Letter to the editor
August 28, 2020
Today I read two articles from the online magazine “The Conversation” on boredom. The pandemic of 2020 has certainly made the emotion of boredom a much greater possibility. I contend that my childhood in Carter County allowed me to adapt to any vicissitudes of boredom. I learned to work with boredom and not against it. This was perhaps one skill which has stayed with me over the years, and is unquestionably an asset now.
Today in the 21st Century, boredom has been found to be helpful by psychologists in that it encourages a search for the meaning of life, propels exploration and inspires novelty seeking. These three concepts have been an ongoing theme throughout my life. They developed early in Carter County within me, and persist onto today.
Boredom has been looked down upon in the past however, almost since it first appeared in the English language in an English newspaper in 1829. Charles Dickens used it in his 1800s writings. Seemed it was a malady at that time of only the aristocracy. In the early 1900s there was caution that some states that boredom would lead directly to labor disputes, disruptions, so boredom needed to be avoided and was frowned upon. The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) called it “leprosy of the soul.”
Even in 1973 psychoanalyst Eric Fromm cautioned about boredom as “perhaps the most important source of aggression and destructiveness today.”
Even today indeed from recent research, boredom can be detrimental in some who bore too easily leading to depression and anxiety; can lead to aggression and seeing life as less meaningful. But if squarely approached and utilized correctly it can become a functional emotion allowing one to truly ponder if one’s life choices need a tweak here and there. The short article does not go into the needed techniques for self renewal - I would imagine it varies from personality to personality.
In summary, I’m grateful for my Carter County upbringing in this regard. Boredom was at times difficult, but through trial and error I was able to enrich my life. I was fortunate enough to learn the lessons young and this has been of great benefit to me — especially now, especially in isolation. And not all time within Carter County was or is boring, I need to stress that as well before leaving. The beauty of the land and people are just that.