In these technology-driven times, it has become rare to hear that one is bored. There is so much to occupy one’s mind. Life is breathlessly fast-paced. Demanding careers, personal responsibilities, increasing social anxieties — the list is long... But there is one thing that people seem to unanimously agree upon — the ‘me time’, the lazy day and even a boring one is welcome now. With the concepts of going slow, celebrating unbusyness and the art of doing nothing gaining traction, boredom is no longer a bad space to be in. It can add new depth and dimension to life — the many plus points include respite from stress, a much needed mind pause, encouraging reflection and creativity. However, not all reasons to switch off lead to the pond of wisdom. We find out.
Striking a chord of creativity
Artist and curator, Alka Raghuvanshi believes that creativity has to emerge from a space of Eros and not Thanatos, where boredom lies. “One requires consistency in order to create but to take that work to a spectacular level, one also needs a stroke of insight — that will only happen when you are prodding. The one per cent of blessing that will change any work can only come when one waits. I might not finish a painting at one go. Breaks provide insights. But it can’t be called boredom that inspires us, I would call it resting.”
Author Ravinder Singh, who has written many bestsellers, also loves such days but carefully differentiates between boredom, laziness and free time. He says, “Certainly not a boring or a lazy day but a day where I can be myself and have time to spend and think about a lot of things. It is a time that I can enjoy on my own. I am alone but not lonely. It could also be a moment wherein I enjoy the eco-system around me that motivates me a lot. Getting up in the morning silence and knowing that I have the rest of the day to myself and there is nothing that I need to plan — it leaves me in a phase where there is a lot of energy around me.
Ravinder Singh, Author
“I would rather be alone, specifically in the morning hours. If I am closer to nature that is a wonderful thing, even better if it rains. That is the best part of it. When I know that I am not in a hurry and don’t have a big plan as a part of my day, that’s the kind of moment when the creative cells in my brain get super active and I read something that inspires me to go ahead and pen down the thoughts in my head. That inspires me.
“So it is not really boredom but free time that inspires me and there is a difference between laziness, free time and boredom.”
Quiet amid chaos
If slow-paced days play an important role in enhancing one’s creativity, what about people living hectic lives and trying to create marvelous work? Is boredom even easily available to all?
Director Shyam Benegal laughs, “I am never bored. I may not be doing anything for links of time but that does not mean I am bored. Unless I have gone to sleep, my mind is working. We are living in an environment full of life. All sorts of things are happening around you. So I am not bored with life. However, I do meet very boring people, and that is something I can’t control.” Talking about relishing moments that are free of responsibility, he adds, “There is no such thing in life. Anyone who says that is lying. Everybody has something to do. Creativity emerges from the chaos of life. To create something, you don’t necessarily have to be physically active. It can be mental activity, spiritual activity or anything else. So it is difficult to understand boredom in that way. There are so many things to worry about, the things happening around you occupy your mind.”
A shot from the film Notebook, where Allie (Rachel McAdams) is finally able to unleash her creative side owing to a slow day and countryside, which she experiences after a long time
One can be aloof in a crowded room, feels artist Sanjay Bhattacharya. He agrees with Shyam Benegal as far as creativity and chaos is concerned. He says, “Yes, there is an importance of a slow-paced day. However, there are some subjects that have to be explored in a chaotic situation, like Chandni Chowk. It’s a different world. At the same time, if you go to Varanasi it feels as if time has stopped. When I was at a ghat in Varanasi, I thought maybe I am in the past. So that is also a kind of inspiring space. There are lots of subjects that inspire you in their own way. People have been taking inspiration from flora and it is very slow-paced to observe. Unless you wait and watch, you can’t get inspired.”
Shots from Andy Warhol’s films Empire
Art of being aloof
He believes chaos and aloofness both act together to help one be their creative best. “You have to be aloof but you also have to be in the middle of the chaos. When I shoot in the scorching sun, I forget everything because my focal point is my subject. There is also a way to be aloof in chaos and to be able to select the right subjects from that chaos to create what one has set out to create,” says Bhattacharya.
Recalling his college days, he adds, “We were at Howarh station and it is very crowded and chaotic. I used to capture pictures there. Once a friend came along with me and said, ‘How can I concentrate in this chaos?’ But it all depends on how engrossed you are. The level of concentration has to be very high and you have to know the art of being aloof. Only then can you create something wonderful.”
Sleep are quite intriguing as they focus on a single subject for hours
Productivity and creativity
Being bored can help one get one’s priorities straight, for if something still matters when nothing really does — one knows what really matters after all. But getting a lazy day has become a tough task in present times. As professor Shiv Vishwanathan puts it, “The problem is that it is required of you to be productive first in order to have a lazy day. The emphasis of productivity is on quantity. A lazy day, hence, is only the slowing down of that quantity. It doesn’t add quality. It doesn’t give one a notion of leisure. Slow time in terms of quantity won’t do. Slow time needs a variety of time. It means festivals, time for your physical body, and rapprochement with nature. This variety is missing. Slowness is not just de-acceleration. It is plurality. So when they say slow time, they just mean de-acceleration, it doesn’t add to quality of life.”
While management and HR in several companies might promote lazy days and vacations, they are merely interested in the employees not having strokes and burn-outs due to stress. They are not interested in improving the quality of their lives. Which is why Shiv argues the difference between productivity and creativity. “Creativity is about quality and difference. So what we need is dream time. One needs to dream different things and possibilities. And that doesn’t come from slowness. It comes from a variety of encounters. The notion of slow time is a very impoverished one. It is more of a management notion than anything to do with creativity and arts or sciences. The notion of idle time and dream time is mistaken one. It can be intense as well.”
Psychotherapist Ritika Arora agrees that slowing down is necessary for the psyche to recover and replenish from moments of doing and active living, just like sleep is rejuvenating. “But it does more than just bring rest. An awake state where little or no demand is made of one’s mind, where one is free to wander, can actually allow a person to come upon spontaneous links and connections, as the mind finds a free reign within an unstructured atmosphere. The mind in fact opens up to perception and discovery far more when there is a freewheeling environment, at least for a period of time.”
However, for one to keep up a certain lifestyle and to ace one’s career, slow days can even be used as tools. It is all about perspective. While this is not to say that one has to induce boredom or try to sit through Andy Worhol’s films like Empire and Sleep.
Psychotherapist Niru Kumar calls it mindfulness than boredom. She says, “Boredom is just the flip side of busy — both are restless energies. Mindfulness on the other hand is deliberate slowing down and it brings with it a sense of peace and comfort. If lazy means setting aside agendas for a while and doing nothing, yes, then it is wonderful. Balance in life is probably the most difficult thing to achieve. People are either too lazy or overworked. A person who knows how to create a lazy day in a hectic frenzied life is a very smart person and will probably be the most successful one. From time to time he/she is able to give the brain the resting time it needs to organise and sort out all the enormous amount of information it receives. This reduces stress and increases output. The challenge is that it is the busy people who find it most hard to be lazy, not because there is no time but because the brain goes into the mode of constant activity. A routine practice of meditation and mindfulness is the most effective solution to this.”
Niru Kumar, Psychotherapist
Freedom from social media
Freedom from internet and social media opens up a lot of free time — to think, to paint, to rant, to cook, to love — just really anything random enough to calm our nerves, soothe our souls and set our spirits free. Shiv adds, “Internet has actually destroyed the notion of free and idle time. Social media has almost become a duty because if you are not on internet, you are out. The idea of internet time as leisure time is a wrong equation. Internet has become compulsive and obsessive and if something is compulsive and obsessive, it hardly qualifies as enjoyment.”
Of devil’s workshops
The adage goes, ‘An idle mind is the devil’s workshop’ but life coach Suneel Vatsyayan believes, “Doing nothing with awareness can be positive and can help you harness something unexplored. There is no harm in stopping for a while for sometime but without losing control. It can also be destructive and can lead to risky behaviour like substance use.”
Shiv Vishwanathan agrees, “A free mind is not just a devil’s workshop, it’s a workshop of any free person. Democracy too was created from free minds. Of course, there is a possibility of being devils but there is also a possibility of being angels and inventing new alternatives, new imaginations. Freedom can cut both ways. So what one needs is a free mind but at the same time also a responsible mind.”