The other day I took a bag of frozen fruit out of the freezer and discovered it was starting to leak fruit juice. “No problem,” I said, reaching for a plastic bag. And then without thinking, I added, “There’s an app for that.”
What would that app look like? Would it tell me which kitchen drawer housed the nearest plastic bags? Would it give me a status report on how many are left in the box? Would it go so far as to somehow extrude a bag for me?
I do not have an iPhone, and while they do really appeal to me, I don’t anticipate getting one. The reality is, I think there is a lot of value in being bored and getting lost. Yes, there have been times that I’ve looked enviously at people surfing the web or playing games while waiting in line, but in general I feel that there is an abundance of things to notice in the world around us without getting sucked into another slick gadget.
We’re given so many tempting ways to fill even the slivers of time between activities – mini episodes of TV shows for five-minutes of free time, Twitter for that 10-second window, all brought to us by a host of devices that give us the security of being tethered to a community of other people who are also seeking to avoid idle thought. But for what purpose? So we can improve our dexterity while tapping out tweets about how bored we are? To look at subway maps of places we would rather be? Or just to avoid being alone with ourselves?
There’s a reason the best ideas always come to us in the shower – the mind has some time to wander. Children make their own games to fill their time. You probably remember a time when you were amused by shadows moving across a wall, or made up a game involving different colored tiles on the floor.
“To be bored is to stop reacting to the external world, and to explore the internal one,” says Carolyn Y. Johnson, a writer for the Boston Globe and author of the article The Joy of Boredom. “There is a strong argument that boredom — so often parodied as a glassy-eyed drooling state of nothingness — is an essential human emotion that underlies art, literature, philosophy, science, and even love.”
I would challenge anyone to put down their iPhone, disconnect their headphones and try being bored for a while. After the initial nervousness wears off, I’m betting you’ll feel a new connectedness and find yourself filling that time with the exploration of an endlessly creative internal world.