Boredom and the Imagination
Boredom is the mother of imagination. How many of us began to be writers--even if it was telling stories to ourselves or other children--because of a lonesome childhood, or a childhood of sickness, or long afternoons in a house of grownups and grownup books, or later, endless tedious classes, where one's own imagination was the only escape.
Boredom is endangered. We live in an age of passive entertainment, and the mind is seldom if ever allowed to wander in search of its own self-made pleasures.
While not fanatic about it, we try to keep our 3-year old's tv watching to a minimum--maybe a half hour a day, and some days with none at all of course. (I find it most useful when I am trying to fix dinner.) But whenever he gets sick, the amount creeps right up again, and it is a battle to bring it back down. I am not anti-television--I actually think some of the best writing going on today is in television, we're living in a sort of golden era--but I would much rather our kid invent his own games and enjoy books. And it is pretty obvious that the two things are in inverse proportion. I think that is because the images flickering on the screen actually fill the mind and the mind's eye to the extent that the mind does not feel the need to produce images of its own; maybe the mind thinks it is "image"-ining. Even if the tv show we are watching is, we would declare, "boring," in fact the mind registers that it is entertained.
And it is not just television. I feel this looking at the internet or even at a lighted screen. I can write a poem directly on the computer, but I feel that the quality of my imagination is different from when I am walking about outdoors or sitting in a corner with an un-lit blank page. How many more poems I might write, I sometimes wonder, if I just got up and walked away from the e-mail and the google news and the blogosphere. A month long writer's retreat in a castle in Scotland (Hawthornden) in 2004 showed me just how much I could accomplish unplugged from e-mail and the internet. Maybe I need to set limits on it for myself just as I do for my toddler!
The opposite of the aesthetic is not ugliness--it is the anaesthetic.
A. E. (Alicia) Stallings studied classics in Athens, Georgia and has lived since 1999 in Athens, Greece. She has published three books of poetry, Archaic Smile (1999), which won the Richard Wilbur Award; Hapax (2000); and Olives (2012). Her new verse translation of Lucretius (in rhyming fourteeners!), The Nature of Things,...