In Pursuit of ‘Eliminating Boredom’

Swapna Mirashi

How many of us, parents, dread the remark; ‘I’m bored’, from our child of any age?

Our parenting pursuits are as much focused on ‘eliminating boredom’ from our child’s life (and ours) as it is on the child’s education and skill building. Hence besides the school and after-school, during the school week and school term, we schedule weekend and holiday lessons for sports, language, music, arts, math, science… And in between all these, there are play dates and sleepovers, parties and movie nights, picnics and plans. And if ‘friends’ are hard to find, for those odd days and odd hours, we have their rooms full of toys, games, video games, gadgets and literally the world wide web at the click of their thumb.

So, besides ensuring that our child gets the best education and most opportunities we can afford, it will not be an exaggeration to say that ‘eliminating boredom’ sits right on the top of our parenting deliverable to our child, as far as we can afford – money and time wise.

Much of human progress is navigated by this compass that directs;

a. towards convenience, and

b. eliminating boredom.

In fact, much as it is hated, many thinkers believe that boredom is the seed for creativity.

“Since boredom advances and boredom is the root of all evil, no wonder, then, that the world goes backwards, that evil spreads. This can be traced back to the very beginning of the world. The gods were bored; therefore they created human beings. Adam was bored, because he was alone; therefore Eve was created. Since that moment, boredom entered the world, and grew in exact proportion to the growth of population. Adam was bored alone, then Adam and Eve were bored together, then Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel were bored en famille. After that, the population of the world increase and nations were bored en masse. To amuse themselves, they hit upon this notion of building a tower so high that it would hit the sky…….. And what consequences this boredom had, humankind stood tall and fell far.”

– Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (Either/ Or 1843).

We, the 21st Century inhabitants of the world, have come far far away from the times of Adam and Eve, or for that matter from the times of Soren Kierkegaard. To quote another philosopher of the 1930s Russell Bertrand,

“We are less bored than our ancestors were, but we are more afraid of boredom. We have come to know, or rather to believe, that boredom is not part of the natural lot of man, but can be avoided by a sufficiently vigorous pursuit of excitement.”

With a flourishing ‘entertainment industry’ and with creation of mass media entertainment, the internet and hyper connectivity now, we have come far far away from the feeling of boredom. There is no reason, nor a situation to be bored. Normal days are busy, evenings are entertaining. Situations that could have been boring, have smartly knocked it off too. Long travels? No problem, there will be movies, shows and music on board to entertain you (distract you) through the long journey. Waiting at the clinic? Screens will show cartoons to kids, candy floss magazine will amuse adults.

We are so far away from the feeling today that ‘feeling bored’ may soon be categorized as a disorder like being hyperactive or being attention-deficit (in this highly distracting world). We should not be surprised if there is a pill to ‘cure’ boredom soon (as a sleeping pill – a pill that puts you to sleep may have been as strange an invention for the common man then).

We are all in pursuit of happiness and hardwired to run away from boredom. And so, we are perpetually busy, occupied with something and keep our children busy. According to Soren Kierkegaard this impulse to escape the present by keeping ourselves busy, in fact, is our greatest source of unhappiness.

While we mistake happiness as absence of boredom and our pursuit for happiness as that of eliminating boredom, it is important to, pause and think about our collective thinking. Ultimately, we (collectively and, to an extent, individually) have the choice.

“A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men… of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers, as though they were cut flowers in a vase.” – Bertrand Russell (The Conquest of Happiness)