Tedium is the start of creativity

Professor of Education Juha T. Hakala contemplates whether various development paths have led us to an era that erases boredom from our lives.

 “I find it rather worrying when we get bored and dig mobile phones out of our pockets when we’re waiting for a lift. We have an escalating need to find an interesting pastime.”

But why on earth should we long for boredom? It’s such an unpleasant feeling!

First, life – working life included – is quite a boring thing in the end. For the most part, it is a long streak of monotonous periods, and that’s why we need to be able to face everyday tedium.

Another perhaps even more important reason is that at its core boredom is not what it looks like. A growing body of evidence indicates that the feeling of boredom may sometimes result in creativity.

Studies show that bored people on average find more ways to use empty plastic cups or clothes pegs than those who are in a relaxed or elated mood. Boredom has therefore become an interesting topic.

As an education researcher, Hakala is also worried about changes in upbringing. “If children are bored, we parents are immediately ready to give them gadgets to get rid of their boredom. Instead, we should do the opposite: let children learn how to beat boredom themselves. As educators, we should never allow ourselves to feel guilty about our children getting bored.

One starting point for Hakala’s book was a visionary speech he found on the internet. The speech, by Nobel prize winner Joseph Brodsky, was called In Praise of Boredom.

Brodsky sees boredom as “monotonous splendour” and “your window on time’s infinity” and suggests that we should all learn to see through this window. From this perspective, boredom may also be an opportunity to face yourself in a new way.

In Brodsky’s words, nothing compares to the psychological Sahara that starts right inside your bedroom and spurns the horizon. He maintains that no school can replace this experience, and even if tedium permeates our lives, no educational institution can teach us how to address this recurring reality.


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