Tag Archives: Neil Postman

Why I am NOT Bored

Nobody is bored when he is trying to make something that is beautiful, or to discover something that is true. ~William Inge

According to merriam-webster.com, boredom (n) is “the state of being weary or restless through lack of interest.” Whew! This is definitely a state I do not inhabit. I may live parts of my life in the fifty-first state of confusion, and I may be weary and tired to the bone, but I am never a resident of the state of boredom.

If I had a dollar for every time I have heard someone else say he or she is bored, I would be a wealthy woman. Supposedly, according to one recent study I found online, one in three students in school is bored either from lack of teacher interaction or uninteresting subject matter. Really? Whatever happened to intellectual curiosity?

Evidently boredom is a problem in the workplace, too. Check these facts from an article by Sandi Mann in the The Psychologist, published by the Britist Psycological Society:

  • Nearly 45 per cent of hiring experts in a 1998 survey said firms lost top workers because they were bored with their jobs (Steinauer, 1999).
  • A third of Britons claim to be bored at work for most of the day (DDI survey ‘Faking It’, 2004); in the financial services, half were often or always bored at work.
  • Boredom has been found to be the second most commonly suppressed emotion at work (Mann, 1999).
  • 55 per cent of all US employees were found to be ‘not engaged’ in their work in a recent survey reported in the Washington Post (10 August 2005).
  • 24 per cent of office employees surveyed by Office Angels claimed that boredom caused them to rethink their career and look for alternative jobs (reported in The Guardian, 20 January 2003).
  • 28 per cent of graduates claimed to be bored with their job in a survey by the Teacher Training Agency (tinyurl.com/ltn6e).

There is much research–and speculation–about why boredom is on the rise. Are we, as a society, amusing ourselves to death (see Neil Postman’s work by the same name)? Are we overly stimulated by technology and the pace at which we live and move? Does it have to do with our ability to produce dopamine in the brain? I don’t know.

What I do know is this: I am a naturally curious person, and I am content. Because I am content, I can entertain myself by reading a book, taking a walk, writing a poem (or blog entry), or interacting with family and friends. Finding joy in the ordinary is not a problem. Because I am curious by nature, I can usually find something worth investigating, watching, reading, or studying. I am also finally comfortable simply “being.” Age, spiritual health, and creativity probably have something to do with keeping me from being “bored,” but life itself is simply so precious and amazing that I want to participate in it fully. This is why I am NOT bored.

Perhaps as a culture we are losing something through excessive emphasis on consumption and passive entertainment. I can remember when my girls were little, their favorite toys were pulled out of kitchen drawers and cabinets. I could buy them the latest doll or trinket, and they might play with it for a little bit, but give them crayons, paper, costumes, or wooden spoons and plastic bowls, and they could entertain themselves for hours.

I think William Inge was right on target with his words posted above. Seeking truth and creating something of beauty are fine antidotes to boredom. Want to be a good steward of your time, talents, and resources? Avoid boredom at all costs. Fall in love with life and the One who created it. Take part in the healing of the world by seeking truth and creating something beautiful. Most of all, have fun, laugh, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Finally, just ban all forms of the word “bore” from your vocabularly!

Lent 40/40/40 Update

Honoring Relationships

Today I am thankful for Paul Roland. This thoughtful man was a huge positive influence in my life as a teen. He always had a kind word for me, kept up with my track and field progress, and let me know that he and his spouse, Fran, were praying for me. He probably doesn’t realize that after all these years, his simple acts of kindness and Christian witness had an impact on me that extends to this day. Thank you, Mr. Roland.

Giving Possessions

I gave my daughter my favorite sundress to use as a costume for the play. Whether I get it back matters not. There will be other sundresses, but there’s only one more high school musical. Break a leg, dear daughter! I’m proud of you.

Thanksgivings

I am thankful that my life is so full and rich that I never have to worry about being bored. Life is good! I am thankful to be here.

Photos by opensourceway and rolfkolbe used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

 

 

 

Mindful

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. –slogan of the UNCF

Minds are wasted through lack of opportunity, as the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) so aptly recognized in its famous fund-raising and awareness slogan. Yet minds are also wasted through abuse, neglect, and the squandering of gifts.

As a teacher I am always concerned about the development of the mind and about nurturing a passion for knowledge and wisdom. Truly, a mind is a terrible thing to waste. The mind is a gift, a part of the body not to be taken for granted, intimately interwoven with the spirit/soul that makes us human.

So tell me, are you mindful of your mind? Do you attend to its care and feeding? How do you nourish your intellect, and how do you attend to its companions of soul and spirit?

I am concerned that we in the United States have become somewhat soft when it comes to mental calisthenics. We are a nation that expects entertainment, and that thinks and responds in increasingly short “sound bytes.”

No, I don’t dislike social media; in fact, I use it fairly extensively. Twitter, Facebook, and other similar formats offer much of value and definitely have their place. What concerns me is that lose something if we become completely absorbed in the “newest and latest.”

What happens when our political discourse is reduced to manageable sound bytes? What happens when we are so cued to the visual that the power of words eludes us? What’s the difference in a Facebook “friend” and a next door neighbor? Do cyber relationships possess the same kind of potential for intimacy and transparency?

Educator Neil Postman wrote a wonderful book in 1985 entitled Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. If you haven’t read it, I commend it to you and encourage you to lay hands on a copy. Postman’s premise is that “form excludes the content” and that we have lost something important in our cultural transition to the visual media. Think about it. People used to think nothing of listening to a two hour lecture or sermon. Now, in many contexts a preacher or speaker will lose much of his or her audience after 15 minutes.

The ability to think critically, to analyze and synthesize material, and to actively listen and to develop and sustain a rational argument seem to be endangered traits. Sure, we’re better at multi-tasking, but recent research postulates that this may not be desirable or more efficient.

Nothing, of course, stays the same, and our success depends upon our ability to adapt or change. That said, the mind needs to be exercised and not lulled into some kind or Orwellian stupor.

Give thanks for the gift of your mind–for your intellect, your ability to reason, to grasp concepts, make connections, remember, experience, and feel. Don’t take it for granted. As the familiar adage reminds us, “use it or lose it.” Read, think, work puzzles, play games, engage in lively conversation and friendly argument. Analyze the content of news, consider all sides of an issue, and think for yourself. Listen to music, read poetry, delve into sacred texts.

Yes, a mind is a terrible thing to waste. You have been given a precious gift. Use it and thank GOD for it.

For Further Reflection

Our modern minds are far more often “full” that “mindful” as we hurry through our busy days. Part of being mindful is the ability to put that 21st century multi-tasking part of your existence aside to focus, center, and simply be. Try to engage in meditation or contemplative prayer as a regular discipline. If you are not familiar with these practices you may find it difficult at first, but with practice it does become easier.

Try this simple exercise. Sit quietly and comfortably in a place with as few distractions as possible. Focus on your breathing and its gentle rhythms. Close your eyes and focus on a simple word or phrase. Why not try “gratitude,” “peace,” or “grace”? Empty your mind of all that crowds in. Acknowledge the thoughts that come but dismiss them for the moment. Aim for five minutes and gradually increase to 15 or more. You should find this time to be relaxing and refreshing.

(Photos by taufiq@eyecreation, ivanpw, and  libookperson used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!)