Sunday, April 20, 2008

Boredom and attention

Wally: So I mean, is that our problem? Is that what you're saying? Are we just like bored, spoiled children who've been lying in the bathtub all day, playing with their plastic duck, and now they're thinking, What can I do?

Wallace Shawn and André Gregory, screenplay for My Dinner with André (New York: Grove, 1981), 91


Many of the things we find interesting are not so by nature, but because we took the trouble of paying attention to them. Until one starts to collect them, insects and minerals are not very appealing. Nor are most people until we find out about their lives and thoughts. Running marathons or climbing mountains, the game of bridge or Racine's dramas are rather boring except to those who have invested enough attention to realize their intricate complexity. As one focuses on any segment of reality, a potentially infinite range of opportunities for action — physical, mental, or emotional — is revealed for our skills to engage with. There is never a good excuse for being bored.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life (New York: Basic Books, 1997), 128
[The back cover of Finding Flow notes that the name Csikszentmihalyi is pronounced "chick-SENT-me-high."]

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