In the past few days I seem to have got a fair idea of what motivates a lot of human activities - it is boredom. People make friends,play, write, read, dance, sing, listen to music, get creative - all in an effort to avoid boredom. Technology has kept up with the need with innovative tools - Mp3 players, chatrooms, online games, mobile phones, cable television - super smart ways to beat boredom. A few friends admitted to staying in their jobs just to avoid boredom - they did not know what they'd do with all their time if they stopped working.And I was most amused when one couple said that they decided to have a baby as life was becoming "boring" - what a profound motivation for procreation!

Boredom is not all bad - imagine if our ancestors had not been bored with daal and rice would they have created all the delicious dishes that make our lives so worthwhile? Would they have gone about building ships and exploring other lands and cultures? While some festivals were intended as worship, several were also for overcoming collective boredom, the original versions of "party"ing and they also gave birth to other art foms like folk dance, music and folk art such as Rangoli, madhubani etc.As someone said "The life of the creative man is lead, directed and controlled by boredom. Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes."
It seems that those who fought boredom became artists and creators and those who learnt to accept boredom became Saints and philosophers!

According to the Wiki, boredom seems a recent phenomenon.Apparently "The first record of the word boredom is in the novel Bleak House, by Charles Dickens, written in 1852,[1] although the expression to be a bore had been used in the sense of "to be tiresome or dull" since 1768."

Does this mean that prior to 1768, people were not bored? No,I think what this means is that, prior to this time people didn't talk of or complain about boredom. If they were bored they went ahead and did something to overcome it - if they were rich and powerful, they invaded the neighbours or had gladiators thrown in the arena with lions or got some artists to perform music, dance etc or set crazy competitions to suitors of their daughters; if they were ordinary subjects they went out and hunted, danced, played or sang or spread some rumour about someone they hated.Modern day man, devoid of some of these "pleasant" diversions,seems to have problems "managing" boredom and sometimes extreme boredom can cause depression and performance related issues.

One of the important things I have understood about boredom is that it is something one has to learn to cope by oneself. There is only a certain extent upto which others can help us overcome boredom but ultimately it is for us to learn to improve our resources adequately to handle boredom. As we grow older, the ability to indulge in social activities reduces and the number of friends also gradually diminishes, the next generation is usually so busy with their life to care about spending time with older people. This is when the hours hang heavily and if we have not equipped ourselves to beat boredom, life can become a major burden.

The other day I was really really bored - so bored that I actually ventured into a chat room on books and literature. And what do I hear from Amanda_24? "Am totally bored. Can anyone do something to get me out of it?" At 24 she is so bored that she wants someone else to get her out of it - I wonder what will become of her and people like her (who are not resourceful enough to beat boredom when they are 24)n when they are 40, 50 or 60 when no one cares if she is bored or dead. It is a scary trend.
But then boredom is apparently only the second worst crime. The first is what I have just done in this post - being a bore!
But at least I am not bored any more!!!
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24 Responses
  1. Shiv Says:

    ..they did not know what they'd do with all their time if they stopped working..
    Exactly wat I think at most times!! Not at all boring Usha!! A thought provoking post. Else why wud I be here posting this comment??

  2. Chitra Says:

    Well written. :) I guess I say that for every post of yours!

    "when the hours hang heavily and if we have not equipped ourselves to beat boredom, life can become a major burden." This is one thing that has been foremost on my mind for a while. And I do not want to end up bored!

  3. Hip Grandma Says:

    annyWell we have 2 year olds getting bored and seem to have nothing to do.What could be the reason?The breakdown of family get togethers or at least their importance is one I can think of.Why don't you do a sequel?

  4. passerby55 Says:

    syUsha, nice post.

    As a child, I would observe my grandpaa do the same things everyday, on the same time. Not ones did i hear him say "i am bored"

    Ask me to do the routine and i am bored. After reading your post i shall tackle this boredom in a little better way.


  5. Mahadevan Says:

    An excellent post on a not much discussed subject.

    Though boredom provides the initial thrust for any activity, it is the interest inherent in the activity itself that sustains its continuity.( sounds boring?). I visit your blog whenever you post a new one and I also dig into your old ones, not to drive away my boredom, but to satisfy my curiosity. We get bored when we wait for our turn at the Dentist and we read a two year old ‘Business India’.

    There is an inherent contradiction in all of us. We initially resist change. At the same time, we eagerly look for a change lest the present activity should lead us to boredom. This cycle provides sustenance to our activities. Are not ‘Avakkai’ and ‘Akkaravadasal’
    results of such sought after change?

    Boredom is like a vacant space. It needs to be filled up with some activity else it would stare at our face. That is why a ninety plus Jyoti Basu is in politics still and M..F.Hussain continues to paint and invite controversies when he nears senility.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Well written Usha. But is this true (quote below)? Younger generation, okay understood. But how about friends and neighbors?

    "As we grow older, the ability to indulge in social activities reduces and the number of friends also gradually diminishes, the next generation is usually so busy with their life to care about spending time with older people."

  7. Divs Says:

    After giving such a serious thought to my boredom, I think m not bored anymore at all ;-)

    But I still believe its just the need to be heard and shared, that slowly gets tagged by the boredom label.

  8. Usha Says:

    shiv: I have heard many say that - especially my colleagues from the banks in their mid 40s or some friends who are tired of all the running and who are well settled financially and dont need to work for the money.
    Thanks for the vote of confidence - is what keeps this space going!! :)

    Chitra:Yes I sometimes think that all our youth is nothing but apreparation for old age and equipping ourselves to confront the challenge of our own company in old age!

    Hipgrandma:Yes, today's kids want something exciting all the time. Otherwise they get bored. And all the sales and marketing is oriented toward attracting their attention - everything comes with bells and whistles, jazz and magic.And on top of it they talk of attention deficit disorders!It is all manufactured by the over attentive parents and the spoilt kids.

    Passerby: Ya, it was a great luxury to say bored in those days. But I am glad for that kind of upbringing - keeps me cheerful and occupied now. I am never bored with my company.

    Mahadevan:And i know some grandmoms who know how to keep themselves busy all their waking hours - reading, listening to music, counselling younger women, cooking delicious stuff or simply reading the Bhagwad gita or anandavikatan with the same level of attention! And even today they are curious about new gadgets and try their hand at the computer etc..I really wish to be like them if I live up to that age.

    Silkboard: When you reach an age when your contemporaries are either ill or dead or have lost the motivation to keep in touch - where do you look for company then. I go to the playground attached to the temple in my neighbourhood and I find all these lonely men and women who just come and sit there in the benches - I sometimes think that they have forgotten to speak as noone speaks to them.

    Divs:Yes it is a need to be heard and shared but one has to learn to go it alone eventually. Ultimately we are all alone.

  9. Artnavy Says:

    well said and i am not bored at all

    there is this little boy in my building who keeps saying" amma bore adikarathu" every 10 minutes
    talk of starting young and having poor attaention span!!

  10. very 'interesting' post contrary to the title :)
    IMHO boredom is an artificially created state of mind. You get bored only when u think you are bored. Like 'passerby55' said some people can do things repeatedly without ever getting bored.Human mind is a strange thing.

    Good post.

  11. Raj Says:

    "One of the important things I have understood about boredom is that it is something one has to learn to cope by oneself." . Not true, Usha. I am going to help you cope with boredom.

    Start singing slowly the following song :

    99,999 green bottles standing on the wall. If one green bottle should accidentally fall, there will be 99, 998 bottles standing on the wall.

    99, 998 green bottles standing on the wall....

    And continue till you reach the last green bottle.

    Boredom will vanish. If it doesn't, I will give you the 99,999 bottles back.

  12. Inder Says:

    boredom is just another state of mind - a self-imposed illusion :)

  13. Anonymous Says:

    I couldn't agree more on that!!!

    Like we say, "Necessity is the mother of invention" I would say, " Boredome is the mother of creativity"

    I wouldn't have discovered the artist in me if I would not have been bored after coming to singapore (when I was jobless). To the extent that I created a painting blog for it. :)

  14. Usha, we need another post..I am "bored" of this one, ...nah! jus' kidding. But well said and I wrote soemthing along the lines of being bored with myself, imagine that!!

  15. o when we were kids - and if we ever complained of being bored - my mom gave us some ardous task - like cleaning a shelf or writing something a 1000 times. I think we soon stopped complaining :)

  16. A.R.Malik Says:

    This is a line I read years back- "To be happy, one must sacrifice boredom".

  17. sometimes even a task can get boring if it doesn';t interest us and needs to be completed...

  18. Anonymous Says:

    When I get bored, I start reading my own old blog posts.. :)

  19. Usha Says:

    Artnavy: They start saying that very early these days _ I think I got bored for the first time when I was around 22 and had to shift to a new place and did not know the local language and the books were still arriving by lorry!

    Ravi: That is my HO too..

    Raj: You scare me with those numbers - haven't i said before in this space about my realtionship with any number exceeding 2 digits? and on top of it, you want me to count in descending order too...and here I thought you were a friend!

    Inder: totally agree.

    Coffee: I checked out your blogs. My god you are awesome. I will go back again at leisure and comment.

    Orchid: Haha...will chek out.

    STS: Oh yes, cleaning can be so relaxing. And i start taking out things, going down memory lane about all the associated things. yes, a sure cure.

    Abhilash: How true!

    ITW: if it is something that HAS to be done, I think it is best done without complaint. No?

    Kishore: you are lucky you write such interesting stuff. Imagine if I tried it...hmmm?

  20. passerby55 Says:

    Hello there!

    "I am never bored with my company"
    You are never bored with your company. But I do get bored without your company.

    hope you are keeping fine?

  21. Tam Says:

    Usha, I stumbled upon this blog while being bored. I'm so bored I'm going crazy.. boredom can be the link to depression as I have recently discovered. Thanks for blog it is eye opening. I live in Steinbeck country in CA, USA. To beat my boredom ( I have 2 jobs and go to school full time I'm still not mentally stimulated- I'm bored) I am going to take pictures of what John Steinbeck wrote about... I'll send them if you like...

  22. Usha Says:

    My god how can you be bored even after so much. Please, I's love to see the stuff steinbeck wrote about - although I don't understand how you can photograph the depression and human mind!

  23. Tam Says:

    Usha: Thanks for your response... I would love to have a pen pal in Bangladesh... To photograph the human mind... I don't know but will give it a try. how can I email you privately?

  24. Usha Says:

    Tam: I am from India. Bangalore is in India not Bangladesh.You can fins my email on my profile.