Monday, August 17, 2015

If you're bored...

...You know what I'm going to say.  I can feel the eye rolls.  But just give me a minute to expound.  For those of you who are not either Angus or Violet and have not heard me spout this one a thousand times here it is:  "If you're bored you're not paying attention."

Life is amazing.  It is easy to remember this when you are somewhere beautiful, like Lime Kilns, right?  But it doesn't cease to be amazing because you are waiting at the doctor's office or the DMV (don't worry, Ang, in three years or so you will understand).  So, if you are bored, it is not the world's fault - nothing out there has changed - the change happened inside your brain.  If you are bored it is that you have stopped looking around, stopped paying attention to your surroundings, stopped being curious.

Just for a moment, let's contemplate life. What is life?  It is everything around us.  It is all the pretty things like flowers, or a lovely sunset, or otters - and stuff we can't see but can feel and stuff we can't even feel but exists anyway.  But it is also people.  Yes, I am advocating people watching.  We are arguably some of the most fascinating creatures on earth and for free, albeit surreptitiously particularly in the doctor's office, you can observe them in their natural habitat.  Looking at stuff, watching people - that is the most obvious cure for boredom.

But wait!  There's more!

Curiosity, like boredom, is cultivated.  It doesn't just happen to you.  I'm sure you know people who in your science classes have acted as if science is the most tedious thing in the world all the while you are fascinated by what you are learning.  It is not because that person's brain is different or that they are experiencing a different moment than you are, but they are experiencing it with with a lack of curiosity, a lack of wonder.  Curiosity is just that - wonder.  "I wonder where that squirrel goes to sleep", "I wonder what an atom looks like if you could see it".  Like that, you wonder about stuff.  The more you do it, the more you want to do it, because your brain is being trained to think about stuff in a different way than that which is being bombarded at you.   It is sort of like driving somewhere and only looking out one window.  You are only going to see what is zipping past your eyeballs and nothing more.  If you wonder what might be on the other side, voila! you have just opened up 100% more to look at!  What you often do you get good at.

But wait! There's more!

There is one more point I want to make about boredom.  That it is an amazing opportunity.  You guys may not fully realize or be able to conceptualize this but when I was a kid, and all the kids before me, there was less to do.  NO video games, no good TV on the weekends and during the day in summers (only adult stuff, soap operas and the Phil Donohue show), no cell phones, or even that many games to play.  And sometimes, if you were on your own or your sibling wouldn't play with you, you'd be at lose ends with nothing to do.  And when you got done looking at stuff in a different way you'd find a spot to sit and let your mind wander.  Usually the wandering was prompted by some question you asked yourself, like "how many ladybugs live in the grass and do they have names."  So you would be faced with a choice, either invent a way to answer these questions, or just let your mind lose, uncontrolled, to wander.

While that may seem as if you are not 'doing' anything in actuality you are doing a whole lot.  Someday the ability to let your mind wander will be invaluable to society.  When robots can do everything we humans will still be the only ones who will be able to imagine.  Letting your mind wander is very healthy too (ooo, yuck, healthy) or maybe I should say relaxing.  It's fun. When your brain has no agenda it is really entertaining if you let it be.  In those mind wandering moments are when the best things in the world that you like the most were started in somebody's brain.  If you only cultivate boredom what you are never going to be able to get to is your imagination.

And, by the way, the imagination are where all the good jokes come from, just sayin'.

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