“Boring” no longer a taboo word ?


‘Amazing’ is the only word to describe it. How else does one explain the deep study and years of investigation that have gone into trying to comprehend the various levels of boredom: A word that was on the black list, never to be uttered and definitely taboo for our generation?

Now, according to a report, studies have found a new level of boredom. Earlier, experts had identified four types of boredom — but now they have gone on to catalogue a fifth! Imagine that! In all these years, while we were not allowed to use the word ‘boredom’ or we refused to acknowledge that such a thing existed, experts were busy studying this phenomenon and its manifestations in those affected.

And they theorise that people tend to experience various intensities of one type of boredom — but they do not cross the borders of that one type and go into another type of boredom or simultaneously struggle with all types of boredom …

Complicated, huh?

For the fascinated layman, there is no chance to remember the word ‘boring’ as they dig into the reports and try to understand all those case studies and their results. And of course, for those knowledgeable researchers who are studying boredom, there is no chance to ever experience the feeling of the word!

But for an ordinary person like me who plods along dealing with an ordinary everyday routine, the worlds and the wisdom that unfold on this highly debatable topic of boredom can be thoroughly confusing.

Could it be because, even after all these years of dragging ourselves through it, we cannot dare to call our ordinary everyday routine boring?

Bringing a zing into housework

All our lives we did things to avoid settling into a state of boredom. We listened to music when we were lonely and missing someone and did not have the heart to set our minds to any task. We whirled the mop or the dishes around to the beat of that music in Mrs Doubtfire style to bring a zing into housework. We read a book while stirring the gravy on a slow flame, broadening our horizons even as we halved the liquid. When there was no way to avoid addressing the multiple layers of dust on the furniture, we walked around with ear plugs firmly fixed and engaged in a long overdue chat with a friend while waving a feather duster here and there, thereby shortening the task in our minds and making it appear fulfilling. No chance to get bored when we were doing all that, was there?

But now, on second thoughts, it looks like all that restlessness, distraction, ennui and difficulty with concentration were actually manifestations of boredom.

Is it possible that while we were trying to hide in a dark corner from the word ‘boredom’ or throw it into a dark corner and keep it out of sight, while we fidgeted with a dozen different tasks until we found something we could focus on, we were actually bored out of our minds?

Perhaps what we need to do is discard the taboo surrounding the word ‘boredom’. Maybe then we can pinpoint all the things that bore us to tears, we can avoid them like the plague and instead address ourselves to how we can fulfil our potential — at any time in our lives — so that we are never bored again!

And maybe it would help if we actually started to use the word we had been taught — or rather, indoctrinated — to eschew.

Do you think, then, that a day will come when I can comment blithely, “I’m bored!” and not look over my shoulder guiltily to see if my long gone parents or teachers are hovering around somewhere and glaring at me disapprovingly?

Cheryl Rao is a journalist based in India.