“Boredom is the desire for desires” — Leo Tolstoy
Following on from what I was saying about mindfulness, meditation, and those surges of energy we call emotions — what are we really doing when we’re meditating on these feelings? Why do we feel uncomfortable with this energy rushing through our bodies?
The problem is that our lives are so full that being bored is no longer an option.
One way to look at meditation is practicing being bored.
We’ve all lost the ability to just sit there and do nothing.
But even the idea of sitting and meditating for five, ten, fifteen minutes feels like a bit of a cop out — a batched off item on the to-do list, formally practiced and completed so it can be ticked off. And there’s no point observing your thoughts if you don’t act on your findings. Meditation is a means not an end.
When I was in Vietnam I was always amazed by people’s proclivity for squatting there at the side of the road or outside a shop or wherever, and doing absolutely nothing, often for hours on end, for half the day. Often at a seemingly random place at the side of the road, not near any particular vantage point or a shop or their home, no reason to stop there in that spot, or maybe that was the point.
It’s a universal practice I suppose, though you don’t see as many people whiling away the days sitting on walls around here these days.
Being able to stand there with no phone, no people, not even a nice view, just you and your hands in your pockets. It’s something that should be practiced. Maybe even the pockets are a luxury, keeping yourself warm and occupied. Let your hands hang free and see if you’re content then. Not twitching or fidgeting or scratching or pulling at yourself.
Some day you’ll come across an incredible view or scene or a picture of beauty. You might have even saved all year to buy a ticket to travel to go see this one particular thing. But if you’re not content to just stand there and do nothing, you might find it hard to stay where you are for even five minutes. Bored with the view of this wonder of the world.
If you haven’t practiced being bored doing nothing you’ll get bored doing everything. Always looking for something else.
When you’re a kid you’d eventually figure out something to do. It wouldn’t take long really.
Being bored wasn’t really an option. If you’d friends to play with it wouldn’t have taken you long to play a game. And the best thing is, if got bored with all the games you knew, you’d just make up a new one (though sadly I think this capacity diminished with the passing of years).
If nothing in the environment is to their liking a kid just looks at the world a different way.
When I was a kid if I’d finished a book I drew pictures of what I wanted another one to look like.
When I finished playing computer games I’d just draw and write about new ones, ones that couldn’t have even been invented yet.
When I’d read the end of football or computer games magazines me and my friends wrote our own ones. If we’d had the internet who knows where we might have gone with our entrpreneurial journalistic projects.
Boredom is the space that emotions need to fill — they require somewhere to exist. If we ignore our emotions they manifest in our lives further down the line, and we all know it’s rarely in a positive way. That doesn’t need to be explained at this stage. To ignore negative emotions, we know this to be detrimental to our existence. But to ignore the good ones, the joyful ones, the positive ones, the creative ones — is to cause equal harm to yourself.
With these emotions come our ideas of what we need to do. And make no mistake, these are needs and not wants. They might be problems that might need addressing, but they might just be the child inside you, crying out to play. To do something other than scroll through your phone. Or binge-watch another boxset.
To ignore your creative urges is the sin of neglect. It is just as bad as neglecting a child or a garden, and its effect on your spirit is just as damaging.
The dead culture is dying in front of your eyes. Netflix and kill yourself. It’s your duty to yourself and those around you to make something new. If you’re bored with what’s on TV you need to make something yourself. It doesn’t have to be a TV show, or a book — it can be something interesting for dinner. Or a conversation.
If being bored is painful, you need to feel it for a while. Don’t cover it up with the bandaid of the phone or the TV series or the news or the football. When you’ve become comfortable with it, when it’s not bandaged over with instant gratification, it starts to tell you exactly what it is you need to do. Pick up a pen or pick up an instrument or go somewhere you’ve never been before.
The desire for desires is uncomfortable at first, but once you’ve dealt with it, it is the breeding ground for all of the creativity that is inside you.
Once you know what’s there, you have two choices: you either create that thing which only you can create, or you let yourself die, one neglected little urge at a time.