The word boredom has no etymological origin.
In fact, the word didn’t even appear in our language until the eighteenth century. Western society literally invented the concept of being bored. Thanks to our hyper efficient, over stimulated, fast paced, achievement oriented, attention deficit culture, we developed a zero tolerance policy against tedium. Our voracious appetite for new stimuli simply can’t cope with the stillness.
So we invented a word for it.
Gallagher actually did some incredible research on novelty, finding that boredom is largely a modern condition that still doesn’t exist in much of the world. Situations that would strike us as profoundly dull, he said, like waiting for hours or even days for a bus, are considered just the way life is in many developing nations. Their ability to do nothing is simply alien to us.
And so, boredom, this inability to provoke meaning from our current situation, is a subjective experience, not an objective fact. It’s our own internal predicament, not some unstoppable external force.
Looking back to all the supposed boring times in my life, both during childhood and adulthood, I now realize that they were purely of my own making. Boredom simply appeared in my life when broader meaning was absent. Had I known at the time that meaning is made and not found, has I known that nobody was going to make life interesting for me, perhaps my sadness could have been avoided.
That’s why I always have at least five meaningful and interesting creative projects in front of me at all times. Because I know that engaging with any one of those commitments is guaranteed to flood me with a set of intensely positive emotions like happiness, exhilaration and even bliss.
Proving, that boredom isn’t a public health epidemic, it’s simply a byproduct of poorly structured meaning systems. We can chase meaning and come up empty handed, or we can create meaning and wrap our arms around gold.
Are you still expecting the world to relieve you of boredom?
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