KidSpirit

The Wonders Of Boredom

SilenceFeatures

Boredom is a certain kind of cruel silence. A moment of inaction and quiet that is nerve-racking. The absence of stimuli.

Even though we all try to avoid it, boredom plays a bigger role in our lives than we think. Take for example my being bored three years ago; on my couch with nothing to do, I suddenly had the idea to write about the feelings I was having at that moment. I wrote a short article on boredom, explaining what it meant to me. I went on to win a competition and an opportunity to contribute to KidSpirit. And here I am, a few years later, writing an expository article on the same topic for that same magazine.

For me, being bored is like being in a tank full of water with no way out. It is excruciating to feel that everyone around me has so much to do in their life and is achieving great things, but I’m over here not doing anything. It's not that I want to do nothing. It's just that when I’m bored, none of the options I have available, or can think of, actually intrigue me and pique my interest. I feel like precious time is being wasted. The fact that I want to stop being bored is what makes me try to find options I didn't know were available to me and use them to better spend my time.

When I moved to India from the United States, I had a lot of free time on my hands. In the U.S. I used to practice Taekwondo, a form of martial arts, but there weren't any of those classes where I lived in India. This prompted me to find other skills that entertained me and helped me make better use of my time; that's how I found the guitar. Boredom led me to a skill that I am so passionate about now and have been able to stick with for six years. But boredom’s wonders aren't just limited to me.

What amazing things could result from someone being well . . . just bored? Turns out many. Warren Buffet, a world-renowned investor, billionaire, and philanthropist, says it was boredom that caused him to read a book called Security Analysis, a book that he claims changed the way he traded stocks. And we all know how that turned out. In fact, the Slinky, fireworks, and Post-it Notes were all invented when their respective creators were bored.

Even the coronavirus pandemic is an example of the wonders of boredom. Writing during quarantine has been a unique experience. I have way more time to ponder and dive deeper into the subjects I want to write about. I have used the extra time to widen my perspective on even this topic of boredom. For those who have had the luxury of their jobs and/or health not being affected, the pandemic has provided ample time to be bored. Billions of people have been inside of their homes, bored as they have never been before. For the first time, everyone in the world had nothing to do at the same time, and that took many of us on pretty amazing journeys. A whole host of “quarantine creations,” like DIY at-home skating rinks, makeshift swimming pools, and insane obstacle courses for animals, came up during this time. The central concept of boredom, a lack of tasks that interest you, drives you to forage for new things to do, new ideas to share, and new opportunities to discover. Boredom allows us to think out of the box and try out something that we otherwise never would. While boredom is an unpleasant feeling that we do all in our power to get rid of, that desperation makes us do crazy things. And that's the real power of boredom. In a time when everyone is trying to be like the other and originality is being replaced with views, likes, and messages, it might just be exactly what we need.

But that desperation might not always be great. Boredom is known to also be the number one cause for overeating, binge-watching, and being unproductive overall. It acts as a catalyst, a fuel that encourages us to watch that TV show when we know we have a deadline to adhere to or reach for that candy bar we know we don't need. The effects of boredom differ from person to person, because we all handle different situations differently. When I'm bored, I constantly feel the pressure to do something, be proactive, and make the most of my time. The feelings that invade our thoughts during times of boredom unconsciously lead our minds to a crossroads. We can become creative and use our time to do something constructive, or we can just lie in bed all day. So often it’s the latter. We need to stop wandering around aimlessly in boredom, and instead make use of it.

Thousands of years ago, humans always had to be alert so that a predator didn’t gobble them up or they didn’t die of hunger. There was a constant need to find food and to keep an eye on their surroundings. Even now, people with lower than average incomes always have to keep thinking of a new way to earn money, a new way to get food so that they know that they and their families will survive to the next day. Some of us are lucky enough to have time on our hands, when we don’t have anything to do and we can say, “I have all this time and nothing to do.” We need to understand the value of this.

No matter how you look at it, boredom has been and will continue to be an essential part of our lives. It’s up to us to respond, and to recognize our prerogative to take advantage of it. That decision might just change our lives forever. As a popular saying goes: if necessity is the mother of invention, then boredom is the father.

Sources:

Buffett, Warren. Foreword to Security Analysis, 6th ed, by Benjamin Graham and David L. Dodd, xi-xii. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009.

The Editors of Publications International, LTD. “9 Things Invented or Discovered By Accident.” How Stuff Works. https://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/scientific-experiments/9-things-invented-or-discovered-by-accident.htm.

Kushan Mehta is a ninth grader at The Riverside School in India. He enjoys technology, language, design, and music. He has published numerous articles and short stories in online magazines, newspapers, and novels. Kushan tries to fade the lines between the two countries he has been tied to — the United States and India — and hopes to write his own novel one day, too.

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