May you be alone and bored.

November 14, 2015 § 2 Comments


As your fairy godmother these are the gifts I would bestow: may you be alone and bored.

“Thanks…?” you’d say. “But…could I exchange them for wealth and beauty?”

Sorry, that’s is not how the fairy godmother thing works, but  these gifts, wrapped in brown paper and string, are more valuable than the package suggests.

Alone is not the same as lonely.

Lonely is an emptiness that yearns for company. When surrounded by that company, the self is in the intake mode, bombarded with information, opinions, requests. As part of a group the self is in constant flux, responding to outside stimuli. 


Alone is self-contained.

IMG_9437In isolation the self sorts out the barrage, deciding what to believe and what to discount, what to incorporate into the narrative each of us constructs as we make sense of the world.

Alone is the state in which our conscience draws its boundaries.

Uncoupled from the judgement of others, it is in the privacy of flying solo that the self crystallizes.

We are social. And we are solitary.  The two states have always been the warp and weft of human existence.

Now, for the first time, we can be connected to the whir of humanity at any moment day or night.

Who are we becoming now that alone is an exotic and unfamiliar condition, the quaint memory of those born pre-internet? Today’s kids sleep with their devices under their pillows.

Perhaps we have reached the point at which our impatient technology has become pervasive enough to speed the sluggish tick of natural selection and even choose the direction of evolution.

Perhaps, no longer bound by the inherent isolation of living in separate bodies we will lose our discrete individuality to the fluid organization of the hive, becoming a super-organism.

Being constantly connected we are forfeiting the second gift I would bestow: boredom.

IMG_9535_edited-1Although we are not more than momentarily entertained watching the video of the baby riding a dog, or the bride who throws her bouquet in the punch bowl, we are engaged enough by this junk food form of diversion to dodge boredom.

We are deliberately not thinking. Instead, we are taking in the fairly random thoughts of others.

Basically lazy, a brain entertained by petty stimuli will float along comfortably. To induce boredom, turn the flow of stimuli off.

Uncomfortable, right?

Boredom is a condition the brain abhors, an itch that must be scratched. To scratch that itch the brain is forced to draw on its inner resources, and ideas bubble up.

Think back to your own moments of inspiration. The high-voltage strike is often delivered by a mind frustrated by boredom. Shaken awake by an idea, the formerly bored mind begins the journey of writing a novel, finding a cure, imagining a political movement.

So, my wish for you remains the same. While retaining your membership in the collective enterprise called humanity, may you also be alone. And bored. And unique.

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§ 2 Responses to May you be alone and bored.

  • craig reeder says:

    wow! so counter-intuitive, and so brilliant!


  • annabelle58 says:

    Perfect timing! I was about to turn on the radio to some commentary about some subject that doesn’t interest me, just for… diversion. From what? From all the delights of the solitary mind? Thanks for the reminder. I’m passing it on to my daughter with whom I am having lots of enlightening discussions (re: The Circle by Dave Eggers for one) these days.


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