Some of the greatest minds in human history have waxed eloquent about the pleasures of boredom (‘fruitful monotony’ in officialese!!). In his 1930 classic The Conquest of Happiness, Bertrand Russell insists that children be allowed to experience boredom because it encourages imagination and inventiveness.
So what about the long summer break when children are entertained at chess camps, art school, cooking classes and tennis lessons? Not all child development experts are happy with endless summer activities.
“If parents spend all their time filling up their children’s spare time, then the children are never going to learn to do this for themselves, even as adults.” says Lyn Fry, a child psychologist in London with a focus on education. Research also shows that there is a definite correlation between boredom and imagination. Boredom is what triggers an internal stimulus that allows for true creativity.
This frantic over-scheduling of children’s lives may be a consequence of the way in which many adults view boredom – as a gargantuan hurdle to be overcome rather than as one of the natural states of existence. In the modern world where being productive is the highest state of being, constant busyness is a much sought after lifestyle. But by shunning stillness within and without, we are robbing ourselves of a chance to pause and contemplate life rather than just racing through it thoughtlessly. It is almost as if we are afraid to pause, afraid to stop living frantically. We are what we do; therefore if we should stop, then who are we?
Cultivating a capacity for boredom is difficult but essential; it provides food for thought and nourishment for the soul. So this year, when listing out summertime activities for your children, let one of the options be lazy lounging or ‘fruitful monotony’ if you prefer.