The Urgent Case for Boredom

Boredom is a relatively new human feeling — and it’s endangered

Joe Fassler
Forge

--

Photo: WoodenheadWorld/Getty Images

SStop what you’re doing for a minute, and try to remember the last time you let yourself be bored. Not “phone bored” — the Generation Z weariness that stems from digital overload — but bored bored, the tedium of too little stimulation. When did you last surrender to that restive feeling, the kind that waits at the edge of languor?

I’m guessing you can’t say. Boredom is the scourge of modern life, and the great engine of American commerce is doing its best to banish it. We get our groceries and clothes delivered, and platforms such as TaskRabbit and Seamless promise to free us from mundane chores like shopping, assembling home furniture, cooking weeknight dinners, and picking up takeout. Podcasts distract us from the dreariness of the morning commute and post-dinner dishwashing. At night, the shows we binge-watch preload endlessly, postponing forever the quiet moment after the credits roll.

And then, of course, there are our phones. In all the world’s waiting places, people stare into devices with heads bowed. The phone, a portal that can summon whatever we find most interesting, is the ultimate boredom killer — a way to defer the inner restlessness that was once synonymous with being human. We may be stressed out, distracted, and overworked…

--

--

Joe Fassler
Forge

Joe Fassler is author of The Sky Was Ours and Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process. More at http://joefassler.net