The gong sounds and the room echoes the brassy noise to bounce around the bodies sprawled about the floor. All is motionless, all is dark. The time is ripe for meditation, the mood set for deep inner monologues and new discoveries. As I lay on the floor, slightly shivering from the cold room, I let the feeling overcome me. For the next thirty minutes, I will nothing to do except think. For the next thirty minutes, I will be bored.
I never asked my teacher if he intended for us to be bored, but, after analyzing my memories of lying on the floor with nothing to hear apart from the occasional snore or the children in the school next door, I can come to no other conclusion. My teacher had to know that there would be nothing to stop the boredom when there is nothing to do. I could have been doing some other school work, but I had to be there, and the boredom came. I didn’t understand why were there, at least, not then.
That changed when, one day, I decided to walk the thirty minutes to Safeway. Having nothing to do, I became bored and that boredom set my mind adrift. With no subject to restrain them, my thoughts wandered before they settled on the day’s philosophy class lecture. He was giving an example of the three tiers of conventionalism: pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional. He explained that if a poor man needed a medicine to save his wife and the doctor wouldn’t give it to him, then the man should not be imprisoned if he stole the medicine. I disagreed with the theft and was labeled conventional, which I took as a personal insult. For the rest of my walk, I argued with myself. I proceeded to inform myself of all the reasons why he was wrong. His way of thinking couldn’t be right because it wasn’t fair to the doctor to have his creation stolen and not have his right to make a profit protected. But if I were in that situation, I would want to be saved or save the one I love just like the man. Slowly, I realized what he was trying to say, and I changed my view point.
While I was in class, I had missed what he was trying to teach me. It wasn’t until I had nothing to do that I understood what he was getting at. It wasn’t until I was bored. Now that I look back at my memories, I realize that my teacher wanted us to be bored. A person can read Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and more, but it is only when they put aside the clutter of the outside world that they can focus on internal understanding. Years after his class, I still find that to be true. I still believe boredom gives us a chance to grow.
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