a person is successful in pinpointing a way to describe his or her feelings, these descriptions are rarely presented in a positive light. To simplify matters, society’s general perception is that boredom is bad. Here is a list of dictionary definitions that appear when “boredom” is searched:

Boredom (n):

  1. Wearied by dullness, tedious repetition, unwelcome attentions, etc.
  2. A cause of ennui or petty annoyance
  3. The state of being weary and restless through lack of interest
  4. A severe disease infecting millions of people all over the world is which they constantly exhibit certain behaviours like lack of movement, construction of various pointless structures, doodling, talking about pointless things, and making definitions on UrbanDictionary.com

Whether “boredom” is searched on Dictionary.com, the Merriem-Webster dictionary, or even Urban Dictionary, it is easy to see that society’s perception of boredom is overwhelmingly negative. However, these same definitions can be reworked to show that boredom is not as problematic as previously believed. The same four definitions are redefined below:

Boredom (n):

  1. Wearied by dullness, tedious repetition, unwelcome attentions, etc. This state of weariness is the body’s natural response in order to get the individual to focus on the internal, rather than the external. Weariness, in these cases, serves as a “break” for the human mind to prevent information overload and promote mental health. In addition, this state of thinking allows the conscience to access certain thoughts that were not evident in a state of occupation, allowing an individual to focus on his or her own wants and desires.
  2. A cause of ennui or petty annoyance; the mind’s way of informing an individual that the action performed is not desirable; a way of letting people know what they do and do not want, encouraging them to go in directions that positively correlate with their desires, rather than oppose them. For example, a person who is bored by the idea of finances and mathematics will most likely not become an accountant.
  3. The state of being weary and restless through lack of interest; a motivating factor to cause change in one’s lifestyle or current action; a period of time set aside to identify what is truly found to be interesting; a period of introspection in escape from the current action
  4. A condition affecting millions of people all over the world is which they constantly exhibit certain behaviors like lack of movement, construction of various pointless structures, doodling, and making definitions on UrbanDictionary.com; a period of escape from a daily barrage of information that allows other areas of the human mind to be accessed; a state in which creativity often blossoms and unconventional thought is provoked. As an example, boredom allows an individual to access the creativity to formulate entirely new definitions of words in the English language.

As demonstrated, society’s negative definitions of boredom can be shown to have underlying positive qualities. While a face-value opinion of boredom may have a negative connotation, society could be benefiting from boredom in ways that continually go unobserved. Boredom can offer time for relaxation of the human mind, reevaluation of individual thoughts and desires, motivation to find personal interests, and the proliferation of human creativity. When these benefits exist in a topic previously enshrined in negativity, it becomes easier to realize that boredom is not as negative as society perceives. Perhaps, society is simply thinking of boredom in the wrong way.

 

ITube, YouTube, WeTube…

In a state of boredom, people often seek ways to alleviate themselves from this state of mind. However, if it were easy to escape this state, boredom would not exist. Therefore, creativity is required in order to alleviate oneself from boredom. An example of creativity sparked by boredom is the variety of YouTube videos posted on the Internet. Before reading any further, watch the first 70 seconds of the following video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoMLsk0mFAI

The premise of the video originates from a state of boredom. Jack, the creator of the JacksGap YouTube channel, is shown aimlessly staring at the ceiling in boredom at the beginning of the clip. However, his state of boredom allows him to access the creativity within himself to not only find musical ability in everyday sounds, but also to compile these sounds into musical form through technical editing. Sounds such as a disk popping out of a computer, the click of an iPhone as it is unlocked, and ripping paper out of a notebook were all layered to generate musical content. Creating sophisticated musical soundtracks from simple sounds requires innovation and creativity. However, this creativity would not have been possible without Jack’s initial state of boredom.

 

Sarah’s Thoughts

SUBURBAN HOUSEHOLD KITCHEN-LATE AFTERNOON

SARAH, a high school student, comes home after a long day of high school and extracurricular activities. She attempts to walk upstairs towards her room but is stopped by her mother when she passes through her neatly organized, 90s-style kitchen. She begins to daydream as her mother speaks.

MOTHER:

Hi honey! How was your day at school?

SARAH:

It was okay, I guess. My history quiz seemed to go well, so that’s at least good.

MOTHER:

Good. You know you have to keep those grades up for when you apply to colleges next year. Oh, by the way, Pitt sent a letter in the mail. I think we should go to the day for admitted students in two weeks. You need to set up a tour with Case Western too, so call them after dinner, okay? Oh and remind me to tell your father—

SARAH:

Not this again. I told her I would do this stuff yesterday. It’s only junior year. Seriously, woman, calm down. Hmm. Dinner. I could use dinner. That reminds me of that show Mom was watching yesterday where they were making fettucine alfredo. I could use some fettucine alfredo. I’m not feeling meat loaf tonight. Maybe we can go to Olive Garden instead…

 MOTHER:

—that he needs to drive us into the city to get there. Also, I was talking to my friend Veronica the other day and her daughter was just accepted at Notre Dame. She said to spend a lot of time on your personal essay adding in things they won’t see in your application. I would start writing that next week if I were you—

SARAH:

Essays. Not more essays. Can’t the SAT writing section be enough proof for these people? SATs. College. Professors. Jesus, that’s only a year away. Wait, what is that thing my sister said I’m supposed to use when I schedule? RateMyProfessor…?

MOTHER:

—so you’re not overwhelmed down the road. And by the way, before dinner, remind me—

SARAH:

Dinner. That’s right. I’m still hungry. Maybe we could try that new Mexican restaurant that just opened. Eh, maybe I shouldn’t risk it. Who knows if their food is any good.

MOTHER:

—that I need to e-mail your brother’s baseball coach and tell him that he can’t come to practice today. He had to leave school early because he had a headache—

SARAH:

Wait, what was she saying? God, this is boring. I hope she doesn’t realize I was tuning her out. Oh well, at least I have things to think about to entertain me in the process…

MOTHER:

—but he really wanted to stay for the afternoon assembly, so don’t mention it to him. That’s why I’m going to let him have chocolate ice cream for dessert. Anyway, make sure you get your letters of recommendation—

SARAH:

Food. Again. I’d still rather eat Mexican than meatloaf. After this college lecture is done. They should make RateMyPlate instead of RateMyProfessor. Do they have that? No, I don’t think so. I think they only have one that rates restaurants, not dishes. Hmm. This is a good idea. I could totally make a site like that. Idea of the century. Right here.

 MOTHER:

—and start getting ideas for your papers. I think you should do the one about a creative idea you’ve had. You’re creative. You have been thinking of ideas, right?

SARAH:

Don’t worry Mom. I think I’ve already got one.

 

“I Don’t Think it Means What You Think it Means”

            Boredom is inevitable. We cannot find everything exciting, and we will always have to do things that we don’t want to do. However, maybe the sense of boredom that we feel from doing these things is not so bad after all. At first, boredom might seem tedious, dull, and unappealing. However, if given a closer look, boredom can help give people a mental break when daily life starts to become overwhelming. It forces people to set aside time to let their mind wander, to think about their thoughts and desires, and set goals to be achieved. It sparks creativity and often allows individuals to think outside the box. Boredom lets people notice things that may go unobserved in the high-paced nature of everyday life. Under all of the negative connotations and attempts at avoiding it, boredom is more positive than it seems. Maybe boredom is not hindering my education in biology, but motivating me to push through it so that I can move on to other subjects. If I was not bored in Biology, I would not have paid so much attention to the people sitting around me in my lecture hall. Without boredom, I would have never noticed the tall guy with glasses in the seventh row, a person who I would eventually call one of my best friends. Yes, maybe that class was about as exciting as a classroom scene straight out of a 1980s teen movie. However, looking into boredom on a deeper level, the times in which people are bored in class, at work, or during rush hour traffic should not be avoided. In fact, those moments should be embraced, allowing people to engage in thoughts that they might not have even considered before. The issue of the matter is not that boredom is negative.

In fact, the issue is that society is looking at boredom in the wrong way.

Built For Boredom

Boredom affects everyone differently.  Age is one of the most significant determining factors in how and how often boredom affects someone.  This has never been truer than it is today.  In recent years, the advances we have made as a society has caused a huge gap between today’s youth and today’s elderly.  In this entry, I plan on observing, explaining, and analyzing this gap – especially when it comes to boredom.  I will focus on how boredom has changed recently in today’s youth and then how it has changed (or not changed) in today’s elderly.

Continue reading Built For Boredom

A Lack of Effort

A Lack of Effort

Today’s society puts a great value on instant gratification. People don’t like to wait for anything, and patience is viewed as an irrelevant annoyance rather than a standard. Slowly, this need for a constant, immediate stimulus is putting a strain on our culture. People are having increasing difficulty entertaining themselves, or finding entertainment and meaning in the facets of everyday life. No longer is society willing to put in any effort. Boredom is becoming natural and more common. More and more often, individuals are giving up on trying to find meaning in what they do, and are ceasing to respond to their own lives. It’s become a game, a constant search for something, anything, to relieve boredom, and it’s hurting us. On every level, boredom is cropping up and interfering with the greater picture of a satisfying life. And society isn’t doing anything to stop it.

Boredom as Defined by Thomas Oden, 1969

 boredomstructure

In his 1969 book, The Structure of Awareness, Thomas C. Oden defined awareness by using the structures of Guilt, Anxiety, and Boredom. Guilt refers to a past self, while anxiety refers to a future self. Boredom deals with the present self, and the present awareness and experience one is having. Several pathways exist which ultimately lead to boredom. The first is the feeling of emptiness, which impedes the goal of self-actualization. This is what is most commonly experienced as boredom. On a larger scale, boredom can also arise from the feeling of meaningless, something more like depression.  By analyzing the diagram, we see that the “now” is related to the “self” by experiencing the present moment and being responsive, which would be to say that a lack of responsiveness would also lead to boredom.

A Website to Demonstrate “Instant Gratification”

http://www.i-am-bored.com/

Following this hyperlink leads to a website called “i am bored.” The entire site is a collection of other hyperlinks that lead to games, videos, articles, pictures, and other websites aimed at entertainment. From the home page, we see that 60 pages of the hyperlink list have been posted. In the sidebar, there are links to other feeds of the same nature. The entire website is dedicated to sharing links that will alleviate boredom. It’s actually marketed as a website for bored users to find immediate entertainment. In theory, the premise is useful, but the site encourages people to come back every day. If the site actually cured people of their boredom, it would be out of business. Not that this would ever happen, because the very nature of the website shortens people’s attention spans, making them ultimately more susceptible to boredom.

 

Similar Such Websites

http://www.boredbutton.com/random

http://www.stumbleupon.com

These websites are dubbed the “Bored Button” and “StumbleUpon.” They is similar to the premise of “i am bored,” but instead of listing other hyperlinks, these websites have a button that randomly jumps to another page of the Internet when clicked. Granted that some of these pages have educational value, the websites as a whole are even less interactive. Both contain a special code that leaves the button in a top bar on every new website, so as soon as the user is done looking at the current page, they can click the button again and find somewhere new to go. Rather than looking through a list for personally interesting topics, users just repeatedly click a button to find a source of entertainment. From personal experience, I can confirm that websites such as these actually breed boredom after a time, rather than combat it. It gives people an excuse not to try.

A Quote Society Could Learn From

“Is boredom anything less than the sense of one’s faculties slowly dying?” –Arthur Helps

This particular quote by Arthur Helps exemplifies the problem with commonplace boredom. Boredom is not something that a person should experience typically. To be frequently bored is to have an issue, mentally. Something is wrong when the average person can’t be satisfied with their life without being plagued by boredom. And as we have already seen, this is the case in society today, given the existence of websites previously mentioned and the culture that corresponds to them. People aren’t trying to fend off boredom; rather they are expecting to be presented with some entertaining thing at all times. I would say that this widespread attitude shows society’s faculties dying.

A Story

There was a young girl, who was exceptionally bright and had potential to do great things. As she grew older, it was apparent that she had a passion for science and math, and excelled at research and complex problem solving. However, she was also a young girl, and enjoyed doing normal activities like her friends. She spend a large amount of time on the Internet, and playing games, and online shopping, and watching television. This behavior never concerned her parents, as they knew how great her intellect was, and they felt assured that her partaking in normal teenage activities would never be able to disrupt her mental clarity. As time went on, however, the girl noticed herself having difficulty remaining focused on tasks that once came so easily to her. Simple things, like doing homework or reading an assignment, took hours to complete, as she was facing constant distraction. Even when she was alone with nothing but her work and her thoughts, she couldn’t remain focused, no matter how hard she tried. She tried to make light of it, and would joke about it with her friends, as if it were some funny stubbornness that was preventing her from doing her work, as she should have. But deep down, she knew something was wrong. Somehow, she had destroyed her ability to focus, and was bored and frustrated more often than she was productive, or happy, for that matter. In trying to be a normal kid as society would have, she had sunk to the level of the average, mindless person, unable to be entertained by anything. And she would never forgive herself for it.

 

On “Boredom Proneness” and a Study of Real People

            John D. Watt and Michael B. Hargis wrote a paper, entitled “Boredom Proneness: Its Relationship with Subjective Underemployment, Perceived Organizational Support, and Job Performance.” The body of the paper detailed a study that the two performed on a group of lab technicians, and explained the relation between boredom and the workplace. The basic findings related to three areas: subjective underemployment, perceived organizational support, and job performance, as the title states. For subjective underemployment, it was found that employees who were identified as “prone to boredom,” overall, responded that they felt underemployed, or underutilized in their job. A possible cause of this is that their intellect exceeds what is required to perform their job, which would naturally lead to boredom. The second aspect was organizational support, which means how much an employee felt that the employer was supporting them in their endeavors. Once again, the boredom-prone mostly responded that they did not feel supported by their organization. The last, and most telling, aspect was job performance. Taken across a wide pool of data, it was found that bored employees had the worst job performance across the companies. This is especially interesting when considering that these bored employees are the same ones who felt they were being underutilized at work. The two authors collected a great amount of data, and uncovered other trends aside from what was titled in the paper. For instance, they found that boredom proneness has been significantly negatively correlated with self-actualization, which corroborates the feelings of underemployment. They also mentioned that the “boredom proneness” was  “trait boredom,” meaning that each person who suffered the boredom experienced it as though it were a permanent character trait. All in all, Watt and Hargis concluded that boredom is an especially relevant concept when examined in the workplace, and further supports the harmful nature of chronic boredom.

David Foster Wallace and Chapter 44

             In his book The Pale King, David Foster Wallace makes the claim that boredom is a conquerable trait, and once a person has become unborable, they can accomplish absolutely anything. There are many different ways to approach this discussion, but the Watt and Hargis study actually makes a good argument in favor of Wallace’s point. The real people working at real companies who possessed a trait boredom were the most unfulfilled and unsuccessful employees at their companies. Given that the employees were aware of their displeasure and overall negative standing in the workplace, it begs to ask why they didn’t attempt to overcome their boredom, and make a serious effort to become more engaged in their jobs. The employees who did not experience boredom were successful and more satisfied in life, as Wallace suggested they would be.

Life and Needs

Looking at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization is at the top, while physiological needs are at the bottom. Boredom plays a role perhaps somewhere in the middle, as entertainment is not essential to life, but at the same time prevents the highest level from ever being reached. Human nature pushes us to climb Maslow’s pyramid, but society is breeding a harmful kind of attitude that leaves us stuck in the middle. People don’t want to be bored, but have been taught and conditioned to be bored much of the time. Instead of doing anything to rectify this, we are falling into complacency and further boredom. Putting oneself in a mindset like Arthur Helps or David Foster Wallace could be the first step towards alleviating boredom, and having people make an effort for their own well-being.