Boredom is that overwhelming state of emotion one feels when faced with so many possible things to do coupled with the lack of desire to do any of them. More than anything, it’s a lack of discipline. I sometimes wonder whether it was possible, perhaps thousands of years ago, for one to have felt bored. The fact of the time was that you could either work, read, socialize, or sleep, and faced with this ultimatum of no choices, I could not imagine that one could have gotten bored, but rather accepted the fate that the activities of the day had come to an end. The paradox of choice, as it has come to be called, is the root of boredom, and when faced with zero choices, boredom ceases to exit. In our modern day, with the infinite options of things to do, we become paralyzed and entangled, not knowing where our time would best be spent, and rather than make a choice and do something, we sit idly and pity ourselves and our lack of initiative, and begin to feel the worst emotion that a human can encounter: the feeling of boredom.
Paulo Coelho talks about a day where it just so happened that there was nothing for him to do — he’d written articles that were due, he’d updated his webpage already, he’d went to the doctor and got his stomach checked out, his plane tickets that he’d been waiting for had arrived in the mail.
I have things to do tomorrow and things which I finished yesterday, but today …
Today I have absolutely nothing that requires my attention.
Uneasiness, or boredom-incipient, began to creep into his soul:
I feel uneasy. Shouldn’t I be doing something? Well, if I wanted to invent work, that wouldn’t take much effort. We all have projects to develop, light bulbs to change, leaves to sweep, books to put away, computer files to organize.
I encounter a revealing thought at these lines:
I sit down on the wet grass and start making a mental list of what is going through my head:
(a) I’m useless. Everyone else at that moment is busy, working hard.
Answer: I work hard too, sometimes twelve hours a day. Today I just happen to have nothing to do.
I too feel guilty when I’m bored, because I know there is so much that can be done, so many projects that can be developed, so many thoughts that could be transmuted to words, so many articles that I could read and learn from, but here I am, doing absolutely nothing. I feel useless and a waste of human space, while others are working hard and making something happen. But that’s just it. I work hard too. Really hard. And like Coelho says, today, I just happen to have nothing to do.
And I begin to feel less guilty at my occasional bursts of boredom. In fact, I’ve found a way to welcome it. I’ve begun to treat “having nothing to do” as an activity of its own, where I accept it wholly, and sit down and just meditate. And I don’t mean esoteric meditation, — I just sit down imperfectly, whether on a couch or in a bath, close my eyes, and empty my thoughts. I would have been doing the same thing reluctantly anyway were I to accept being drowned with boredom. This way, however, I regain control and discipline, as if to smite life and say “Ha, you can’t get to me! You throw boredom at me, but I accept it and turn it into an opportunity for peace and silence.”