The Value of Boredom

Being bored is out of fashion and has been for some time.  Business is a badge of honor for the modern professional class, regardless of actual occupation.  Parenthood is portrayed as an never-ending series of emotional, physical, and mental challenges and obstacles.  We all hear stories of children no longer allowed to have unstructured play time or being pushed outdoors, left to entertain themselves.  Life seems to come in waves with occasional reprieves between the swells, surf breaks pushing and pulling all of us this way and that.

The business of modern life seems an immutable fact, even as people become paralyzed by anxiety of daily life.  I suggest trying to be bored again.  Boredom, that is when the mind and body is idle, leads to unorganized thinking and creativity and contemplation.

Boredom forces the mind to wander.  By it’s very nature, nothing is occupying the mind when bored, so it is free to have unstructured thought.  A state of bored visualization, in fact, has a name: day dreaming.  I am not the first notice this and more and more are calling attention to the role of boredom in creativity.

Our society does not value contemplation.  This is reflected in numerous ways; almost no respect for the elderly and wisdom, ahistorical and cynical news coverage that has short or long-term memory, mindless pop culture that denigrates thought, reflection, and consideration.  Contemplation comes about by repeatedly mulling over the same problem time.  Boredom allows the mind over the various contours and divots of our thoughts, and gives room to think freely about the challenges in our lives.  Whether a fleeting thought or more sustained meditation, I believe the bored mind more capably contemplates matter, because it is not rushed to come to any conclusion or insight.  These same qualities allow for creativity as discussed above.

In fact, contemplation and creativity may just be two sides of the same coin and I sometimes question whether their differences are merely semantic.  I don’t know if the distinctions collapse into one another; perhaps I will gain a better understanding the next time I am bored.

 

 

 

 

The Value of Boredom

Lesser Evil Voting

Although I think a very strong affirmative case can be made for voting for Hillary Clinton, some liberals are obsessed with viewing this election as one of voting for the “lesser evil.”  And in this framework, voting for the “lesser evil” is a practical, yet unexciting and impure choice.  Noam Chomsky has made a clear argument for why voting for Hillary Clinton is imperative for all liberals.  His An Eight Point Brief for LEV (Lesser Evil Voting) ends:

However, the left should also recognize that, should Trump win based on its failure to support Clinton, it will repeatedly face the accusation (based in fact), that it lacks concern for those sure to be most victimized by a Trump administration.

Often this charge will emanate from establishment operatives who will use it as a bad faith justification for defeating challenges to corporate hegemony either in the Democratic Party or outside of it. They will ensure that it will be widely circulated in mainstream media channels with the result that many of those who would otherwise be sympathetic to a left challenge will find it a convincing reason to maintain their ties with the political establishment rather than breaking with it, as they must.

Conclusion: by dismissing a “lesser evil” electoral logic and thereby increasing the potential for Clinton’s defeat the left will undermine what should be at the core of what it claims to be attempting to achieve.

Lesser Evil Voting

Where Will It End?

This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it—that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.  The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his mistakes . . . understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon.  McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose as a matter of policy and a perfect expression of everything he stands for.  Jesus!  Where will it end?  How low do you have to stoop in this country to be President?

-Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72

Where Will It End?

The End of Writing

Facebook believes in the end of the written word:

Facebook is predicting the end of the written word on its platform. . . . “The best way to tell stories in this world, where so much information is coming at us, actually is video,” Mendelsohn said. “It conveys so much more information in a much quicker period. So actually the trend helps us to digest much more information.”

I frankly just don’t understand this.  Video has terrible information density.  You can read the transcripts of a meeting, conferences, hearing, etc. in a much more rapid fashion than watching it on video.  I am almost certain that you retain more of the information when you read it as well.  The inexorable drive to reinvent every aspect of life simultaneously mystifies and exhausts me.  I do not want to live in a world without writing or reading.  The constant yammering of voices on TV, let alone cable news, gives me a headache and causes my eyes to glaze over.  I find it almost impossible to learn anything other than what passes as the prevailing conventional wisdom.   Words have value: they can quickly convey complex information and ideas, show great emotional depth, and be beautiful.

The End of Writing

The Uru-Murato People’s Disappearing Home

The New York Times has an awesome article with beautiful photos and videos about how climate change caused a lake to rapidly disappear in Bolivia, ending the traditional culture and way of life of an indigenous people that lived on its shores:

After surviving decades of water diversion and cyclical El Niño droughts in the Andes, Lake Poopó basically disappeared in December. The ripple effects go beyond the loss of livelihood for the Quispes and hundreds of other fishing families, beyond the migration of people forced to leave homes that are no longer viable.

The vanishing of Lake Poopó threatens the very identity of the Uru-Murato people, the oldest indigenous group in the area. They adapted over generations to the conquests of the Inca and the Spanish, but seem unable to adjust to the abrupt upheaval climate change has caused.

The Uru-Murato People’s Disappearing Home