This is not a post about Steve Jobs. I read enough of them in the days and weeks after his death. I read in these a lot of what I already knew and learned some new stuff for sure, but one Steve quote stood out to me in Wired’s obituary:
I’m a big believer in boredom,” he told me. Boredom allows one to indulge in curiosity, he explained, and “out of curiosity comes everything.”
I’m not sure if I’d head this quote from him before, but it put into words something that has been troubling me for some time: I haven’t been bored in years.
The first time I noticed this was in the mid-2000s, and I only realized part of it, and I saw it through the lens of my Internet usage, particularly RSS. Even today, as the cool kids have moved on to following Twitter feeds (really, talk about a step backwards) of websites and blogs they find interesting, I’m still a huge fan of the no-bullshit, user-in-control, decentralized power of RSS.1
What occurred to me back then was that having posts pushed to me daily gave me more reading material than I needed. And since I could never get all the way through the unread glut of posts from blogs I’d subscribed to, my need to ever go foraging for interesting things to read basically disappeared. RSS gave me tons of serendipity (thank you, linkblogs!)… and at the same time, practically none at all. I miss the old days — some would say the bad old days — when I’d get my online entertainment and random bits of enlightenment by browsing aimlessly from link to link, being personally pointed to interesting things by friends on AIM, following latest links posted to proto-blogs like Pixelsurgeon, and… I don’t know, however else we found cool shit back then.
The second time I felt this effect of this was at some point over the last few years, but this time in a more general sense. This time it was bigger than RSS; this time it was about everything in my life.
I realized I have far too many options for entertainment. There are two reasons for this: massive digital storage devices and the fact that, being employed gives me an actual entertainment budget for purchasing paid media and fancy devices on which to experience it. Between a pile of unread books and bunch of e‑books; more unwatched movies, seasons of old TV shows and anime series than I can name; and games galore that I’ll never finish (thank you Nintendo Wii and DS, Android phone and a still-kickin’ Atari 2600), I’m pretty much set for… forever.2 Even if I don’t seek out anything new, it’ll be years and years before I get through all of this. And it’s not like I can just ignore new releases and stuff I become aware of in the meantime!
I might be able to enjoy this world o’ plenty, if I could forget about what life was like when I was growing up, before we had the computing power, storage and network capacity to experience all the digital riches of more entertainment than we’ll ever need. I spent so much time being bored growing up, aimlessly thinking and daydreaming and such. This was before my first computer; I had tons of books and had probably read almost all of them, made good use of the public library, played with toys, action figures and stuff a whole lot and still found time to be bored and daydream because it seemed like I had run out of things to do.
If you live a similarly full, media-rich and employed first-world life, and can still ever find yourself so luxuriously bored, how do you manage? And can you teach me?
2 thoughts on “On wishing for boredom”