What Is The Value Of Boredom?

Most of us will go to great lengths to avoid boredom for even a moment. But is there a benefit to being bored?

Let’s face it, it is no fun to be bored. In our culture that is so focused on being productive, having down time when you are not doing anything can seem like a colossal waste of time.

Technology to the rescue! With our smartphones, while waiting in line, for example, you can check your email, or scroll through your social media feed. Of course, you don’t have to be technologically savvy to avoid boredom. You can just as easily carry a book with you wherever you go.

While smartphones don’t have a monopoly on avoiding boredom, they make it very easy. The entire internet is available with the touch of a button. That’s never been true in human history before, and it shouldn’t be ignored. If we don’t want to be alone with our own thoughts, we don’t have to be.

However, is there actually an upside to boredom? Even though it feels unproductive and almost painful at times, could there be a benefit in being alone with your own thoughts?

It certainly seems possible. Many people find value in meditation, to improve mental health among other benefits. For some, meditation is actively doing nothing. No phone, no speaking. No activity, other than breathing. The goal is to be comfortable with doing nothing.

In addition, creativity is enhanced through boredom. Mothers everywhere know that children, when bored, find creative ways to entertain themselves.

What other positives might there be to being bored? Should we actively seek out boredom, at least once and awhile?

Related questions: When is it useful to fail? What is the value of inefficiency? Are we too busy? What do you think about when out for a walk?

What Would You Write Songs About?

Songwriting is an unusual way for us to communicate with other human beings. If you were to write songs, what would you write about?

We are all familiar with listening to songs. We hear them on the radio, in movies or TV shows, on the Internet, and so on. We sing them to each other, and we might even sing in the shower, because the acoustics are so good!

And yet, despite being familiar with music, only a very few have much skill and experience in writing songs. The act of creating lyrics and music together to form a memorable, catchy tune is not easy, and it takes time and practice.

Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss a related question: ‘What does your favorite music say about you?’ We also discuss a bonus question as well, ‘Where does authority come from?’

Most communication is verbal, of course, although we also communicate non-verbally as well. Music, however, remains a unique way to communicate with our fellow humans. There is something special about music and how we react to hearing it. It can tap directly into our emotions in a way that everyday speech might not be able to easily do.

With that in mind, imagine for a moment that you are a songwriter. What, then, would you write about? Many songs deal with love, although there is no shortage of other topics as well.

What would you write songs about?

Related questions: Why does music evoke emotion? How does creative expression help us to know ourselves better? Music: Make or listen? Where do ideas come from?

What Do You Think About When Your Mind Is Not Preoccupied?

For many of us, life is very full. At any given waking moment, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of things to be preoccupied with.

Most of what we think about from moment to moment tends to be concerned with immediate needs or problems: What should I wear today? Did I pay that bill? I’ve got an early meeting at work that I can’t be late for. What should I eat? …and on and on.

If you were to remove these sorts of thoughts from your mind, what is left?

To answer this question, there are some concrete steps you can take. There are different strategies for taking your mind off of these bustling, nagging thoughts.

One method is meditation. Meditation has grown in popularity over the last several years, and there are some suggestions that it can help to alleviate stress and reduce anxiety. There is no one sure-fire recipe to learn to meditate, although most methods involve focusing on something tangible, like breathing, to avoid preoccupation.

Another route to a peaceful mind is to surround yourself with a serene environment, like walking through a remote stretch of woods. If you remove reminders of your everyday life from your experience, you are less likely to think about it.

Yet another way is through intense physical exertion like exercise. Often your mind is able to let go of thoughts when your muscles are in action. This might be due to reduced oxygen available to your brain, or perhaps because of endorphins that are released during exertion.

Whatever method you use, one of these or something else altogether, what thoughts remain after the others are removed? Do you think of nothing? Or perhaps abstract thoughts become easier? Or maybe you become tuned in to the details of the world in front of your eyes.

What do you think about when your mind is not preoccupied?

Related questions: What do you think about when out for a walk? Are we too busy? Meditate or medicate? How do you find peace when you need it?

Why Do We Sleep?

Sleep is one activity that everyone engages in every night, and yet it remains something of a mystery. Do you have any theories on why it is we sleep?

It is obvious that our sleep schedule is tied to the day/night pattern. It certainly isn’t a coincidence that due to the earth’s rotation, it is dark every night, and we sleep every night.

Moreover, it seems pretty clear that sleep is the product of evolutionary pressures. Our very distant ancestors gained some advantage from being asleep every night that allowed them to survive, and possibly even to thrive.

However, we don’t know what that advantage is.

One possibility is that our senses leave us at a disadvantage to other predators in the dark. Our eyes do not allow us to see as well in the nighttime, nor do our ears hear so well as to make up the difference, compared to some of our animal competitors. Therefore, a survival mechanism is to keep humans inactive during the time when they are disadvantaged — at night — and concentrate their efforts in the daytime.

But why didn’t the eyes or ears evolve to be more sensitive? Other animals did, so why the difference in humans?

Another possibility is that our larger brains required more organization, and processing of information. For humans, this happens during the sleep cycle, in particular during REM sleep. This, in turn, requires long stretches of uninterrupted sleep, and that is easier at night with fewer distractions.

These are just two examples of possible explanations. Do you know of any others, or have a pet theory? In your opinion, why do we sleep?

Related questions: How many hours of sleep do you need? Do you have trouble sleeping? Early bird or night owl?

What Is Genius?

The word “genius” gets used often these days. But what exactly is genius, and how can you tell it when you see it?

Either a person or an idea can be referred to as “genius”. Typically for a person, it might refer to someone with a particularly high IQ. This can be measured via an IQ test, and at least in theory, can be quantified.

However, it is also used in other contexts. For example, someone might be called a musical or artistic genius. Is there any possible way this can be measured? Is there some sort of threshold to be labeled as such in a creative field? Or is it entirely subjective?

Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘What gives a person value?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What makes you you?’

When the word is used to describe a creative person, is it used for someone with a high level of expertise in a very specific field, or to someone with a broad skill set? That is, which is more of a musical genius: a guitar virtuoso, or someone who can play a dozen different instruments with a relatively high level of skill? Or perhaps both are?

If both, are we in danger of making the definition of the word so broad that it loses meaning? If everyone can be called a genius (in their own way), does the word cease to mean anything?

How do you use the word? Do you use it frequently, or know people who do? Does it simply mean “I think this is really great” or is it more than that?

What is genius?

Related questions: How can we measure intelligence? What is intelligence? How important are important people? How important is the artist to art?