The Fruitfulness of Boredom

“Boredom”. Even only reading that word can cause one a feeling of unease. It happens when we have free time, when we are doing something we don’t find stimulating or interesting enough, when we are waiting for something. In these moments of helplessness, our mind will automatically start wandering off to other places of its own in attempt to find something to engage in while time is passing.

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Although boredom is often conceived as a negative, empty feeling – it is the origin of genius thoughts, creations, and inventions. Throughout our mind’s wandering, we dive into the world of our subconscious, where we store thoughts and make connections that we would not normally make when we are caught up in our daily schedule and focus on our tasks. This “default mode” we enter when we are bored allows the thought to flow and can lead to new, exciting ideas. Countless innovations and creations known to us today were the direct results of someone’s bored mind, and here are a few examples:

  • Lodden Thinks

It was at the poker table in the 2008 World Series of Poker when two professional – Phil Laak and Antonio Esfandiari, became quite bored with the same old game they were so used to playing. The two started thinking of ways to step up the game and raise their excitement, when Laak came up with an idea that later got the name “Lodden Thinks”. This proposition bet became a common game among family and friends outside of the gambling community as well.

  • Soccer

One of the top sports in the world, bringer of pride and at times devastation to fans everywhere,  a global celebration each year during the world cup – was once no more than a simple way of dealing with boredom. The concept of soccer also goes back to the mid 19th century, though historic artifacts such as linen balls have been discovered in Egyptian tombs dating back to 2,500 BC. Many other games were developed throughout history as a form of entertainment for emperors and crowds (the gladiator battles in Rome, thinking games during World War II, an early form of chess in ancient Egypt) and continue to be invented today thanks to boredom.

  • Harry Potter

One of the most influential books of the late 90’s that became a series of novels later adapted into film –  still lives on today as a huge commercial success all over the world and continues to impact fans. The author, J.K Rowling, has been writing since she was a young girl, yet her most thrilling idea “fell into her head” during a 4 hour delay she was experiencing on a train to London. This initial idea of a young boy who learns he is a wizard would soon become the world-famous Harry Potter.  Creative thinking is crucial to any artistic career but is usually hard to trigger on spot, the best ideas usually come to mind when we are not asked to think of anything or are in an unrelated situation.

  • Fireworks

Originally invented in China in the 9th century, fireworks are one of the greatest inventions of ancient China. According to the story, a bored Chinese cook did some experimenting in the kitchen as he mixed sulfur, saltpeter and charcoal that was then compressed in a bamboo tube and resulted in an explosion. These wonderful chemical reactions are used widely around the world today, marking festive events and celebrations of excitement. Experiments of boredom are home to endless products, foods, drinks, and technological inventions that we use on a daily basis and could not imagine life without.

  • Chewing Gum

Sometimes the most brilliant ideas are built upon existing things, using provided concepts and turning them into something different or advanced. A scientist by the name of Thomas Adams was working as a secretary for a former Mexican leader while he had been attempting to make  rubber tires out of gum. Back then it was common for mexicans to chew on gum that was extracted from the sap of a trunk of certain trees. When his attempts in making these alternative tires failed, he decided to put some of the gum in his mouth instead, while adding sugar to make it more enjoyable. This idea later became what we know today as chewing gum.

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Though feared and sometimes avoided by all costs, boredom is a necessary ingredient to creative thinking. It inspires us to find new solutions, interesting ways to do what isn’t interesting. Furthermore, boredom relentlessly encourages us to take action. While the feeling can be uncomfortable, negative or laced with anxiety – boredom reminds our minds that there is always an alternative just awaiting to be found. The next time you feel bored, don’t try to fight it. Instead of looking for the next distraction at reach, let your mind be bored and free itself of your daily thoughts, making room for the unthought of. Even if you do not invent the next big thing of the century, it is important to leave some time for boredom every once in a while.