The Opportunities in Boredom.
Becoming bored is one of my biggest fears. I resist it like the plague, and instead I jump into an activity, or a diversion…and most assuredly my thoughts get ramped up like a loud radio station. Anything to avoid that dreaded “non-activity”, silence, or a sense of empty space. I’m afraid of living an ordinary life.
Why do I run from boredom? Why do I judge it as being bad, lazy and unproductive?
What if I begin allowing myself to feel bored, with all the feelings of discomfort, and the thoughts that surely I SHOULD be doing something else? I’m beginning to suspect boredom might actually be of unappreciated value, and steering into it might be a way of hitting the pause button that can prevent burnout of my hyper-active mind.
Before you think I’ve fully gone around the bend into insanity, let me attempt to explain.
When I talk about boredom, I’m talking about that time and space when a person simply isn’t comfortable not actively doing something or thinking about or solving some kind of problem. For many of us, we get really, really antsy. We can’t sit still and let non-doing just be non-doing. And, what happens, all too often, is these moments of non-doing are not only escaped, they’re discarded like trash along the highway of life, and labeled as “less-than”. We rush off to our ideas of perceived happiness and doing that surely are better and more worthy. When I see myself doing this, I know I’m saying a big fat NO to the whole of life.
My life in Italy is full. I have no reason to feel bored. I constantly remark that my voyage of discovery in a country so rich in art, history, and paradox will keep me fully preoccupied until I draw my last breath. But, as an artist, I am reminded of my lessons from my university days of how to display art. I remember a professor admonishing us to make sure a framed photograph or painting had a substantially sized mat around it – and this was usually bigger than a person might think. Color was to be neutral – white, off-white, soft grey, etc. The intent being to create space around a piece so the viewer actually could take in and appreciate the work. We were further urged to apply this concept when hanging pieces together by giving proper visual “resting space” between works. Otherwise, you’d risk creating sensory overload.
In other words, space is necessary to the appreciation of the whole. I believe spaciousness is lurking under what we perceive as boredom.
Most of us are just not trained to see value in the mundane aspects of life, so we end up trying to fill the perceived voids in front of us.
I’ve decided to be curious and observe my desire to escape from boredom, and from the ordinary. Life will do its thing. My job is to quit running, to quit resisting, and to quit discarding the perceived “less-than” moments.
Ironically, in my painting and photography, the ordinary moments are what attract me most. Perhaps this is my wise inner self telling me to look deeper into the value and beauty of the mundane. This gives me hope that I’m not a lost cause to years and years of conditioning. It gives me hope that I can begin to say YES to the full experience of life.