Mind Matters — Bored—Nothing To Do

Years ago, dear friends gave our little children a book by Peter Spier. Bored—Nothing To Do was its title. As I recall, the pages were wordless, but our children anticipated with great delight the detailed illustrations that told the story of what two boys did one day as a “result” of their boredom.

Not succumbing to TV or cell phones or any electronic games to keep them busy, these brothers were inspired by the sight of a dusty airplane propeller hanging in the barn. They scavenged the house for tools and parts and began tinkering. Yes, they took apart their mother’s washing machine and absconded with the wheels of their little brother’s baby carriage. But in the end? Well, by the last page, voila, they had fabricated an airplane, flown it (yes, it was full-size!), and then, at their parents stern, but proud, amazed behest, they put back all that they had collected for their adventure.

No, I am not saying that we want our children taking apart the house; but, perhaps this story is a metaphor for all of us. Boredom and its companion, stillness, is necessary for creativity. We fill our lives and our children’s lives with to-do lists rather than give ourselves space for being.

The boys of Spier’s saga were bored and no one shuttled them to yet another activity to fill their day. Nor were they plunked in front of some electronic device to live vicariously through someone else’s reality show or celebrity makeover.

Children are kept busy. And we are too. We feel guilty when we sit still and allow ourselves to be quiet. We worry if we’re not busy; and we stay busy so we don’t worry. We keep busy for fear of what boredom and stillness may bring—facing ourselves.

Amazing, however, how much can happen when we befriend boredom and welcome stillness. If, for a while, we sat in a chair by a window to watch the birds, what might we see? If we sat still and just noticed our breathing for a few minutes, how might we relax?

We are bombarded by junk mail, sound bites, emails, facebook, twitter, and who knows what next? Meanwhile, we need to come back to our own core and just be—let ourselves be bored, be still. Who knows what creativity and aliveness will bubble from that well within? If not the creation of an airplane, perhaps a flight into something not yet known.