Tackling boredom during lockdown

Being locked down due to COVID-19 and immobilized has its upsides. One can spend quality time with oneself as one is free from the myth of Sisyphus that has set the clock of our life from morning to night.

Now that we have time on our side and no concern about the deadlines of the jobs to be accomplished, we might be confused with the frightening prospect of doing nothing. But we do not have to feel debilitated.

There is a lot that one can do with this new flourish of free time.

There was a time when we complained about not having enough time when we felt constraints by the things that we had to do and the time that we had at our disposal.

Today things have reversed.

We have all the time and fewer things to do. But this new condition that finds ourselves is imposed from outside.

It has come in a sudden disruptive mode. That is why it is difficult to accept and we all find it to be a great challenge to stay at home and do little or nothing.

While there are several things that we can do creatively to wile our time and boredom, it is time to take on the phenomenon of boredom head-on.

We have applied our mind’s attention to several things but may have not given sufficient attention to this phenomenon that is all around us.

This may be another important lesson that we can learn from the corona moment of humanity. To hold our heads with calm serenity, we have to deal with boredom.

Although no one is dying of boredom, everyone has his/her share of boredom.

Boredom is not something that has befallen on us at this time of human distress.

It has been there amidst us for a long time.

We live in a culture of boredom and at this time we feel it acutely due to this general lock-down.

Maybe we have an opportunity to consider the philosophy of boredom.

Boredom is human and has to be critically studied.

Today when we have all the leisure in the world and can enjoy the luxury of relaxation and do nothing, the prospect of having nothing to do is producing boredom.

Hence, this corona moment of humanity is an opportunity to reflect on boredom that is eating into our life.

We do not have an exact concept of boredom.

It is simply a blank label to everything that fails to hold our interest.

It might surprise us to know that the boredom that afflicts us today is a recent human invention.

It is a product of over rationalization of our society.

We are indeed living in a rationalized society that rations us time for everything.

We seem to be living always catching up with time to board a bus, train or flight.

Some of us are fighting time to reach our office or an appointment with a doctor, engineer and lawyer.

This sense of catching up with or fighting the running time has its benefits.

It brings efficiency and productivity to our society.

It also has its costs.

Boredom is one important price that we pay to live on side of the linear notion of passing time.

The inability to catch up with time is one important triggering factor of boredom.

Boredom is complex; it is not just lack of mastery over time that produces it there are other factors too.

They have to do with the repetition of something. Routinized repetitions produce familiarity and hence there is no novelty, we have to face boredom.

Maybe we are facing this situation for now. There is nothing new. Everything seems to be the same.

Time today is running slow.

We do not have to catch up with it.

We have a desire to escape it.

We do not like fixations of any kind.

But fixations are never abstract. They are different to different people.

Boredom, therefore, is an aesthetic condition. It is a matter of likes and dislikes.

One can get bored with the same taste of food. Thus, boredom is dynamic, plural and complex and is felt differently by each of us.

Here we may have to consider how the desire to see is the mother of all our desires.

All desires are scopic. This means all desire is a desire to see.

Even a desire to taste a food item is a desire to see how it tastes.

The desire for sex is also a desire to see how it feels.

This is why when we are angry we say ‘I will show you or I will see you.’

This desire to see is complex and operates differently in different people.

We face boredom when our desire to see cannot animate or likes and dislikes. This is a time when what we like or even dislike begins to become a source of our boredom.

We are not condemned to boredom.

We can do something about it; boredom being an inner-state of mind which shapes our moods can be dealt with effectively.

Awareness of what triggers boredom is one way of overcoming boredom.

We also have other ways of reframing our minds.

Mostly when we are bored, we feel that we have to kill time. This sense can give us signals that we are heading into a condition of boredom.

The corona moment of humanity has brought us to the prospect of having to kill time. When we are trapped in this condition, we are not only bored but we bore others.

Awareness that we have spoken of can come to our rescue in this situation.

Such awareness can ignite an understanding that time is a powerful resource but we do not have to catch up with it or fight it when we feel we lack it or have to kill it when we feel we have it in abundance.

A reframed mind then can creatively imagine ways of putting up with the surplus time that we have for enjoyable use.

This does not mean that boredom will not come catching back at us.

It will come back but we will not be enslaved to it.

We have the power over it and can transform it into enjoyable moments and live happily.

Time is open and not closed. There is novelty and surprise for us to enjoy.

  • Fr Victor Ferrao of the archdiocese of Goa is the dean of Department of Philosophy at Rachol Seminary, Goa. First published by Matters India. Republished with permission.
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