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|The joy of boredom|
by possibly noteworthy at 7:20 am EDT, Jul 29, 2008
A DECADE AGO, those monotonous minutes were just a fact of life: time ticking away, as you gazed idly into space, stood in line, or sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Boredom's doldrums were unavoidable, yet also a primordial soup for some of life's most quintessentially human moments.
But are we too busy twirling through the songs on our iPods -- while checking e-mail, while changing lanes on the highway -- to consider whether we are giving up a good thing? We are most human when we feel dull. Lolling around in a state of restlessness is one of life's greatest luxuries.
Paradoxically, as cures for boredom have proliferated, people do not seem to feel less bored; they simply flee it with more energy, flitting from one activity to the next. Ralley has noticed a kind of placid look among his students over the past few years, a "laptop culture" that he finds perplexing. They have more channels to be social; there are always things to do. And yet people seem oddly numb. They are not quite bored, but not really interested either.
From the archive:
I believe that there has to be a way to regularly impose some thoughtfulness, or at least calm, into modern life. Once I moved beyond the fear of being unavailable and what it might cost me, ... I felt connected to myself rather than my computer. I had time to think, and distance from normal demands. I got to stop.
Despite our wondrous technologies and scientific advances, we are nurturing a culture of diffusion, fragmentation, and detachment. In this new world, something crucial is missing -- attention. Attention is the key to recapturing our ability to reconnect, reflect, and relax; the secret to coping with a mobile, multitasking, virtual world that isn't going to slow down or get simpler. Attention can keep us grounded and focused--not diffused and fragmented.
To be sure, time marches on.
Yet for many Californians, the looming demise of the "time lady," as she's come to be known, marks the end of a more genteel era, when we all had time to share.
When we talk about multitasking, we are really talking about attention: the art of paying attention, the ability to shift our attention, and, more broadly, to exercise judgment about what objects are worthy of our attention.
Today, our collective will to pay attention seems fairly weak.