Boredom: Humanity’s Greatest Invention
It is clear where boredom sprouts from. Lack of stimulation—long lines, monotony, the absence of challenge, bad movies by bad comedians (I will never let that go, Ricky Gervais), among others. Yet seldom do we consider that boredom may be the greatest thing that a human can have. It may seem like a curse that we defined the concept of boredom in the 19th century, but there is a positive outcome that we overlook. Oftentimes boredom leads us to try new things until we find something that holds our interest enough that it allows us to overcome that boredom. Boredom actually drives people to find their passion, which then allows for ambition. Boredom is, in fact, marked by a lack of ambition. (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00223989909599743) The scholarly article that describes its findings on boredom proneness describes a person who is prone to boredom as lacking ambition, and rightfully so. The researchers understand that people who pursue things that are meaningful to them and have an ultimate goal regarding that meaningful thing are less likely to be bored, because they are focused on their improvement and advancement toward their goal. There is no time for them to be bored since they are constantly looking to advance. The thrill gained from advancement is the key element that allows for advancement in society. Innovations arise, achievements are made—but more importantly, boredom is conquered.
However, boredom guides us toward more than just discovering a single goal in life. It spurs us to seek new things—new knowledge, new wisdom, new friends, new hobbies. By spurring our drive to explore the unknown, we are kicked off the couch and pushed toward action. Before we may flee from boredom, we are required to embrace the new. If we never attempt to explore new concepts, it is unlikely that we can ever find our ambitions in the first place.
We must explore the new. If one decides to remain close-minded to new interests, what remains after you achieve your one interest? Perhaps you will be content with remaining at the top. Perhaps you will be content with having no one else to compete with, to continue growing when you are already the greatest and the most prominent of them all. But even Michael Jordan wasn’t content with being one of the best. He shocked everyone when he first retired from basketball—and right after, he began playing baseball. He kept an open mind to his interests and didn’t restrict himself to an inactive life after retirement. Alternatively, what if you never found an ambition in the first place because you were never willing to explore the possibilities around you? Instead, you grew content with the monotony of an average life and an average existence. Your existence becomes centered on something else—money, fame, comfort; boredom becomes a typical emotion and something to cope with in everyday life, rather than to overcome. This is why we must try new things, so that we may find something new to get caught up with and a new obsession. There is a short comic (http://thisisnthappiness.com/post/66623861491/you-only-live-eleven-times) that describes how, by pursuing our multiple interests, our life can be made up of multiple different lives. We do not need to become content with one lifestyle that becomes monotonous with time. We should not limit ourselves to a single thing in life, but strive to experience as much as we possibly can by pursuing our multiple interests as seriously as we can.
Although the comic shows that these multiple lifetimes involve learning something new, this is not necessarily true. A lifetime can be spend being dedicated to something—dedication is a form of ambition, as well. Sometimes it is forgotten that ambition does not necessarily entail the desire to be the best. Sometimes it is having a focus for which we want to pour in our hard work. Namely, love. Dedicate several years to loving someone deeply, dedicate several years to getting to know someone as much as possible. Love is yet another escape from boredom. Each love provides an opportunity to experience the world through another lens; to love only one person may reduce this experience to only one other experience. The thrill in love in tied with having new experiences—yet, any experience is a new one when experienced with someone you love. Even old experiences are new, because you can view them in a new perspective. Perhaps this is why people consider having one love all your life to be boring, because it lessens the number of new perspectives that you can experience. Yet, if we consider that everyone has eleven lifetimes in one life, you can even experience twenty-two lifetimes with only a single partner for life.
So what significance does this have? Is the best possible life led by an ambitious person in love? This thought causes certain questions to arise. Ambition aside, how much do you have to have achieved before you become bored? How in love do you have to be before it gets boring? The struggle for the top and the experience of deep love are typically experienced by people in their late twenties. These are people who are not yet worried about raising a family, but are invested in their work and are involved in relationships with the intention of finding a life-long partner. It is when a person’s ambition is at its peak because less has been achieved by this person in comparison to older individuals. It is when a person is still in the process of getting to truly know his or her partner. It is interesting to consider that this is why older people are so fond of youth, that it is because it is generally this stage in life during which the least amount of boredom is experienced.
Boredom in Love
If love is a form of ambition, infatuation counts as a method used to attempt to overcome boredom. When we are bored, we are more prone to becoming infatuated with a person. This infatuation takes up the space in our minds, overwriting the boredom. In Mulan, the soldiers think about love and marriage to overcome the boredom of travelling to their destination. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiqmZLOaD8o) It serves to pass the time, these trivial yet consuming thoughts. Though it is not quite as strong of a feeling, this video shows that infatuation serves as a desire and creates a goal that vanquishes boredom. They experience a light-hearted feeling and the thoughts are quite frivolous.
I can relate to these soldiers, as I had a moment of infatuation in my workplace in October. I had just started working in the school’s cafeteria for several weeks, and work was boring. I wiped tables, and it was insufferably cruel. Walking around in circles cleaning tables that had already been cleaned—yet, clean I must since the managers were mostly watching and there was nothing else to do but be perfectionist in terms of cleanliness.
In the midst of my boredom, I found myself infatuated with a co-worker of mine. It served as a wonderful distraction from the boredom of my work; time that was originally spent zoning out was then spent wondering what to talk about with him, picking apart every little thing he said, and trying not to trip or look foolish when I walked past. In hindsight, it was clearly a very foolish infatuation. However, it was very effective for me in overcoming the boredom that I was experiencing at work. As soon as the infatuation wore off, the boredom returned as quickly as it had left.
Adolescents attempt ambition in their desire to overcome boredom. They are trapped between the child’s mindset of finding everything interesting and the adult mind that has determined how to handle boredom in life. Boredom is relatively new to them, so they feel it even more acutely. Adolescents are prone to infatuation and many attempt to participate in extracurricular activities apart from their education in order to satisfy their varied interests. For some activities, this ambition is limited—an athletic career that lasts only for the four years of high school, or acting as the student council president, or dating a high-school sweetheart. These goals in high school do not always carry on into their older age, because they only exist as limited opportunities in their current environment.
College students likely say that high school was less interesting because there is a wider range of potential experiences to try in college. There are more people to meet, and an ultimate goal to achieve. Rather than aiming to study solely for good grades, college students begin studying in preparation for their future career. Their classes pose more interest to them because they are related to their major that they chose for themselves. High school students have little control over their boredom, and fall into acceptance that it is part of life. High school is the time of dreams—it is four years that shapes students into either dreamers or conformists. By the fourth year, students are divided into two groups: those who decide to pursue their desires or and those who never even began to try.
It didn’t matter that her classmates and friends thought that her job was boring. Didn’t matter that there was no one her age to talk to, or that all she did was sort books for sixteen hours a week. It was her first paid job ever, and she was determined to be the best, quickest book sorter in that the Monroe Public Library had ever had in its 64-year history. No, the best in all of the East Coast. She would aim higher, but she liked to stay grounded to reality.
She sorted the books so quickly that the covers of children’s books were mere flashes of color before her, recipe books looked like a 30-mph moving buffet line, and science textbooks were a rapid succession of images of frog-tree-skeleton-frog-fern-parrot-microscope.
She ran down the aisles of bookshelves with her full book cart, moving at maximum speed. Often nearly toppling over or ramming into a customer. A manager would walk by and she would slow her pace to half-speed, but quickly resume running once she was out of sight. She would be the best! The sleepy little library and with its dim lighting was no longer the boring world that it was in her childhood—now, it was a racetrack, and her competition was one-third of the country’s population.
Climb as High as You Can Dream
Do not fall into that trap. Do not listen to what others tell you. Focus on your extracurricular activities. Focus on what you love. Pursue your ambitions while you are young, elsewise you eventually find yourself in a desk job stapling papers. Do extraordinary things, be extraordinary—take that boredom and destroy it with your own two hands. Do not live alongside it whilst you pretend to enjoy your mundane life.
Be inspired by the clichéd motivational posters, and cast aside the cynicism that surrounds ambition in today’s society. People value safety and comfort over failure and determination in this age of the internet—they are satisfied with a boring life. But you—you are different.