With all the gadgets these days it’s no wonder boredom has become an anomaly. Kindles, iPods, DVRs, Facebook and smart phones may be technological “conveniences” yet they have many of us in such a flurry of activity, that to feel bored is a foreign notion that’s become downright uncomfortable. Losing my phone at the state fair last month, and going without one for a few days, actually turned into an interesting experiment. I had become more addicted to it than I realized; I actually felt a little jittery the first 12 hours without it and must’ve reached for that phantom phone a million times. The good news is I also thought of some great ideas as I sat empty handed.
One of the reasons people like to go camping is because being outside in the elements allows us to unplug from it all. We hadn’t gone camping since our third child was an infant- she is 5 now, and when we went this summer it seemed more popular than ever, leading me to believe that people are craving the simpler, slower parts of life at a time when it couldn’t be more fast paced. Even so, I was surprised to see many people still had many of the boredom buster conveniences with them- one family we saw even brought a television set.
I read an article last week about how boredom is actually good for us- it helps spark creativity. If kids today have more gadgets at their disposal than ever, how are they ever going to foster thinking; how will they learn to tend the fruits of their imagination?
Several years ago I read a book called The Artist’s Way. One component of the book is that we need to unplug to be struck with inspiration. We need to quiet our minds for great ideas to speak to us; otherwise they just get crowded out, like someone trying to talk to us at a loud party. It made me think about how my husband says his best ideas come to him when he’s running. The author challenges her readers to not watch television or even read for several days and see what happens when left to our own thoughts (and this was written before Wiis and smart phones- imagine how much more stimulated we are even since).
And this summer I read a letter written by an author who was responding to someone asking how to raise a writer. The parent asking has a teen that wants to write books. So, the parent wanted to know what books to read, what conferences to sign her daughter up for, etc., to make it happen. And the author basically said, “Leave your kid alone. Give her a notebook and a pen and let her be BORED. Let her complain that there’s nothing to do. Leave her with her own thoughts and don’t try to help her fill her time.”
Of all times, I believe we are at a creativity crisis. How will the next Van Gogh, Mozart, Dickenson or Gates cultivate the great works he or she is capable of if a Wii remote is thrust into his or her hand every time boredom comes a’ knocking?