CAE Reading and Use of English Part 8
You are going to read an article about the value of boredom. For questions 47-56, choose from the sections of the article (A-D). The sections may be chosen more than once. When more than one answer is required, these may be given in any order.
In which section of the article is the following mentioned?
47 points out a drawback in failing to allow time for mundane reflection?
48 comments on a personal experience of using a particular psychological technique?
49 comments on the broad appeal that a particular notion might potentially have?
50 suggests that boredom as a way of dealing with a problem is not a new idea?
51 distinguishes between mere reflection and conscious avoidance of mental stimulation?
52 refers to the communication of an erroneous message?
53 refers to an activity indicative of modern life taking place in various locations?
54 outlines a positive consequence of distancing oneself from technology?
55 explains that a particular finding supported existing knowledge?
56 remarks on the significance of monotony in the development of the human species?
It seems that embracing boredom and allowing ourselves to drift away could be good for us
Consider any public place where people used to enjoy a spot of silent contemplation – from train carriages and beauty spots to our local streets – and these days you’ll see people plugged into their seductive electronic sources of constant stimulation. All this information overload seems like a terribly modern-day problem. But one unique thinker actually stumbled on a neat solution several decades ago: radical boredom. In 1942, a German writer called Siegfried Karcauer wrote despairingly of the massive over-stimulation of the modern city where people listening to the radio were in a state of ‘permanent receptivity, constantly pregnant with London, the Eiffel Tower, Berlin.’ His answer was to suggest a period of total withdrawal from stimulation – to cut ourselves off and experience ‘extraordinary, radical boredom’. On a sunny afternoon when everyone is outside, one would do best to hang about the train station,’ he wrote. ‘Or better yet, stay at home, draw the curtains and surrender oneself to one’s boredom on the sofa.’
Karcauer believed that actively pursuing boredom in this way was a valuable means of unlocking playful wild ideas far away from plain reality and, better still, achieve ‘a kind of bliss that is almost unearthly’. It’s a beautiful theory and one that would definitely hold an allure for many people. Plus modern research suggests that it might actually have a sound psychological basis. To test the potential positives of boredom, psychologist Dr Sandi Mann asked a group of 40 people to complete a task designed to showcase their creativity. But before they got started on it, a subgroup was asked to perform a suitably dull task – copying numbers from the telephone directory for 15 minutes. The data pointed to the group that had previously endured boredom displaying more creative flair during the task than the control group. According to psychologists this is normal, because when people become bored and start to daydream, their minds come up with different processes and they work out more creative solutions to problems
This would suggest perhaps, that by overstimulating our minds, we’re not just making ourselves more stressed, we’re also missing out on a chance to unhook our thoughts from the daily grind and think more creatively. Having said that, psychologists also point out that despite its bad reputation, boredom has a definite evolutionary purpose. Mann says ‘Without it, we’d be like toddlers in a perpetual state of amazement. Just imagine it: “Wow – look at that fantastic cereal at the bottom of my bowl!” It may be very stimulating, but we’d never get anything done.’ That puts me in mind of adults who are addicted to social media and smart phones – attention seeking, scurrying around the internet screaming ‘Look at this! Look at them! Look at me!’ while the real world beyond the electronic devices continues on untroubled and unexamined. Meanwhile, as Mann points out, we’re incorrectly teaching our actual toddlers that boredom and lack of stimulation is something to be feared rather than embraced.
So how do you learn to tactically embrace periods of radical boredom? The first step is realising that this is different from simply taking time to ponder what you’ve done since getting up that morning. ‘Using boredom positively is about creating new opportunities when your mind isn’t occupied and you can’t focus on anything else,’ says Mann. This could be as simple as staring out the window or watching the rain come down. Or heading off for a solitary walk with no fixed destination in mind, or your smart phone in your pocket. Anything that gives your mind the rare chance to drift off its moorings. ‘I can really recommend it,’ says Mann. ‘It’s a great experience – like taking a holiday from your brain.’ I’m definitely sold. I’m trying to keep my phone turned off during the weekends and allow myself the odd, dreamy wallow on the sofa during the week, time permitting. And the best thing: it works. After taking a break and allowing my mind to roam, it returns refreshed and revitalized, with a fresh take on the challenges that I face during the day. When my daughter gets to an age when she’s ready to whine ‘I’m bored’, I’ll know exactly what to say!