Boredom is the place where imaginations blossom

Boredom is the place where imaginations blossom, wrties Beth Cooper Howell in her column for HeraldLIVE
Nuggets of wisdom drop via my inbox every so often, and most I file away for re-reading at a more convenient time.
Usually, as a result, the voices of reason and inspiration contained in these “share if you like this” messages get lost in busyness.
But today, as hers usually do, Penny’s e-mail caught my eye and prompted a think.
A headmaster (would that I knew who, to credit him), speaking at assembly, told his youthful audience that there was value in boredom.
They, as we, have heard this before; ironically, probably, via social media – that eruption of repetitive facts, fiction, fake news and self-help memes.
The headmaster had seen a friend sitting alone in a coffee shop, cappuccino in hand, staring out of the window.
He’d found this curious – no phone, newspaper, novel or companion for diversion or a chat?
Later, his friend explained that he loved coffee and solitude, and that he hadn’t been waiting for anybody. He was happy on his own, drinking coffee, and thinking about life.
He went on to share a common scenario, as explained by motivational speaker Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why (Portfolio, 2011).
In a restaurant, we almost always have our phones with us – often face-up, sometimes face-down, and likely on the table.
Switch off and tune in
When our dining companion goes to the bathroom, however, what do we do? Turn to our phones.
“We are too scared to sit in solitude and think we need to fill the gap,” the headmaster said.
But, if we fully understood the value of doing nothing, or of our children being bored, we might see solitary, tech-free time for what it is: our lifeblood.
“I was told something once that stayed with me. I was told that imagination grows in the places that boredom has created,” he explained.
“Simply put, by allowing our brains to be unoccupied by external influences and stimuli, we allow our imaginations to run wild and our creativity grows.”
He then challenged his pupils with a valuable hypothesis.
“I could make you feel very uncomfortable right now. I could make you sit in silence for one minute. What would happen?
“You would start looking around for someone to connect with – to smile at or to roll your eyes at.
“Then, if you could, you would pull out your phone and check something.
“Very few people would use that minute as a chance to think, a chance to reflect, a chance to imagine.”
He urged his audience to experiment; to leave phones in pockets, books unread and music off during waiting times, or while going for a walk, or reclining on the couch.
Do that, he said, and see what happens...

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