Ollie's Modern Life
This month, Ollie Peart learns to embrace the sunlit uplands of tedium
Monday 08 June 2020
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Summer of love
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I’ve spent the past few weeks starting something, half finishing it, starting something else only to return to the thing I’d half finished before to not finish it again. Since this week last Tuesday, or whatever, I’ve started 639 jobs and finished -276 of them.
I’ve lost all track of time. It’s evaporated into a nonsensical wibble, drifting aimlessly through the void of space, weaving between zoom chats and Netflix binges. Focus is now just a word, somewhere in the dictionary between the letters E and G.
All of these endeavours have been fuelled by the gnawing, painful sensation of boredom. My brain is constantly on the lookout for stimulation. If I feel even a gentle guff of boredom tickle my nostrils with its stench, I’ll whip out the nearest screen to quell it before it becomes unbearable. I’ve watched Aladdin, played Mario Kart and eaten cake, regressing to the state of a five year-old because let’s face it, they’re never bored.
The thing is, I have completely and utterly failed to appreciate the colossal, unyielding power and potential of boredom. Boredom is not your enemy, boredom is your friend.
We all know the urge to quell boredom – it’s almost too much to bear – but today it is easier than ever to get rid of it. You might think you’re bored skimming through your phone, but you’re not. However mundane and vacuous the content you’re consuming, the fact is you’re stimulating your brain. This is not boredom.
Boredom is the complete opposite. It’s the painful feeling of having the energy and desire to stimulate your brain, but having no way whatsoever to fulfil it. It hurts. But you likely haven’t felt it properly in a very long time because, well, there’s just no time for you to be bored.
If you think I’m chatting nonsense, I’m not. Lockdown was the perfect opportunity to get bored. While most of us would have done what I have and snapped up every chance to be occupied, some people, inevitably, would have allowed boredom to set in. And boredom plus time is the perfect (and I mean perfect) recipe for creativity.
During the month of April, there were a record number of patent applications in the UK, according to the Telegraph. The thought is that with more opportunity for boredom to set in, the mind actively generates innovations from thin air. Eureka moments were popping off all over the place, all because some of us let the brain take over, and now, 2020 will be remembered for two things; coronavirus and the year of invention.
2020 will be remembered for two things; coronavirus and the year of invention
I cannot wait to see what’s in that mix. Sure, some will be ridiculous, flying cars that run off pigs’ whiskers and carbon neutral garden forks, but some will be awesome. Someone finally cracking nuclear fusion, cures for disease and something that can rid the world of those stupid fucking coffee capsules that seem to fill my goddam house. Average Joes and Janes will become household names like Dyson and Apple, but with innovations that’ll relegate the iPhone to a promo screen in Robert Dyas.
It’s true. Some science-type people were so bored, they had the brilliant idea to study boredom. They found that people who were set a creative task after a really boring one, tended to be far more creative in their approach to a problem. They had better, and more ideas than those who weren’t bored beforehand. It’s worth saying that they also showed that it doesn’t work for everybody. If you’re someone who isn’t into solving problems, this probably will have zero effect on you, but for the rest of us, this is good news.
It means we can justifiably sit and stare into thin air and claim we are doing something. If your boss or partner pulls you up on your lack of productivity, point to the research and get back to staring. Watch a kettle boil, stare at a blade of grass or watch a fly repeatedly hurl itself against a window. You’re doing your bit for the world by doing so. You could be laying the seed for one of the most life-changing innovations the world has ever seen. Sure, you might invent something that can pour windscreen washer into a car without spilling it, but you never know, you might do something great.
From now on, I am going to embrace boredom. It’ll become my new normal. A state I will relish whenever it comes along and I will actively pursue an environment void of distraction. Well, maybe not right now. I’ve still got the final series of Ozark to watch...
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