Boredom in Paradise
Contrary to your knee-jerk reaction, genuine boredom is a blessing.
Boredom is natural, especially during a pandemic when most people lack external stimuli in locked down cities and deserted islands.
Gili Air is no exception. When I was visiting as a tourist the beach bars were buzzing with music and, as Sir David would say, “streets were teeming with life”. Recently, on New Year’s, a horde of Cangguites descended upon us and we were reminded how the island looked in the good old days.
Corona killed the routine.
The first thing the pandemic gave us, was a break. The dive centres closed, and instructors and staff experienced the longest weekend of their lives. The island was then shut off from the rest of the world and laid-off workers left for Lombok.
The second thing took a bit longer to sink in. The pandemic and its economic effects radically shook our daily routines and, for some people, the purpose in their lives. The everyday busy schedules of work, errands, and early sleep were replaced by ceaseless worrying, wondering, and pondering.
With fewer things going on, boredom is consequential.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with being bored. On the contrary, most research shows that boredom is a fertile ground for creativity. Failing to be stimulated by its environment, the brain gets ideas, entertains them, and finally adopts them with a view to action.
But do we allow genuine boredom to develop?
Smartphones and other screens deprive us of genuine boredom in an unnatural and dangerous way. It’s like the frog in gradually boiling water that doesn’t see the problem until it’s too late. Screens could provide redundant stimulus forever; they could turn the miracle of boredom into idleness.
When idleness takes over and persists, the preconditions of depression have been met.
How to be genuinely bored?
Our attention focuses on salient things. By removing distractions and offering ourselves fully to boredom, we allow our attention to refocus. We increase the probability for affordances to occur — that this bike is repairable, that this garden can be taken care of, and this career is feasible and that I could be the repairer, the garden-carer or the person following this career.
Affordances are the trigger of the co-identification process between the agent (garden-carer) and the arena (the garden). The garden will be there, but without an affordance occurring to me that I can take care if it, I am not a garden-carer.
When unsure what to do next in your day, embrace boredom. Instead of turning to the usual diversions, choose to stare for hours at the ceiling or the sea. It will be a thrilling journey inside you, not a punishment.
The island is missing a lot of things…
Indeed, there are no chess classes, no jamming sessions, and no choir.
But we have a community centre where children draw, play, and learn about composting, waste, and plastic pollution. We have clean-ups (underwater and on the beach), tree-planting, and a cat clinic. The effort to put order into the chaos of the school library is remarkable too.
I risk becoming monotonous in listing these activities, but I don’t want to miss the writers’ club, the philosophy circle, boot camps at the gym and yoga classes on the beach.
And all this is organised by us — Gillionaires, locals and foreigners alike.
…and a lot is still missing.
English classes would do miracles for the locals in Gili, one of the most touristic places in the world. Free scuba-diving courses for kids would introduce them to Gili’s underwater backyard and create more options for their careers. Social media classes would create new businesses, products, and services. We could revolutionise waste management, promote the island to tourists or long-stayers, and do so much more.
If an affordance occurs to you, add it to this list and, most importantly, have the courage to do it. In this way, boredom would give another birth.