Scott’s Thoughts: Signal Jamming

“Let reality be reality.”

Lao-Tzu, Ancient Chinese philosopher

Young blonde girl with headphones on.If you can’t go for a run without your earbuds in, or survive a flight without an iPad filled with Netflix, you’re probably like most people. More often than not, any sign of boredom or irritation is a prompt to seek distraction. (Just try and stand in line at the grocery store without checking your phone, for example.) We live in an age when diverting ourselves from an “unproductive” reality can be quickly reclaimed under the mantle of multitasking.

Certainly there is some merit to the act of filling a dead commute with an audiobook, or using music to soothe us as we wait for our turn in the dentist’s chair, but I wonder if we aren’t sacrificing something else valuable in the process.

Jamming boredom’s signal means diverting our attention. And when we divert our attention, we also interfere with our ability to turn inward and reap the benefits of introspection. “Too busy to think,” includes thinking through our own problems, or following chains of thought which might lead us to unexpected questions or important revelations.

The practice of sitting with boredom also makes us more resilient. The more comfortable we are with reflection versus distraction, the more likely we are to build up our stamina for deep thought and foster an immunity to boredom.

Much is magic about our devices and the entertainment and education which is always at hand. All I’m suggesting is we learn to balance an automatic reaction with a more measured approach. Just because we “kill the pain” doesn’t mean we aren’t suffering from the wound. Indeed, the pain may be the first sign there’s something we need to inspect. Be mindful of the signals you may be jamming.

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