In Praise of Boredom, Again

In Praise of Boredom, Again, by Caroline Fiske.

How could [Joseph Brodsky, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1987] have guessed that the young people he addressed in July 1989 would be the last Western generation to live alongside boredom: in their bedrooms, on the bus, at the end of the day, and in the morning? That now, when the tiniest tips of our little fingers feel the first twinges of tedium, while the elevator travels between ground and first, we reach for our screens to become masters of fate, captains of souls, kings of new continents.

Even the vocabulary of boredom is disappearing. Brodsky lists these: “anguish, ennui, tedium, doldrums, humdrum, the blahs, apathy, listlessness, stolidity, lethargy, languor, accidie, etc.” Most of those can be excised from the Dictionary. Tell me honestly when you last used any of them? …

If boredom is so bad, isn’t it good that we can all be social influencers 24 hours a day? Or sit in our basements and fight alien armies? …

Brodsky said … “When hit by boredom, go for it. Let yourself be crushed by it; submerge, hit bottom.”

Why? Because boredom represents your window onto infinity. And that is to say, onto your own insignificance. “For boredom speaks the language of time, and it is to teach you the most valuable lesson in your life … the lesson of your utter insignificance.” Boredom puts your existence into perspective “the net result of which is precision and humility.” The more you learn about your own size “the more humble and compassionate you become to your likes.”

Is boredom the ingredient our “snowflake” generation is missing? …

I recently heard a friend planning a few days her daughter had off school. Barricade after barricade was erected against boredom. A tight schedule of activities, each more stimulating than the last, and then as the greatest reward of all: screen time. I have friends who, when they drive their small daughters half an hour across town, plug them both in to separate iPads. I quite often travel long distances on trains. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kid looking out of the window, let alone a teenager. I have just spent two weeks with my own children. With the backstop of endless DVDs, iPads, and iPhones, they were never once bored. I could see entitlement stirring.