We are restless creatures. We struggle to fill our time, either with menial tasks that may or may not have any impact, or with a barrage of entertainment flowing from endless screens into our consciousness. In truth, there is no end to the amount of content and tasks we have available to keep us occupied.
There is no word for doing nothing. If you’re doing nothing you are still doing something. You’re sitting, you’re feeling the breeze on your face or the sun on your arms. You are breathing. You are listening. So maybe there’s actually no such thing as boredom since we are always, no matter what, always engaging.
The demons only come though when these simple doings aren’t enough for you. They come when you are unfulfilled with the quiet beauty of these things and I can’t be sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.
There are horror stories about kids in intensely technologically infused societies in Japan and South Korea who forget to eat or who forego social relationships in order to keep playing games and engaging in internet related activities.
Associated with that dynamic is the phenomenon of the hikikomori or in layman’s terms “hermits” who can go for years isolated to their living spaces never interacting with another soul aside from the internet.
But the internet, although a major key in the sacrifice of simple boredom is only one of many time killers. TV is also guilty.
My parents have told me stories about their childhood in which there were only three stations on TV and they only broadcasted in the evening.
They kept themselves occupied though, my dad by shooting the shit with prisoners at the small town jail where he lived with his sheriff father, my mom by playing music.
I don’t really know what point I’m trying to make because it’s true that even without the internet or TV we would, inevitably, find something to stave off boredom but there’s something off about the sedentary nature of sitting on your butt all day staring at a screen. When looked at objectively, it seems kind of sad and vapid.
For some reason running around the woods stealing shit and causing trouble seems like a much better killer of time then staring into a screen.
There are places people can go to escape from the endlessness of it all, there’s even a term for it, “going off the grid”. In general though, it seems that people only truly go off the grid if they have some deep hatred or mistrust of all facets of society, not just the internet and television.
I know that when I get back into town from a camping trip I’m, perhaps, overly excited to check my phone for any notifications of trite occurrences that took place while I was gone, and like I said, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
I guess it just goes back to my fear that world will become so interconnected that not to exist online means, essentially, not existing at all.
In his article “I’m still here: back online after a year without the internet” Verge writer Paul Miller makes the case that it wasn’t the internet and media that was sucking out his soul, it was his own insecurities and faults that caused him to feel burnt out. He did the experiment we’ve all been wanting to do and his conclusions were frank but they may not be the case for everyone.
There have also been cases made that the rise of the internet could be compared to the rise of the telephone, this elusive massive ability to connect through machines that we all eventually got used to.
It doesn’t seem like a big deal when that’s taken into consideration, but are we just trying to justify something we know is off?
Maybe it all just boils down to the Terminator and sci-fi tropes of machines taking over the world and that’s what feeds mostly into my fears, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s a bit apprehensive.
There must be a reason for the apprehension, be it sociological or evolutionary, maybe something to do with enemies or different tribes invading territory or something. I don’t know, I just know how I feel.
Privacy seems fleeting for some reason with our lives playing out online, and highly idealized lives at that. I’m not sure I want that.
Boredom is beautiful.
It gives us time to process, time to figure things out, time to reflect and time to just be in awe with the things that are happening around us.
Tell me you don’t feel better after sitting out on your porch watching the leaves quake or the sun fall behind the horizon. I think they call that meditation or maybe daydreaming, I don’t know.
There is something to be said for the quiet simplicity of sitting in the grass in a park looking up at the sky and just thinking. That or getting out into the woods and walking until your legs hurt or you think you should go back. Hearing the sounds of nature and feeling the things that only quiet and the outdoors can bring.
So, in defense of boredom, maybe we should take a step back and not consume, just be, and be for a while, maybe our thoughts about things will be clearer, maybe we’ll feel a little better about things after giving them a little time to process and not pushing them down with a barrage of media.