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Lonnette Harrell

I read an article today in the Boston Globe, called The Joy of Boredom by Carolyn Y. Johnson, and it reminded me of several that I’ve written lately, about slowing down in this fast paced world. It was wonderfully written, and I agreed totally with the thesis. In our “crazy busy” lives, we are always reaching for the cell phone, checking our emails, texting, listening to TV, radio, CDs, iPods, and other devices (that I have not yet learned to operate.) Boredom is a lost concept. Though I have occasionally heard my teenager exasperatingly say, “I’m so bored!” (And it might be noted, that there is hardly a moment of “down time” in any of her days.)

Moments of boredom were automatically built into the dinosaur life many of us once lived. Times such as sitting in traffic, waiting in line at the grocery store, sitting in a doctor’s office, waiting to pick up a child from school, etc. These were natural pauses in our lives, where we had time to ponder things, to reflect on goals not yet achieved, and to be alone with our thoughts. Today you would have to go to the deepest jungles and rain-forests to be alone with your thoughts, or to just be alone. Today’s generation may never get to know themselves in any meaningful way, because they are constantly seeking distractions. Cell phone makers have even created 2 minute episodes of your favorite TV shows, that can be viewed on your screen, while waiting in line. These are called “Mobisodes.” Cell phone games are created to last just minutes, so that no one will ever find themselves with nothing to do. 

What is more frustrating than trying to get a quiet, peaceful night out with a loved one, and being seated next to someone who spends the greater part of the evening on the phone? (This wouldn’t have been possible when I was growing up.)

These days if someone can’t reach you by cell phone at all times, you become the object of their scorn. How dare you not answer the phone when they call! I have been at dinner and other public places, when the person I was with, was constantly answering a cell phone. It is maddening, and conversation has become a lost art. I used to look forward to time spent in our van, traveling to and from places with my husband, who is a busy attorney. It used to be the only place his staff couldn’t reach him. But thanks to the latest technology, not anymore. I have to plead with him to turn it off. Our closest relationships are suffering because of our constant availability to others.

Johnson says in her article that even though a mobile phone is relatively new in the scheme of inventions, “it is already a crucial part of the trinity of things people fear to forget when they leave the house–keys, wallet, phone.”

My teenage daughter would never think of ever turning her phone off, even while she sleeps. It is clearly an addiction for her, with sky high phone bills as a result, even with the best of  mobile phone plans. I can’t turn mine off, as I care for my elderly, widowed mom, who still lives alone, and the cell phone is a lifeline for her safety.

With all the social networking sites online, you can rest assured that you can converse with someone 24 hours a day. It is apparent to me, that we are afraid to be alone.

Researchers tell us that children fill times of boredom with creativity. (My foster child used to play in the laundry basket when she was bored.) Boredom was the only thing that led my daughter, Chelsea, to do something other than watch TV. When the TV was restricted, she began to draw, which was a natural talent. She also learned to pick up a book and read, or do some kind of craft project.

Richard Ralley, a psychology lecturer at Edge Hill University in England, studied boredom. He found that activity without reward leads to boredom. If a person has an appealing diversion, they will occupy themselves with that, but if not, they will often create something new to do. He also found that the most creative people have a greater tolerance for times of boredom.

So how many would be authors will the world never know, because they have a cell phone in their hand 24/7?  How many artists will never draw or paint, because they are playing video games? How many great works of literature will go unread, because the youth are on MySpace? Ralley says that in this “laptop culture” his students seem “oddly numb.” (Not bored, but not interested either.)

I would also like to add that when people don’t have time alone with their thoughts, they often lack spirituality as well. If we are going to take time to meditate on why we are here, and what our purpose in life is, then we must have time alone, with our thoughts, to do so. God speaks to us in a still, small voice, and that voice is at peril of being completely drowned out by ringtones, YouTube, TV, DVDs. CDs, iPods, computer games, etc. The Bible says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Not many of us even know what it means to be still anymore.

While all of these technological conveniences have their place, they should not be filling all the spaces in our day. Remember to turn off that phone, computer, TV, etc., and enjoy some time alone. Get to know yourself, and tap into a spiritual connection with a God who wants to speak to you, if only you would listen. Put down that mouse, and write a few lines (on real paper) now and then. Sit in a cozy chair, turn off the TV, and read a good book, or just spend the evening talking with your spouse (or other family), and friends. Or here’s an idea–just be silent. (Bet you can’t.)

All these technological things that provide connection, have in many ways brought disconnection. We are disconnected from face to face conversation, creativity, and spirituality. So the next time you’re bored…try doing nothing. It will enrich your life…


Please view other articles that I have written here:



  1. Parents nowadays don’t allow their kids to be bored, as if it were a sign of inadequate parenting for a son or daughter to say, “I’m bored.” Your ideas about the value of boredom are right on! I write about boredom in my book, I Just Want My Kids To Be Happy! Why you shouldn’t say it, why you shouldn’t think it, what you should embrace instead. Visit my website:

  2. It’s true that many people seem to equate being alone with being lonely and incomplete and never learn how positive and powerful – and necessary – being alone can be for purposes of creativity.

  3. Thank you both for your thoughts on this topic. I appreciate hearing from you, and hope you’ll come by again soon. Aaron-I’ll check out your website also! Lonnette

  4. when growing up my mother taught me to do something creative “to entertain myself” in order to be an independent and authentic being

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