Nobody is bored when he is trying to make something that is beautiful, or to discover something that is true. -William Ralph Inge
Only the boring are bored. – An infinite number of parents
I’m one of the lucky ones. My child is a teenager. Ok, well, maybe lucky is a generous term for it. Nonetheless, most parents of these coming-into-their-own creatures will concede – in spite of the brooding, mood swings, and rebellion – it’s never boring. And that, if you ask me, is a major win!
Because boring is the enemy
It’s anathema to anyone with a shred of self-reflection. It’s poison for any of us with a modicum of belief in controlling our destiny. Boring is for those who accept complacency without a fight. Who want the world to dictate their experience and not vice versa. Boring is vile for being deceptively trivial. In fact, boring is like ignoring a bully: the more you tolerate it, the more you get it.
If you have a fully functioning mind (and, if you can understand these words, you’re fully functioning)…
There is absolutely no reason to experience boredom
Ok. I can sense the scoffing. Yes, I’ve had to wait on line at the DMV. Yes, I’ve had to sit through classes, meetings, and (gasp!) parties with people droning on about the benefits of tapioca. Yes, if I have to hear about gas prices one more time I might have to drop a match at a service station.
I know. Not everything in life is a delightful surprise.
Unless it is. Rather, unless you make it. Scratch that…
Unless you make art
Ok, I know what’s happening. Some of you are squirming.
“I don’t have a creative bone in my body.”
“Last time I did that was in elementary school.”
“Who’s got time for art?”
I know. I’ve heard ‘em all. And they’re all delusions.
First. Let’s agree that you’re always in one of two states of being.
Either you’re consuming or you’re creating
If you’re chillin’ with Netflix, sipping wine, or Facebooking, you’re consuming. The world has made something available to you and you watch it or eat it or otherwise consume it. Like food, lectures, and nature walks, you experience something that exists “out there”.
That’s all well and good. The world is your oyster and you should enjoy the mollusk’s prize.
But consumption is more often a short-lived, unsatisfying solution
Exceptions: Yes, certainly, the world is full of wonders. If you can get out and about to new locales with new people and new things to consume, you can avoid the boredom bug. Rubbing up against something new and unusual is like oil to boredom’s water. Only problem is most of us consume the familiar – more TV, more sweets, more cat videos – over and again, getting a quick fix of stimulant before it, too, becomes boring.
Likewise, the more you can alter your perspective, the more you can stave off boredom. E.g. If I look at a brick wall, it’s just a brick wall. If I take a magnifying glass to that wall, or a satellite view of it, it takes on new, more fascinating characteristics.
Any reader of this blog knows that actively changing your perspective is invaluable
I readily admit that doing so is a way to counteract boredom. But it ain’t the only way. It’s also not the most effective way.
On the other hand, the moment you start affecting the world – putting something into the world that didn’t exist before – you’re creating.
Creating has infinite power to keep you engaged and interested
What counts as creating? Coaching the company softball team? That’s an act of creation. Collecting sea glass for the Thanksgiving table? Also creation. Volunteering at the food bank? Yes, you’re creating a meal opportunity for someone. It counts.
Creating is the perfect cudgel to strike boredom on the head.
Let’s agree that art doesn’t have to be Art
Whether it’s a performance, a painting, a pyramid of pennies, or even a pickled piece of pudding pie, it’s art. The threshold is low. As noted in yesterday’s newsletter, even a so-called Feral Choir – with non-singing people whistling, grunting, and shouting together – is art. May not be art that you like. But because they created something, gave it a structure, and released it into the world, it’s art.
What’s this mean for you? Well, you don’t have to sing like Aretha Franklin, paint like Picasso, dance like Martha Graham, or photograph like Humans of New York. You just have to do it – whatever that creative thing is – like you. And forget about how it’s received. (Secret: It doesn’t even have to be shared with others. But it would get you a ton more anti-boredom serum.)
Yes, for all you detail-obsessed moles, even things like coloring books, room decoration, and stacking your books floor-to-ceiling make the cut. Cooking meals and adding the 74th bumper sticker to your car is art, too. Just as long as you do it with flair.
Basically, if you bring something to the world that wasn’t previously there, and it’s an expression of yours, it’s art.
So! You’re ok with creating instead of consuming. And you like the idea that art is just creating something in your unique way. Great.
That alone will cut boredom’s throat.
But what if there’s still something standing in the way? What if expressing yourself through a creative act feels foreign and frightening?
What if you think you “aren’t the creative type”?
Here’s where the oars meet the water. I saw this article a while ago that drove home this point. It’s about an art workshop for people with disabilities. The woman who started it, Gina Arca, happens to be one of them. And her insight speaks volumes.
“People with disabilities can’t always communicate in normal terms with people; many are nonverbal or scared of other people,” she said.
“‘Whatever your disability may be, you can express what you want in your artwork,’ she added. ‘You don’t have to be normal. In fact it’s a lot better if you’re not. The most significant artists throughout history had some sort of oddity and they were successful because of it.'”
Now, you don’t have to consider yourself disabled. But go ahead and consider yourself abnormal, if just to catalyze the act of creation. In fact, with this perspective, the more abnormal the better! So you’re not like all the people who can make art. Great. It’s not an excuse, it’s an ignition switch. Use it. Capture that in something expressive and, voila!, you’re art-making.
She goes on to say…
“The people who have to think differently or live in a world different then so called ‘normal’, they tend to produce pieces that make the world think differently. It’s a doorway into how people with disabilities see the world.”
And there it is. When you experience great art, it helps you to think differently about the world. When you think differently about the world, you can create some of the most compelling pieces of art.
And making art, in the end, is the secret to an ever-stimulating life. One with discoveries ‘round every bend. And boredom forever in the rearview mirror.
(By the way, I mentioned my teenaged kid. In my house we have a “create to consume” rule. The more you do of the former, the more you get of the latter. It’s a quid pro quo that builds character and transforms a passive perspective. Try it!)