The Case for Boredom
© Meagan Westerberg Henao and Henao Contemporary Center
I tagged along on one of Jose's recent business trips – a quick (think: less than 24 hours) jaunt down to Coral Springs to meet with an artist. While a little rushed, it was a delightful break from the, sometimes monotonous, routine of life with two small kids. After Jose finished his meeting and blessed with beautiful weather, we spent a few hours eating and drinking our way around Downtown Boca - an area that despite my time living in South Florida, I had not spent much time exploring. The day ended with a chance opportunity to view a collection of Andy Warhol's acclaimed work in person, at the Boca Museum of Art. The trip had far exceeded the, almost non-existent, expectations I had of it, and I found myself feeling full with gratitude as we headed home.
Interestingly enough, what has stuck with me most about this experience was not the food, the great company of my husband, or gaining a new appreciation for Warhol's meticulous work, but was a comment that was made by the artist. Remember, meeting with an artist was the sole reason for this adventure. It's important also that I clarify that the artist we were meeting was not just any artist. We were meeting with Steven Assael. A man who, if you were to do a quick Google search of, would bring up statements like: "An American painter recognized nationally as one of the leading representational figurative artists of his generation" (Wikipedia). In addition to praises of his work: "…Assael's canvases radiate mastery and authenticity of purpose" (Huffington Post). To say that he is talented is an insult to his talent, and even more so he is incredibly easy to talk to and down to earth.
We met for breakfast and were able to chat a bit. I knew that he had started drawing before the age of 10, and was curious as to what motivated a boy of such a young age to pursue drawing. Steven shared with me that he was from a typical working class family, his mother a seamstress, and his father a merchant. He would go to work with his father, who had a fruit stand, and would watch the people as they made their way through the market. Quite simply, Steven was bored. So, he drew them.
I am not sure what I was expecting him to say. I was just curious, mostly, yet I was surprised by his answer and its simplicity. He was a kid, who was bored, so he began drawing. I wondered if Steven had been at that fruit stand, now in 2016, would he have picked up the pencil? Would he have even noticed the people, let alone been intrigued enough by them to draw them? Would he, instead, have had his face buried in a movie, a game of Minecraft, or in some educational program on a tablet of sorts? We are so quick to squelch the boredom that might plague our children today, and of course, we all know what happens with idle hands. But, at what cost?
Like most parents, I grapple with the pros and cons of screen time or the effects of media on our children's lives. We do the best we can to ensure our children live balanced lives. I am intrigued, however, by what our kids are capable of when we leave them with idle minds. I urge us not hear the statement "I am bored" as a problem for us as parents to fix, but as a possibility of what they can do in the face of their boredom. Next time we hear the phrase "I'm bored," I challenge us to bestow some Betty Draper Wisdom on our entertainment challenged offspring: "Only boring people are bored" – Betty Draper.