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It’s Boring!


Published: 07/17/2012

by Jim Campbell

Sundays were different when I  was young. Most businesses were closed

and nearly everyone had the day off. On Sundays, there were no movies, fast food

outlets, theatres, professional baseball or hockey. Even the T. Eaton Co. drew

heavy drapes to cover its window displays.

All that, of course, makes those Sundays sound terribly boring.

However, looking back to those years, the days I remember best are the

Sundays! They were easy days when we visited family and friends, days when I

walked downtown with my father to buy a newspaper, when we canoed on the

river, built snow forts all day or talked with friends about everything and nothing.

There was time to read on the porch, to lay on the grass and find lions,

ships and faces in the drifting clouds.

Sunday was a day for simply wandering, exploring the neighbourhood and

the city’s parks. Boring? No, not really! They were calm days with a different

texture, character and purpose. When people first used the word

‘bored’, they meant they felt as if someone was boring a hole in their head – something

like a migraine headache, I suspect. Later, perhaps as a result of the industrial

revolution, the word came in handy to describe how it felt to do repetitive work,

hour after hour, day in and day out.

Recently, the meaning has opened up to encompass any sort of downtime, any lack of excitement or movement, any

time when one is not being involved or entertained.

Boredom is a big issue these days. The entertainment industry has become expert

at dashing from one dramatic event to another, a jolt every minute or so, to keep us riveted to the

screen. Designers of clothes, buildings, automobiles, workplaces and public spaces drive themselves to produce exciting


Excitement is in. That’s probably why so many commercials feature people highly excited, even in ecstasy, over a

new duster, a shampoo or the new wall colour for the season.

These days, the ultimate put-down is to declare something or someone is boring.

Listening to the stars and celebrities on the late night talk shows, and it

appears the only unforgivable sin is to be boring. (“Just spell my name correctly.”)

Complaints about being bored involve many issues: laying blame (Why did you

drag me to this place?); demands for immediate action (Let’s get out of here

right away! You need to do something); and there is often a less than subtle threat

(If we stick around here, I’ll be miserable and difficult ... you’ll be sorry). A lot of

anger is included in being bored.

Margaret Visser, in CBC Radio’s 2002 Massey Lectures, pointed out our society’s

prescription for boredom. “Bored is the motivating force of the consumer society. Bored people buy stuff for relief

from their condition …. Let me offer you a new car, a pair of shoes, a cruise.

Distract yourself: you’ll forget about your boredom for a while ….”

It’s usually a very short while. A teacher once told us that curious people are seldom

bored for usually there is something of interest to observe, examine or ponder.

Buying stuff, keeping busy or being curious can’t eliminate repetitive work, waiting

times or public speakers droning on tediously. But maybe we can do something

about the anger. That’s what saps our strength, raises our blood pressure,

and produces excessive tension and anxiety.

Somehow we manage to see doing repetitive work, being delayed – the boring

things of life – as challenges to our self-worth, our dignity. Of course, this is

not logical. Yet, it’s easy to feel the delayed aircraft, the dull meeting, the

empty weekend as a personal affront. Anger is a way to fight back, to defend

ourselves. But anger is probably one of the least effective ways to deal with a boring situation

and probably makes things worse.

Which brings us back to those Sundays long ago. Why weren’t they boring? It

was a matter of attitude. You couldn’t take the nature of the day personally. It

was not about you; it was the same for everyone. So you lived with the day, and,

if you were lucky, you saw it as a gift, a day of rest and recharging, of discovery.

How can we live with ‘boring’? Simple, remember that it is not about you. Sometimes things are boring, sometimes

not. That’s the way life is. It is not about you. 


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