Ever since smartphones appeared in our hands, we stopped getting bored.
Yes, just a few years ago, at train stations, airports, and doctor’s waiting rooms, you could find people who… contemplated.
Today, we don’t have to.
With the widespread use of smartphones, boredom has disappeared from our lives.
Two hours of waiting in a doctor’s queue turned into two hours of scrolling through the internet.
A train ride? Watching YouTube, Netflix, or checking messages and emails.
Do we remember who we were traveling with in the compartment?
Even less likely that we engaged in any conversation with anyone.
Boredom has been eliminated. But has it worked out for us?
In one of Eric Rohmer’s films, “The Collector,” the protagonist goes on a several-week trip to the south of France to… get bored there.
I remember watching the scene where the above words were spoken, and the thought came to my mind: “What a luxury it is to be able to afford a six-week trip to any place without imposing any plans and only expecting to get bored.”
Boredom = reflection
Yes, boredom has become a luxury for us.
And many of us are not aware of it yet.
Many of us are trapped in the constant escape from boredom.
The TV always on at home. The radio in the car. The scrolling phone in waiting rooms, buses, trams.
Are we losing something?
Yes, something very important: time for contemplation, reflection. And space for growth, creativity, self-insight.
Boredom and creativity
Schopenhauer considered boredom a plague of his contemporary life. Today, he would say that the absolute lack of boredom is the real plague.
Peter Toohey, in his book “Boredom: A Lively History,” points out that we should distinguish two types of boredom:
Ordinary boredom – which each of us (even animals) occasionally experiences (but increasingly rarely).
Existential boredom – which is emptiness, melancholy, and is associated with an overwhelming sense of purposelessness and meaninglessness.
While the latter boredom is dangerous and requires a response through contact with a psychologist or psychiatrist, the first one – ordinary boredom – in appropriate doses, brings many benefits.
Above all, it allows us to come up with various new ideas.
When children don’t have toys and get bored – and they don’t get bored for long – they immediately make a toy out of cardboard, a stick, or a pot found in the kitchen.
As adults, allowing ourselves to experience boredom gives us a chance to discover something previously unnoticed.
The best business ideas actually arise from boredom. Through reflection and contemplation.
Boredom is thinking
Newton, while developing his revolutionary concepts in Principia Mathematica, spent two years in solitude. When asked how he discovered the law of universal gravitation, he replied, “by thinking about it all the time.”
There’s no magic formula here.
Outstanding achievements require reflection. And that requires time. Time spent with oneself, with one’s thoughts.
What to do?
I know it’s difficult in the constant daily rush. But below are a few of my suggestions on how to find a bit of boredom in your life. The kind of boredom that can result in something good: an outstanding idea or at least a sense of calm, a bit of peace, and organizing everything we have in our minds.
When driving alone, don’t turn on the radio.
Take a walk in the forest without your phone (just remember to follow a familiar trail to avoid getting lost).
Go to the library and sit with an empty notepad.
On the bus, subway, or tram, focus on the sounds the vehicle makes.
When you’re at home, put your phone on the shelf, don’t carry it with you all the time. Only turn on the ringer so that you can hear it when someone calls.
Lie down in bed and look at the ceiling.
Look at the turned-off TV.