In Defense of Boredom

There are few moments in my life when I am bored. I always have a million things I want to be doing, and in those rare moments like waiting in line at the DMV I try to have a thin book with me to read.

Michael Crowley has a fun piece in the New Republic defending boredom and slightly bemoaning the "always-on" culture we find ourselves in. Boredom is a challenge, he says, think of it like a date with yourself!

Turning off the BlackBerry and just looking out the window feels like an act of spiritual emancipation. And perhaps only one of Amtrak’s famous delays can help me achieve the "profound boredom" that Heidegger recommended for its clarifying power.

Granted, few of us are likely to have blinding existential insights just because we’re out of BlackBerry service range. For me, boredom tends to produce ruminations more along the lines of whether I should move to a new apartment. But it’s a start. In this moment of anti-boredom triumphalism, there’s something creepy about our constant flight from ourselves. Our fear of boredom suggests a kind of self-loathing. What are we so afraid of?

4 comments on “In Defense of Boredom
  • A part of Outward Bound courses is a three day solo. On my O.B. solo, I was so cold that I mostly thought about staying warm. The year after my O.B. course, I went on a week-long solo on my favorite mountain in Colorado–just me, a plastic tent, copious amounts of food, and a spring to drink from. I also took too many books and a knitting project.

    I truly believe that each of us should go on an annual solo. The boredom forces a special kind of introspection. Of course, I haven’t squeezed one in since I was 20, but I still think it’s a good idea.

  • Ben, I disagree. If you are doing serious introspection or enjoying time to yourself than you are not bored. You are just not doing anything in particular.

    Boredom implies that you would rather simply have the time disappear. Boredom implies that you wish that you could just cut that one moment out from your life. Boredom sucks. It is indefensible.

  • Good clarification. I agree. “In Defense of Boredom” is a provocative title, but not entirely accurate. I think the author — and me — should have used “not doing anything in particular.”

  • Hey,

    i was wondering if this jude person has a blog? I also did an OB course, and the “solo experience,” was truly a highlight. In our modern culture, it is a unique experience, to spend even 24 hours alone in nautre, w/out any technology. It is a wonderful opportunity for reflection and future planning. At the same time, for some people, dealing w/ the “boredom” of the experience was unbearable.

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