Artwork by my mother, Barbara Buckmaster (Cards available upon request).
I recently listened to a talk in which writer and cultural critic Mark Fisher suggested that we now live in a culture where we’re never bored and everything is boring. I can relate.
Lately, my “go-to” moves—reaching for the phone, checking email or texts, watching Youtube or Netflix while making dinner, and even reading the kinds of books I’ve been reading—haven’t been doing it for me. They aren’t giving me what I really want.
What Fisher is pointing out is that we moderns have a million of these moves at our fingertips—a million ways to distract ourselves. So we never have to be bored. We can fend it off forever.
Now, a lot of those distractions are more than distractions—they can be hugely entertaining, informative, or both. So I’m not knocking our technology.
Well, not completely. It is, like anything significant in our lives, a double-edged sword. Something we must wield with attention. When is reaching for the phone or clicking on Netflix a natural, satisfying extension of ourselves into the world and when is it fending off something else? When I don’t pay attention to that, the distractions from boredom become boring themselves.
Fisher spoke in defense of letting ourselves be bored. That takes courage. Or better, trust. When I feel twisted up, dulled, or bored, I can sometimes trust enough to just stop and lie on my bed and do nothing. I relax, meditate, watch my thoughts, and allow my feelings. I give myself the gift of boredom.
But it’s really the gift of openness. It’s an invitation to the universe to move through me, for mysterious winds to lift my sails. For it to work, the openness needs to be as complete as possible. Whatever way I was reacting to the underlying agitation needs to be let go.
I find there’s no pattern. Sometimes I need to let go of the idea that I need to do something impressive and intellectual, like read an important book on my shelf. Sometimes I need to let go of the idea that I need to do something “fun” like watch a mindless movie. Sometimes I need to let go of the idea that I need to do something productive, like the dishes or my taxes. I just know that whatever story I was telling myself about what I should do, wasn’t working.
Eventually, I get up from bed and whatever I end up doing feels better, no matter how ostensibly important or unimportant. Letting myself do the most boring thing possible—nothing—invites the natural end of boredom.
Until the next time I'm bored.
Thanks for reading. I welcome comments and appreciate little red hearts in the lower right corner.