In Praise of Boredom


“Take time to mess around.  Get lost.  Wander.  You never know where it’s going to lead you.”

– from Austin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist, p.67.

When was the last time you were bored?  I mean really, truly, bored.  Nothing to do, nowhere to go.  It doesn’t happen much these days, does it?  You probably read 34 tweets, sent 12 emails, and posted three different pictures on Instagram of your breakfast burrito – all in the time it took me to write this sentence.   We rarely feel compelled to get bored.  The idea that we have nothing left to do, and boredom will set in.  How could we have everything done?  You don’t, and you won’t.  What if you chose to be bored?

Being Mobile

Being mobile used to mean that one could move about quickly.  As in, get to Chicago by 7pm for dinner (on it!), and to midtown Manhattan for lunch the next day with the Mayor (ok!), etc.  I’m mobile!  Now, mobile is 24 hours a day, every day.  Our ‘mobile’ phones drive much of the interaction we have with each other.  We share our lives and thoughts in quick posts, short texts, and 140 character tweets.  Checking one’s mobile phone for whatever urgency it created (you have four new Facebook messages!  Six people liked your Tweet!  A text message from your friend about a movie!), etc., is the new cigarette break.  When people are queuing in line for just about anything, few will talk to each other.  We all just pull out our phones and check in, or check out.  Our always-on world provides us endless information about anything we care to know about.  According to this infographic from August 2015, in just one minute this happens: Facebook users like 4,166,667 posts, 347,222 Tweets are sent out, YouTube users upload 300 hours of new video, and Tinder users swipe 590,278 times.  How can we process all of this, stay connected, sift through the urgent from the important, the interesting from the rabbit hole?

Being ‘Immobile’

As we click through another holiday season, I have a challenge for you: shut off your mobile phone, tablet, computer, TV, radio.  Just for a few hours.

(It doesn’t count if you do this while you’re sleeping…)

Try to be present in what you’re doing.  Having dinner, attending a concert, taking a walk, enjoying a conversation, throwing the ball for your dog, watching a hockey game, reading Chaucer – whatever.  Find a location you’ve never been to without using Google Maps.  When you do unplug, you may notice a few strange feelings.  The first will be that you want to check your phone for whatever urgent news it has for you.  Fight it.  Immobilize yourself.  I know you can do it!  The second feeling will be one of calm, maybe even silence, in your mind.  Scary at first.  Go with it. Embrace it.  Learn to be ok with, even look forward to, that sense of calm.

A Wish for You

My holiday season wish for you is some peace.  Unplug, get bored.  Wander.

And let me know where your ‘immobility’ takes you!

Joe Raasch is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Adrienne Nelson-Reynolds

Prolific, Joe! Exactly what we all need to do….just unplug…..even for a short time! I ate at a restaurant during my vacation last week that I DID not find online before stopping in….I was wondering down a lesser-traveled avenue and smelled the most tantalizing odor… meal!!