Two views on boredom

Two opinion pieces that arrive at much the same conclusion through very different routes:

My period of greatest creative output was during my corporate years, when every meeting felt like a play date with coma patients. I would sit in long meetings, pretending to pay attention while writing computer code in my mind and imagining the anatomically inspired nicknames I would assign to my boss after I won the lottery.

Years later, when “Dilbert” was in thousands of newspapers, people often asked me if I ever imagined being so lucky. I usually said no, because that’s the answer people expected. The truth is that I imagined every bit of good fortune that has come my way. But in my imagination I also invented a belt that would allow me to fly and had special permission from Congress to urinate like a bird wherever I wanted. I wake up every morning disappointed that I have to wear pants and walk. Imagination has a way of breeding disappointment.

“The Heady Thrill of Having Nothing To Do,” Scott Adams, The Wall Street Journal, 8/6/2011


So perhaps boredom is designed to encourage people to adapt their behavior and to protect them from social toxins, just as its first cousin disgust is designed, biologically speaking, to cause people to adapt their behavior to real physical toxins. Perhaps boredom should be viewed just as gout sometimes is, or angina or even mild strokes — as a sign of worse things to follow unless there’s a change in lifestyle. It’s not for nothing that the great Russian novelist Ivan Goncharov’s beguiling behemoth of boredom, the endearing Ilya Oblomov, perished of a stroke after a long lifetime of ignoring boredom’s siren signals. Boredom, I am saying, may play a salutary, evolutionary role in human life.
“The Thrill of Boredom,” Peter Toohey, The New York Times, 8/6/2011