Today I realized that I have allowed idleness to be stolen from me. As a young child, I had no phone, no computer. That was still the twentieth century for god’s sake. And even after the turn of the century it wasn’t until highschool that I got my first computer and a dinky flip phone.
That paragraph made me feel old.
Anyway, in childhood I remember that I was very often bored. Boredom was a constant companion. Of course if I was home with my toys it was ok. And later video games held back the tide. But if I was in the car, or at my dad’s office, or even traveling in a foreign country, I was often bored. I had nothing to occupy my attention. I would create imaginary games in my head to entertain me, or try to make up math equations to explain the time on the clock. If you don’t understand what I mean, it suffices to say I was desperate for anything to occupy my mind.
Nowadays I’m almost never bored. Thanks to my smartphone, I’m not even idle on the toilet. In the car, on the subway, I and everyone around me are fully engaged and entertained.
It can’t be healthy can it? Surely we need some balance. Some time for our brains to be aimless. Browsing instagram may feel like “liesure” but doesn’t put your brain into hunter-seeker mode, searching for novelty-induced dopamine?
And using a phone on the toilet makes me feel disgraceful, like I can’t even honor that small break that nature has necessitated for all animals.
The shower and the dinner table seem to be the only places where the mind can be idle - but unlike the shower, I’ve never had a good idea while eating dinner. The universal creative power of shower thinking is, in my opinion, owed to the power of idleness.
A long walk, without distractions, is also very creative for many great thinkers of history.
Idleness is important, and I want to reclaim it.