How “Meaning Withdrawal,” aka Boredom, Can Boost Creativity – Facts So Romantic

Two Ironing WomenEdward Degas

In his book Boredom: A Lively History, an oxymoronic title if ever there was one, Peter Toohey argues that the eponymous feeling has plagued our species since ancient times. “Boredom is a universal experience, and it’s been felt in most eras,” says Toohey, a professor of Greek and Roman studies at the University of Calgary. As an example he cites medieval artwork and passages by the early Christian hermit Evagrius Ponticus, who lived ascetically in the desert and wrote extensively on boredom, though the word for his discontent had not yet been coined. It seems perfectly reasonable that even early hominids may have grown restless and impatient while waiting for their prey to wander within range of a well-thrown spear. The vulnerability to tedium may be stitched into our DNA.

As we all know, being bored can feel awful, as though the monotonous tick-tock of time is slowly eating your brain. This is why Candy Crush was invented. More seriously, it can signal depression, feeling cut off from the world. The Norwegian philosopher Lars Svendsen, in his book A Philosophy of Boredom, calls boredom “meaning withdrawal.” But in recent years, science, with a little extra…
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