Why the Capacity for Boredom Is Essential for a Full Life

Posted on June 24, 2014

When was the last time you were bored - truly bored - and didn-t instantly spring to fill your psychic emptiness by checking Facebook or Twitter or Instagram? The last time you stood in line at the store or the boarding gate or the theater and didn't reach for your smartphone seeking deliverance from the dreary prospect of forced idleness?

A century and a half ago, Kierkegaard argued that this impulse to escape the present by keeping ourselves busy is our greatest source of unhappiness. A century later, Susan Sontag wrote in her diary about the creative purpose of boredom. And yet ours is a culture that equates boredom with the opposite of creativity and goes to great lengths to offer us escape routes.

We can think of boredom as a defense against waiting, which is, at one remove, an acknowledgement of the possibility of desireā€¦ In boredom, we can also say, there are two assumptions, two impossible options: there is something I desire, and there is nothing I desire. But which of the two assumptions, or beliefs, is disavowed is always ambiguous, and this ambiguity accounts, I think, for the curious paralysis of boredomā€¦ In boredom there is the lure of a possible object of desire, and the lure of the escape from desire, of its meaninglessness.

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Source material from Brain Pickings


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