A banker and a lawyer argue about which is worse - a death penalty or a life in prison. They end up taking a bet - where the lawyer agrees to live in solitary confinement for 15 years in exchange for 2 million rubles from the banker, if he successfully manages to do so. While the lawyer spends the next decade and a half reading books, the banker loses all his fortune.
Fast forwarding to a day before the completion of the said 15 years - the banker is dismayed that the lawyer manages to survive the confinement because he doesn't have the promised money to give to him. Hence he decides to kill the lawyer before he can leave. When he goes to find him, he finds a note by him instead.
A part of the note says, "In your books I have climbed to the peaks of Elburz and Mont Blanc, and from there I have seen the sun rise and have watched it at evening flood the sky, the ocean, and the mountain-tops with gold and crimson. I have watched from there the lightning flashing over my head and cleaving the storm-clouds. I have seen green forests, fields, rivers, lakes, towns. I have heard the singing of the sirens, and the strains of the shepherd's pipes; I have touched the wings of comely devils who flew down to converse with me of God ... In your books I have flung myself into the bottomless pit, performed miracles, slain, burned towns, preached new religions, conquered whole kingdoms … I renounce the two million of which I once dreamed as of paradise and which now I despise. To deprive myself of the right to the money I shall go out from here five hours before the time fixed, and so break the compact ..."
This is a summary of the story, "The Bet" written by Anton Chekhov in 1889. Prevalent now more than ever before, since the whole world seems to be locked down in a semi-solitary confinement, this narrative is a reminder for us to use our present circumstance as a golden opportunity instead of a death sentence.
One of the biggest obstacles we are facing during this period of self quarantine due to the spread of the Covid-19 virus is the problem of self-entertainment and boredom. As soon as we finish binge watching the last episode of a long series, and have nothing else to do, we complain with a sigh and a "Oh! I’m so bored." This is also usually when we reach out for our phones and start scrolling down our Instagram feed, so that we can be entertained again.
It is important that we change the way we perceive boredom. Right after we finish our task for the day, and have nothing else to look forward to, we should let our minds wander. Let it think, let it grow, let it meditate, and let your mind find ways of entertaining itself without relying on another physical object for the same. Not all learning happens in a classroom, and not all work happens in an office. If we cannot go out, maybe it is time we go in. The following are reasons why it is important to be bored:-
Boredom is the birthplace of creativity
While initially boredom might make us feel uncomfortable, that feeling is guaranteed to pass. When bored, younger children get cranky and hungry and yearn for ways to fill up their time, whereas adults start feeling the more complex emotions of loneliness etc. However, once the antsy feeling passes, and you control your temptation to reach out for the phone, remind yourself to take a deep breath instead and allow yourself to observe your surroundings - the sights, sounds and smells.
New ideas about your passion project will occur to you, solutions to problems will present themselves, and you will find yourself setting productive goals for the future. Going for a walk- alone and without earphones plugged in- is a good way to let your mind wander with your feet.
Boredom uplifts mental health
Have you ever noticed how many children under the age of six talk to themselves, engage in imaginative role-playing, and just build up stories with the setting of their surroundings? With age we forget how to do that because society quickly teaches us that talking to ourselves is a sign of insanity. I’d say quite the opposite.
Allowing your mind to be occupied with nothing is one of the best ways to re-energize it. Daydreaming for fifteen minutes can feel as mentally relaxing as a week-long vacation at a beach. Laying down on your terrace and staring at the clouds, talking to yourself and building a story in your head, letting your imagination take flight like children do, gives the ever-racing brain a pause and a chance to re-align itself and feel younger than ever before.
Boredom helps you get to know yourself
We often drown our fears, anxieties and guilt by external voices and actions. Stepping away from the screen and every other distraction that comes our way, is a good way to hear our thoughts, our desires and make action plans around them. The person you are going to spend the most of your life with is yourself, so why would you shun from knowing yourself inside out?
Turn your phone on airplane mode as often as possible - especially when you are waiting in line, waiting for a meeting to start, waiting for a call. The time spent waiting is the perfect opportunity to talk to yourself about your emotions and your well-being.
Quoting Friedrich Nietzsche, "he who fortifies himself completely against boredom fortifies himself against himself too. He will never drink the most powerful elixir from his own innermost spring."