The Importance of Being Bored

“I’m bored”, whined a 10-year old.

In less than a second the mother brandished a shiny new iPad from her handbag and shoved it under the child’s nose; a beacon of entertainment available at the touch of her fingertips, the solution to boredom. As though boredom is a plague, and entertainment, the remedy.

We are living in an age of convenience and instant gratification that any lull in activity, any pause in a conversation, any sense of boredom would instantaneously render a sense of dissatisfaction. Fill more items in that empty corner. Place a bric-a-brac on every available shelf. Say something to fill the “awkward” silence. Add furniture in that space.

But what if space is what’s required to balance it all out? What if space is what you need?

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people (especially adults) whine about being bored. In anything. With everything. Bored on a Saturday night, bored in that particular class, bored with an activity, bored with life. Is your life, your future, all figured out? Have you fulfilled your purpose in life? No? Then hustle. Do something. Do anything with that boredom, anything but waste your life complaining about being bored. When a child (or an adult, for that matter) complains of boredom, two options: (a) make him/her do something productive (b) leave him/her be. Because boredom is truly a catalyst of creativity.

I remember the days when we had no Youtube or iPhone games to distract us from these imponderably horrific bouts of ennui – I was discovering books on my dad’s heaving, dusty shelves, creating a pillow fort and building a campsite fashioned entirely out of cushions and snuggly blankets, going on a treasure hunt with my brothers (holding a map with an X that marks the spot where treasure was buried) within the comfort of our home, imagining the floor was lava and whoever had their feet touching it would die, observing my surroundings and coming up with games like “Write down all the things in this room that starts with P” and challenged my brother to it, playing “Words” (the vocabulary game where you figure out as many permutations of different words as you can spell out from 1 single word) with my mother and as a result I am now quite an expert in it, pretending I was a newscaster after watching Cheryl Fox on CNA and then locking myself up in my room whenever I was bored to imitate her perfect articulation as I read off a newspaper, wondering, daydreaming, thinking, swimming in thoughtful idleness. And just being.

The Conversation posits that our dependency on a digital device to keep boredom at bay has deprived us of creativity, further proven by a study on the impact of television on children’s imagination. The loss of imagination is a real concern as it adversely affects our capacity for empathy; a valuable human trait we cannot afford to lose.

This perspective of seizing boredom as an opportunity, a gift, a space for growth is a missing ingredient in today’s society. We have become addicts to quick, fast, instant entertainment that neither stimulates our senses nor exercises our creativity. This era of hyper stimulation and hyperactivity leaves us and our children little room for reflection and wonder. Which is why a teacher’s job today is so much more demanding than before. Classrooms are seen as theatres. Teachers have to double up as entertainers, actors, clowns, anything to keep the children from being bored. This incessant craving to be entertained causes our attention spans to shorten. We become less patient. Less grateful. Less human.

I only have this advice for the young reading this: Instead of endlessly scrolling through your Facebook, go on endless adventures by reading books. Instead of watching other people’s Snapchat and InstaStories, go write your own story. Instead of gossiping about celebrities or your friends, go people-watch and strike conversations. Build something out of nothing. Stare into space and imagine. Do something worthwhile with your boredom because God knows you’ll miss it when you’re older with more responsibilities on your shoulders. Do things that will make the world a better place, and make you a better human being. Discover, create, listen. Don’t let that sense of raw creativity and childlike awe ever escape you.

Allah (swt) has given us the gift of time to swim in the oceans of knowledge and experience our short amount of time on this earth – to not be able to find a purpose and being in a constant need for distraction is but a violation to the blink of a life borrowed. We are in borrowed skin, we are on borrowed time. And one of the things we will be questioned on the Day of Judgement will be this: What have we done with one of our greatest blessings – time?

Don’t let society tell you that boredom is undesirable. Listen to your heart that craves for peace, a space to breathe. Switch off the noise and discover just how much more fulfilling and meaningful your life feels without this constant feeding of entertainment, this constant need to be un-bored.

Boredom is a blessing. Internalise it. Embrace it. Get comfortable and creative with it.

Now go be bored.

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