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the blessings of boring

sometimes it's hard for me to think that the entire universe isn't organised around my thoughts. it's difficult for each and every one of us to think that, because there are moments when everything seems to come into focus around us. and this morning, i had one of those moments.

i was trying to figure out how to wrap up "boring week" [in case you hadn't noticed the general boredom that's been going through all my posts], and sipping my coffee late in the morning, when suddenly the power went out. that's actually pretty boring in itself, because the power goes out in our building way more often than it should. i should probably worry about that. this time, though, it turns out that there were major blackouts over several sections of the city, and hydro quebec was indicating that it could be as long as six or seven hours until they had everyone back online. so there i was, contemplating boredom, when all of my access to the things that normally entertain me suddenly went kaput.

and i enjoyed it.

it took four hours for the power to come back, and during that time, i sat and felt a bit thrilled by the utter silence. even for a sunday, there was very little traffic. although it's been grossly hot and sticky this week, a spell of thunder, lightning and wind swept that away and left us with a beautiful day in the mid-teens. the sun was stumbling around the clouds, i had sleepy cats around me and it was rather lovely.

i didn't want to drain the battery on my phone, so i didn't even use it to go through the things that could have entertained me. i just sat by the window and sipped coffee and let the bored wash over me like a gentle wave.

we're socialised from a young age to think that our time should be spent productively, that leisure is a luxury that we should earn through hard work. people who look at the work they've done and think "this is good, this is enough" are thought to be unambitious or outright lazy. the more technology has developed, the more we internalize the idea that time spent unengaged in any way is wasted. if we're not working, we need at least to be plugged in, to be absorbed in something. even our leisure time needs to be primarily about something on the outside, be it the television, the computer or a mobile device.

as i sat there, mind dangerously unoccupied, mind turned inward in a moment of perfect, pointless solitariness. i eventually started to write, working on a something i'd started months ago but hadn't touched in some time. i wasn't burning to do this, but i figured i might as well and, as the pen and the hand kept moving, i did start to think of things i could add to it.

then the power came back on. as soon as it did, i knew that i didn't have an excuse for doing nothing, or rather for doing nothing productive. i was supposed to respond to emails, and get some real, paying work done, and i was supposed to go out and run errands once the stores had had a chance to reopen. the racket of machines at work- fans, appliances, improperly shut down computers- filled up the space around me and dom was relieved to be active again because he had video work to do and he hates being unoccupied.

even if i'd tried to continue in my boring bubble, there was too much going on around me and boredom, as it turns out, is quite fragile. but this morning reminded me that it's also quite important. if there is one thing that we've accomplished through all the trappings of civilisation, through everything that we've built and mechanised and backed up and learned and recorded, the one great thing we've given ourselves is the ability to be bored. our ancestors, huddled in caves and praying something three times their sizes with huge teeth and claws didn't come over for dinner, wouldn't have understood the concept. millions of people in the world, displaced by war and natural disasters, would welcome a little less excitement in their lives. but we protect ourselves from it like it's a hybrid of the bubonic plague and herpes.

of course, the sort of boredom that imposes itself on us day in day out is damaging. and boredom can be a bottomless pit of detail that we're struggling to make sense of. and it can be those moments when you have to think about the very normal, unexceptional things that form part of our everyday routine. or it can be the curse of endless predictability. but just occasionally, it's a breath of freedom and the chance to realise that we don't have to be, and shouldn't be, engaged all the time. so down with boredom. and hurrah for boredom.

so ends boring week on more like space. you can wake up now. 

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