“Bounded in a Nutshell”

I had the pleasure of reading to and speaking with a high school creative writing class this week. I really do enjoy the interaction with these kids and helping them to understand and appreciate creativity and expression. I have been teaching for so long that I can just about write down the questions I’ll be asked long before I enter the classroom, but they never fail to ask one or two that seem to come out of “left field.” It’s one of the things that keeps teachers (and parents) on their toes. During yesterday’s class, one student asked, “Do you ever get bored?”

My answer at the time was pretty easy—“No.” I’ve been thinking about the question and its implications ever since. Teenagers all seem to have those times when they are bored. It drives most adults crazy. I read just the other day, however, that some researcher with too much time and government funding explained that boredom is good for adolescents. I didn’t read the article, but I’m sure there was good advice, and I do believe that “boredom” can be a good thing, but it isn’t really boredom. Even in today’s culture of constant bombardment with every imaginable form of “entertainment,” it is possible to need something different. I think the simple occupation of sitting is a good respite.

That great philosopher Winnie the Pooh is often credited with saying, “Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.” It’s good advice. Creativity needs a time of fermentation or germination or whatever metaphor you choose. It’s when our subconscious processes information and experience and allows us to learn, grow, and create.

It is true that I spend a great deal of time doing all sorts of things, but I also just sit and think…or just sit. I like time to observe and process. I may have, at some time or another (probably to bug my parents), expressed that I was bored. I lied. I don’t think I have ever truly been bored. I have been in numerous situations where I have had absolutely no choice but to sit or stand and be still, but my mind is never idle. As Hamlet exclaimed, “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space….” I am fortunate that all five senses work fairly well. I have language with which to describe my environment and experiences. Even in moments when I have no clear or immediate purpose, I know that sometime what I observe and learn may eventually be beneficial to me or someone else.

Bored? What can you teach yourself in even thirty seconds of stillness?

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