Embrace boredom

Boredom used to have a pretty bad reputation, and while it is slowly clearing up, I think there is still some way ahead of us to fully appreciate boredom.

Boredom is what we experience when our mind searches for things to do and to occupy itself with. It is inherently not a pleasant feeling, compelling us to do something about it. Evolutionary speaking this is beneficial, as it compels us to do things, other than just sitting around idle as long as we are fed, and improve our position or situation in the long run. However, the predatory attention economy is taking advantage of this trait and tries to trap us in the engagement loop. 1

Consequently, being able to tolerate boredom is what allows us to escape engagement and act on our own volition. 2

For long I wondered if there is an additional function to boredom, for I have always found it to almost be a necessary condition for true productivity or progress to happen. I do not know if there is such a function, but also, it is not necessary, because we can make the following observation:

For us to experience and feel boredom, we need to first achieve some level of mental emptiness and disengagement, and free ourselves from occupation. Thus boredom is a useful indicator.

We can use this to our advantage, namely by cultivating boredom; just like when we cultivate plants, we do not grow themselves, but only prepare the soil and circumstances for them to grow, we can adjust our own circumstances to allow boredom to come up. This seems to get the job done better, than trying to explicitly going for productivity. 3

In the end, there does not seem to be too much to boredom. Fitting.

  1. This seems to be very similar to the food industry, which profits from us eating cheap sugars and fats. There does not need to be an evil plan, we just arrived in this situation by AB-testing optimizing for profit, and stay there by people defending corporate interest. 

  2. In the spirit of above footnote, tolerating hunger is what allows us to break free from the unhealthy food industry. This might also give us a hint how long of a uphill battle we are facing here, given the attention economy is still pretty young. 

  3. Possibly the analogy would be more accurate with intertillage which is planted to improve soil composition.