Wednesday, April 17, 2013

on entertainment and the importance of being bored

Ever since reading this article, I've been thinking hard.  I sometimes say that I require constant entertainment--but is that true?  I don't remember being bored as a child--but I certainly wasn't shuttled from one activity to another without time to myself.  Could constant entertainment really cripple the development of kids' imaginations?  That is a terrifying thought. 

Perhaps what I mean by entertainment is better described as stimuli.  I am an avid blog reader, because I love to look at pretty things and I draw inspiration from the people I follow.  I enjoy TV shows, as a storyteller who appreciates character development and plotlines.  I also understand the need to "veg out" for a half hour after a long day in lab and classes.  But should I surf the web as much as I do?  Should I watch so many movies or YouTube videos? 

If my entertainment time was not a matter of inspiration, I would say "no" to those questions.  I often turn around and create something as a result of bits and pieces of the internet collecting in my brain.  If nothing productive was coming from my entertainment time, I would consider it a waste, a drain, and probably frying my brain cells.  Is there a difference between this kind of entertainment and people who melt into a couch all evening, staring blindly into a screen without a critical thought?  I hope so. 

Why wasn't I bored as a child?  Every afternoon, my mom and whatever kids were young enough would go down for a nap, while the older kids spent several glorious hours in "room time."  Confined to a small space with a snack and a few toys or books, room time would probably be a foreign concept to today's kids.  I see kindergarteners with DVD players--and first graders with iPods and cell phones for goodness sake!  I spent my time building worlds out of Legos, or creating elaborate storylines with plastic figurines.  I read at an early age, and began writing stories.  Heck, by the time I was 10, I'd developed an entire galaxy a la Star Wars, complete with dozens of planets, species, societies, empires, and to-scale blueprints of about 20 different starships.  I made up songs, learned to play instruments, practiced knitting, crocheting, name it. 

So I think the point of being bored is to immediately become not-bored.  Like, if you feel bored, you're doing it wrong, and you should be creating something, thinking about something, entertaining yourself out of your own imagination.  If kids today don't develop that skill early on, where do they turn?  To video games, movies, TV, computer, all of which produce practically nothing useful or beautiful!  It's kind of depressing. 

I wonder if damage like that, once done, can be reversed.  Can a kid's imagination atrophy effectively to nothingness?  What do you think?  I know when I have children of my own some day, I plan on reinstating room time, teaching them to love stories and building with their hands, and I may not even own a TV!  How will you protect your children's imaginations and develop their creativity?

Picture is a family photo featuring me as a scary-looking little kid.