In the 21st century, society is fast paced, which gives less time for self-reflection. Life doesn´t stop. Except it did. The coronavirus slowed the world down and left most of us with a lot of time on our hands. It is unique and historical. We were all isolated together in the United Kingdom, bearing some exceptions, for two national lockdowns as to this date. At some point, every country had to self-isolate. Coronavirus results in isolation, which can get difficult for mental health.
Now more than ever, it is relevant to all mankind. No matter what background, we are in this pandemic together, in this historical moment. We were isolating and so our routines shifted. When people are stuck indoors for a long time, they can get “cabin fever” or “stir crazy”. Some people have found self-isolating more difficult than others. A lot complained that they were bored, and boredom is often a synonym of being still. The word “boredom” didn’t even exist until the mid-19th century, and Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert’s eponym novel, is one of the prime examples for boredom.
Madame Bovary, the protagonist of the novel, dreams of a life she can’t afford and great love, influenced by all the romantic books she read as a young girl. She despises her provincial life and husband, which leads her to have two lovers, before tragically killing herself, despite having a loving husband and daughter. The novel resulted in the term ‘bovarysme’, which according the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, is “A disposition towards escapist day dreaming in which one imagines oneself as a heroine or hero of a romance and refuses to acknowledge everyday realities”. This is not only fictional, bovarysme can apply to the modern world, with self-delusion for example.
Why are we so scared of getting bored? It can get us outside our comfort zone. It means confronting others, and mostly, ourselves. A lot of people felt lonely, and loneliness and boredom are often connected. Nowadays, with all the technology available 24/7, we don´t have to be bored, or stay alone anymore, and during this pandemic, we use it even more: to stay in touch with our loved ones and escape from the current reality. We get instant gratification from it. Netflix was almost saturated during the first lockdown, a result of all the demand of confined people.
As stated in a 2016 Guardian article, we live in a world of constant entertainment – but too much stimulation can be boring. Instead of doing various activities, we end up scrolling on our phone, and the action of repeating it makes a source of boredom itself. That´s the irony. Nothing is left to our imagination. Some children nowadays can have too much stimulation with technology, which sometimes means they don’t use their imagination as much.
Our society often doesn´t know how to be alone anymore, and this is a challenging time for all of us. We are forced to be alone together. We have technology but some people still feel bored, in a time where we all are going through trauma and grief. Why is that? Why is it that during a pandemic some people feel bored, when they finally have time to do what they desire? Narcissim? Self-absorption? Maybe both. The fact is, society is moving too fast and we can´t keep the pace up.
People should reflect on the speed of life they are living, and this is the ideal time. Humanity is reaching a shift right now. We have to recreate our world-personally but also globally, politically and economically, hence the urge for creativity. Boredom can be good for you. Creativity is a way to blossom from boredom, it is a thought process. It can be anything from people drawing, writing, dancing, filming, knitting… to just cooking differently or changing the way you dress.
Thinking can also be the best way to beat boredom and free the mind from our fast-paced world. Allegedly, Shakespeare wrote King Lear in lockdown, during the plague, so why not follow his example? You don´t have to be a writer to create, creativity is a way of thinking, a way of being. Robert M. Pirsig, an American philosopher said: “Boredom always precedes a period of great creativity”. Creativity has no limits, and you choose how you want to be creative. It doesn´t have one set model.
This pandemic gives us a chance to reconnect and maybe reinvent this fast-paced world. And reinventing the world starts with ourselves. As Nietzsche said in Beyond Good and Evil: “Is not life a hundred times too short for us – to bore ourselves?”