One Thing I Learned from The Breakfast Club
When was the last time you were bored?
You probably haven’t been truly bored in a long time, potentially months, or even years. Boredom has been eradicated from our culture. Smart phones, games, constant communication, Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, Buzzfeed, Youtube. All of these things are designed to take your attention away from boredom. All of these avenues (and more) portray boredom as wrong and valueless. And the truth is, we all believe that boredom isn’t a good thing, and we don’t see the value in straight-up, purely raw, unadulterated boredom.
I agreed with this notion of boredom...
...until I watched The Breakfast Club.
The Breakfast Club is an 80’s movie about five teenagers from different walks of life who all must endure a Saturday detention together. After spending 8 hour together, they discover how vastly different they are from each other, but also discover the similarities in their issues. This discovery would not have been possible without one thing: boredom.
The amount of boredom displayed in this movie is probably more then Hollywood has ever, and will ever, display in a movie. And that’s what makes it so good! Imagining the amount of boredom involved in a Saturday detention even makes me squirm and reach for my phone. But if you clear the table and look at the bottom line of the film, you see an incredible lesson learned from boredom.
Since these five high school students have nothing to do in their day but annoy the principle, pick fights with each other, and smoke weed, they eventually get to a part in their discussion that goes much deeper than the audience anticipated they’d go.
At one point, Andrew, the jock, says, “We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.” to which the princess, Claire, asks, “How are you bizarre?” and without skipping a beat, the outcast, Allison, blurts out, “Can’t think for himself.” Andrew admits, “She’s right.”
What’s so significant about this scene, and the dialogue that occurs during it? And how does it connect to boredom?
I have a few thoughts, and I think you’ll find yourself agreeing with them:
Boredom leads to contemplation
With nothing to distract, refocus on, or draw your attention to, thinking deeply about your life inevitably happens, as it did in the film. Without room for contemplation, we tend to run toward the same problems we experienced in our past, avoid dealing with certain feelings, or simply cover up things that make us uncomfortable. In the film, every character had nothing to resort to except to talk about their issues. I believe boredom led them to that crucial point of thinking deeply about the choices they were making, and if these choices were necessary to live a great life.
Boredom provides healing
When you have nothing else to focus on but your issues, it’s hard to avoid making some necessary changes. Boredom allows room for you to think through what you need to start, stop, or continue doing in life. It’s amazing the amount of healing and relief that simply doing nothing can give. It slows your brain down, empties out unnecessary thoughts, and gives you better perspective. You can see this happening to every character in The Breakfast Club.
Boredom is calming
Netflix, Buzzfeed, Facebook. All of these products are designed to keep your brain moving fast, put your emotions on a roller coaster, and give you one more thing to click on. In the mess of these and many more distractions, our lives naturally feel rushed and out of control. With so many options to pick from to combat boredom, we’ll never have to be bored again!
But that’s the problem: we need boredom!
Boredom allows your brain to relax, regain proper perspective, and rest. Without rest, you’ll be out of control. When’s the last time you simply sat out on your front porch without a book, cell phone, or laptop and simply did nothing? How did it feel? If you put boredom into practice on a regular basis, you’ll experience it’s calming effects.
Boredom promotes learning
No, Facebook is not teaching you anything except fake news, ninja-stalking skills, and mindlessness, which is the opposite of boredom. The more distracted we are, the less we learn.
Travel back to the 1600’s, when colonists were arriving at America for a fresh start and to escape religious persecution. These people didn’t have smart phones, Netflix, Instagram, or Facebook. They didn’t have libraries filled with books, or malls packed with stores. They simply had each other, some precious belongings, and the New World. What we find in early writings and stories of colonists, and even people living in the early 1800’s, is a profound sense of intellect and vocabulary. These people had nothing to occupy their free time except reading, conversations, or meditation. They had nothing better to do then to learn, and this learning separates us from them in significant ways. Simply pick up a book written by one of the Founding Fathers of America and you’ll have trouble understanding what they’re writing. Why? Because they have incredible vocabulary and intellection honed through years of quiet contemplation and boredom. What we learn from them is simple: boredom is a great teacher.
Will you be bored?
The Breakfast Club is a great movie with a lot of depth. The depths it dives to wouldn’t be achieved without the protagonist of the story: boredom. If we can learn and respect the wisdom boredom teaches, we’ll find ourselves much healthier today than we were yesterday.
To get started, get out into nature or plop yourself down on your back deck, and simply exist without devices or reading material. After allowing boredom into your life for a while, you’ll start to see the real benefits of doing nothing in order to gain understanding of many things.