|Flickr Credit: Richard Eriksson|
When I was a high school freshman, we had to write a personal “Declaration of Independence from” something. I declared independence from boredom—I was going to live life to the full, see the beauty and excitement in everything, and never use “I’m bored” as an excuse ever again.
I still agree with that… sorta. I want to see beauty and excitement everywhere. The last time I can remember complaining “I’m bored” was perhaps last year when I had nothing to do and then began to hunt down all of Clue’s murder weapons in my house to compensate. Time well-spent, I say. In general, being bored is a life-waster. Who wants to waste their life?
Of course, some days I need convincing of that, but it stands. The habit of boredom does no one any favors.
And yet… I’ve been thinking about a quote from (what else?) H.I.V.E. by Mark Walden lately:
“Otto was finding the work challenging but not impossible, his own strange talents helping him to adapt quickly to this new way of life. The only problems he had were with the politics and economics classes, not because they were particularly difficult, but because he found them mind-numbingly dull. Like anyone else he found it hard to excel in subjects that he had little or no interest in.” –H.I.V.E., page 197
For Otto, this is the beginning of a villainous high school career. And he gets bored in classes his friends find interesting. And for me… I can’t say I’m unfamiliar with the feeling.
I’m not sure whether to consider this idea a transgression or a relief.
On the one hand, I attend a liberal arts college because I find value in studying a wide range of subjects, even if they aren’t initially interesting or relevant to my career choice. No matter who you are or what you do, I believe there’s benefit in knowing at least a little bit about English and math and science and finance and so forth. It’s unacceptable to find things dull just because they aren’t immediately relevant to me.
But then I’m the bored one.
I reread a paragraph on the culture of WWI for the fifth time because I haven’t made it all the way through yet. I take the occasional note on Catholicism while I switch between Pinterest and solitaire and doodles and blog posts because the lecture isn’t gripping me. My classmates share their responses to the homework and I daydream because that gives me so much more.
What’s the matter with me? I don’t find war or religion or reading boring! Not in the slightest. And yet… Those readings… those conversations… There were days when they were mind-numbingly dull. As much as I want to know about why people fight and what people believe and who people are the wonder and excitement did not come.
Looking back on the four years since I declared independence from boredom, I’m starting to think that boredom isn’t a thing you can simply declare independence from. Sure, it can be a lazy excuse to fail to see the amazing things around you… but I wonder if sometimes boredom isn’t a defense mechanism designed to keep you focused on what is important to you.
War and Catholicism and Spanish are all noble disciplines, but sometimes the details I am given or the way in which they are told lack. Maybe the things I want to know about them aren’t things you can find in a book or a lecture or a discussion. Maybe my boredom is the encouragement to keep looking elsewhere for what I want—in stories and books and media that is new and electrifying in my hands.
Maybe. I don’t know.
So I guess I find a little hope in Otto’s story. I don’t get bored because I’m unintelligent. I don’t get bored because the subject isn’t important. And while I don’t have boredom’s nature nailed down yet, I don’t think it’s because I haven’t fully defined boredom in my own mind.
I get bored because I’m a person. Sometimes, people get bored. That’s all. I don’t even have to know why.
I accept that I’m going to get bored again, just as I have been bored in the past. Even if I find subjects amazing and wondrous and fascinating in one context, I have to remember that they may be mind-numbingly dull in another. As for declaring independence from it? No. My declaration failed to realize that, like everything else in this life, boredom is inherently complex and tricky.
Perhaps I’ll think about this again the next time I get bored during class.