Allow children to be bored
Quite an ambitious one, but so important nonetheless to mention the theme of the 36th National Children’s Book Day that happened two weeks ago, with Br.
Armin Luistro FSC as special guest at the CCP: “Mundong Payapa Para Sa Kabataang Malaya”—a peaceful world for a truly free youth. What a priceless legacy to bequeath to the next generation.
Aside from ensuring that every Filipino child has a book in hand to unleash the imagination, Luistro—who, as former education secretary and current president of Philippine Business for Social Progress, has always nurtured dreams of a reading revolution especially in the public schools—described today’s scenario as a game-changer, with its impact on the printed word. With 4.2 billion internet users or 54.4 percent of the world’s population having access to digital resources in 2017, this is a revolution akin to the era when the invention of the printing press made books available to a larger audience.
Luistro quotes The New York Times (NYT) columnist Thomas Friedman about this state of affairs, the fourth industrial revolution: “And so it came to pass that in the winter of 2016 the world hit a tipping point … when we realized that a critical mass of our lives and work had shifted away from the terrestrial world to a realm known as ‘cyberspace.’”
It is a realm where we are all connected, yet no one is in charge to set limits, to moderate, to censure. This is a setting that is recognizable to us who are bombarded with fake news from trolls and bots and their ilk. In the midst of this confusion, Luistro asks: Where are the thinkers and the visionaries? “I long to hear the voice of our poets and writers and artists where the nation’s soul resides.”
And when the digital world becomes too much with us, we must take flight, as Luistro does, and “go on self-imposed exile into an island with no Wi-Fi connection and where I can get my downtime from Viber and Instagram and Whatsapp… (to) watch sunsets, smell flowers, sip barako coffee and simply turn the pages of a good read under the shade of a century-old narra.” That is Luistro dreaming out loud his wish for today’s youth, and for himself.
This sentiment is akin to a recent NYT feature piece by Pamela Paul, “Let Children Get Bored Again.” When children say the B word, the adults around them feel initially guilty, as if they were wanting in providing for them. The author wisely reminds us that boring is for boring folks, and there is much to be done. That life is not meant to be a parade of amusements is a jolting reminder for kids, and the burden is on them to make life more interesting.
When boredom sets in, creativity is allowed to happen. There is no choice but to create new worlds when the tedium sets in, “no choice but to drift into an elaborate fantasy realm.” Allow your mind to wander and follow where it leads you. That is why it is said that, while engaged in a mundane activity like taking a shower, eureka moments often occur.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the genius behind the Broadway musicals “In the Heights” and “Hamilton,” says afternoons with nothing to do led to a self-discovery: “…there is nothing better to spur creativity than a blank page or an empty bedroom.”
It is advised that children experience boredom and stay bored, and experience the state as a problem they need to reckon with, instead of a problem that adults around them will have to rescue them from. Even in today’s classrooms, must teachers be meant to look for entertaining ways to teach, avoiding long lectures and presenting learning in bite-size portions?
Coping with boredom prepares the children for the realities of future lives and careers. Many days at work will certainly be boring, even in jobs they love, as people do the inventory or tick senseless lists or answer leftover email. Yes, that sounds boring—but “sounds like work and it sounds like life.” We can all do with a little less excitement in our digital lives—a favor we owe ourselves.
Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected]) is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.
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