I’ve always loved roadtrips. There hasn’t been a better way I’ve come across to get acquainted with people or myself. Growing up, long family trips were a way to zone out in sorting contemplation, whether to a hypnotic blur of passing environments or to my own reflection in a dark backseat window.
After turning 16, some of my first practice drives on my learner’s permit were on long stretches of highway, driving my family’s Dodge van. Later, on some of the more time-pressured long hauls in which drives through the night were necessary (e.g., to Thanksgiving dinner), I would willingly take the crazy 2am-6am shift.
Pre-podcast-era, when the tape player was broken and we were in the boonies with an eternally scanning radio, long drives were pretty boring. Fact is, though, I like staring straight ahead and letting my brain play in consciousness. It’s formative. Those long stretches of meandering thought have, frankly, helped me build a wonderful life, informed my priorities/decisions, and guided my work.
As a 40-something in the current world, roadtrips lovingly force me to put down my content-consumption device (my damn phone) and revisit my overstimulated brain while focusing only on the drive. It takes a few miles to get into the zone of not wanting to feed the content craving, but once I’m there, it’s boring bliss.
When I’m not driving, working, or with my children, I’m often sucked into the universe of shareable content. I find myself bouncing around the parenting galaxy more than most other realms, because the algorithms have me pegged. Yup, I’m a parent!
Good parenting content can actually be enriching and thought-provoking. Two concepts have jumped out at me recently, and they certainly apply to adults as well. It’s the relationship of these two concepts to one another that really intrigues me, and, somewhat ironically, makes me ponder the unique zen-doldrums of my brain on roadtrips:
Interesting Parenting Concept #1: Boredom is good for creativity
Interesting Parenting Concept #2: Members of Generation Z are more likely than Millenials to disconnect from being always reachable via device, about on-par with Gen-X (see https://www.vox.com/recode/2019/10/15/20915352/generation-z-technology-attitudes-optimism-always-reachable-survey-gfk)
IPC #1 is obvious: the less folks use their cranial RAM for consumption, the more they’ll have for creation. Educator and friend Kayla looks at boredom as an opportunity to let in inspiration: “The Greeks strongly held that the genius is like a spirit or entity that visits. It comes and goes. This line of thinking detaches the ego from the genius. When genius visits, there is a tension in the field that can be uncomfortable to surrender to. But when we breathe with it and pay attention simply to what is arising, we can unleash unforeseen potential.”
IPC #2 is striking but unsurprising: this second generation of “digital natives” is encountering nothing really new, technologically speaking, except updated versions of the familiar. Doing some logical hopscotch (I hope you’ll bear with me), Gen-Z’s choices about use are not colored by the drive to keep up with the latest tech or fall behind. Being reachable anytime, anywhere, is actually not that cool, and digital communication has no hipness attached to it unless branded youthfully (youth-targeted branding will always be a thing, of course). Grownups are always on their phones, and grownup habits naturally attract critical scrutiny.
Are many members of Generation Z, then, making room for conscious boredom? Are they letting themselves zone out from time to time, whether out of cell range on a contemplative hike through the woods or on a long roadtrip? If so, not consuming as much content will give them more of that cranial RAM for creation. Perhaps their resulting genius will RISE UP as others stare at their phones.
It’s a flip-flop! When we late Gen-Xers were growing up, learning about all things computer-related was considered vital in order to be an adult with any great prospects. Remember the running joke about how toddlers could program our so-complicated digital VCRs? Unless we flexed our brains to learn computer, one day soon the toddlers would take over the world with their technological prowess, muahahaha!
Now all things everywhere seem to be digital, and most people seem savvy enough. Tech has become incredibly user friendly. Computer literacy is no longer elusive.
The pendulum always swings. In education, at least in the parts of the world familiar to me, there’s a trend away from emphasizing computers, toward a more analog presentation, based on studies of what’s more beneficial to the developing brain. Most adults also seem to recognize the benefit of disconnecting from screens, though how we content cravers choose to soothe ourselves in dull moments can be a telling conundrum.
What those two Interesting Parenting Concepts say to me is that the rising generation could be the ones who change the world. Those who allow in conscious boredom--the same juicy boredom I know from long stretches of open road--will unleash great ideas. Great ideas will take us from walking on a continuum of updates to a path of actual, paradigm shifting progress toward a better world.
If conscious boredom is such a strong catalyst for change, then it stands to reason that the bored shall inherit the earth. We’d do well to keep up.