Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bore Thyself

"Go lie down and read," I ordered my niece, so I could put the baby to bed. 

"I don't want to read," she pouted. 

"So play." I jerked my head at her corner shrine of Littlest Pet Shop critters. 

"I don't want to play," she sulked. 

"So be bored," I commanded. 

She had no answer to this. 

I swept out of the room, doomed infant on my hip. 

It was in a 60 Minutes interview with Malcolm Gladwell that I learned this scrumptious detail from his mother, Joyce, a psychotherapist. Gladwell said, "I thought I had a fabulous childhood . . . when I would sometimes get bored and my mother would say, 'It's important to be bored. You're giving your brain a rest.'" 

It is not the end of the world to be bored. If anything, we should be bored more often. Children (and adults) do not have to be entertained every single solitary second of their waking lives. 
Gaston could have applied himself to more intellectual fare. 

What I find amazing about boredom is how it is considered wasteful, yet it is often the root of enlightenment. Supposedly Newton had his epiphany while spacing out under a tree, Archimedes while wallowing in his bath. It is in those unstimulated moments that brilliance is born. 

But boredom is still feared and vilified. Weekly, the Sunday Book Review places a question to two writers, and one week was "What Are the Last Literary Taboos?" According to James Parker, it is boredom. An author must never, ever bore his audience. He would be lynched. 
So there we have it. In the forest clearing, the totems are all tipped over. Obscenity, Blasphemy, Profanity, those huge archaic figures — impious hands have pulled them down, and their faces stare out sideways in baffled fury. All with their mystery drained, their ancient powers canceled. All but one, that is. A gray shape, sitting on an upturned popcorn bucket, with a finger up his nose. He looks like somebody waiting for a piano tuner to arrive, to tune a piano he doesn’t own. He is Boringness, last of the taboos, and the villagers won’t touch him.
After tucking the stunned and horrified baby in his crib, I returned to my niece, who was sitting in her bed furrowed of brow, but unscathed. 

I hope she had some edifying thoughts.     

No comments: