Banishing Boredom

Have you ever caught yourself dreaming of significance and adventure? Have you found yourself yearning for an extraordinary, Homeric life? Do you desire an epic Odyssey of your own? Chances are you have. And guess what? You are in good company. I expect most everyone in our society, and certainly most Unbound Students, have dreams of grandeur and adventure. We have a lust for excitement, adventure, and passion.

However, more often than not we are living “ordinary” lives: studying, going grocery shopping, reading, paying bills, working. We fall into ruts and routines and honestly, it can get kind of, well, boring.

Can you relate? I can.

With all the routines, monotony and motions, are we to just give up on our dreams of exciting, meaningful lives?

Not at all.

I learned a lot from my parents and I am still learning from them. One lesson my mom taught me when I was young was that boredom is a choice. The conversation usually went something like this:

Me: Mom, what can I do?

Mom: Why don't you sit on the couch and think of something to do.

Me: I'm just so bored.

Mom: Well, you're choosing to be bored and now you choose to find something to do.

In retrospect, the concept is remarkable. Boredom, monotony, and insignificance are all choices we make. We choose to have “ordinary” lives and we can just as easily choose to lead extraordinary lives.

Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer described boredom as the “reverse of fascination”. What's the key to breaking the monotony of life? Understanding that boredom, apathy, fascination, and adventure are all matters of perspective.

When we review our prosaic existence and yearn for more we must remember that perspective and choice is ours with which to color the bland landscape.

To illustrate, let's imagine the sky at midnight. The expanse is deep and dark and the stars gleam on the black canvas. To an ordinary eye, a humdrum perspective, the night sky is nothing brilliant to look at. How often have we walked about under it without a second thought?

I remember one particular night that changed my perspective of the nocturnal heavens. I was about ten years old and my family was on vacation at a cabin far up in northern Wisconsin. It was late December and the snow was deep, the ice thick. As the rest of my family settled in for the night my dad beckoned me to follow him outside. We walked down the snowy drifts to the frozen lake and stood there stargazing. Neither of us spoke but it was a breathtaking moment of natural beauty. That night, the dark sky was one of the most extraordinary sights on the planet.

Changing our perspective, particularly finding glory in the ordinary, is key to banishing boredom. According to psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, “Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time, serenity, that nothing is.”

If you can stand on a white, snowy hill watching the stars blink, or sit in a secluded forest and listen to the birds, if you can find grandeur in the simplicity of our world, you are well on your way to living an extraordinary life.

Furthermore, when we seek adventure and fulfillment we are seeking the realization of ourselves and our character. Our routines are so domesticating because they deny our character a chance to shine. There is no altruism in studying flashcards, no courage in mowing the lawn, no heroism in our day-to-day tasks.

The human spirit yearns to see good in the world and often yearns to be the cause of that good. Our ordinary lives give us plenty of opportunity to make life exciting by making it better if we are observant enough to recognize and take those opportunities.