ABC of Human Nature: Angst, Boredom, Creativity


Dr Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

24 Dec 2018 – Human beings are creative unlike most animals (except a few) that survive on instinct. Creativity takes several forms — music, dance, cooking, education, sports, politics, reading/writing, mountaineering, science and technology, etc. to name a few genres in which humans act, spend time and often excel.

But what boosts creativity — the urge to do something beyond living, surviving? Most animals, fish, rodents also survive by eating, reproducing their young ones and acting as per instinct. Human beings obviously act and create in various ways. But what boosts the urge to do something beyond their mere survival, is often boredom or inactivity.

Boredom can be of two different types — it can be a state of hopelessness and listless if a person is poor, hungry, miserable. Another form is positive and produces some creditable outcomes as listed above. If a person is doing nothing, just thinking and wondering, perhaps meditating about the world or religion or humanity, this state of being may result in a positive outcome in diverse ways. Such a condition may lead to a person dancing, singing, climbing mountains, looking at the stars or wondering about the natural phenomena taking place in the world.

Newton saw an apple falling from a tree and wondered about its cause — he discovered the concept of gravity. Darwin worked on the concept of Evolution of Species. Einstein wondered what would happen if he could travel with the speed of light — this resulted in his invention of relativity and mass energy relationship. Marie Curie the Polish French scientist worked tirelessly to discover radioactivity and won two Nobel prizes – in Physics and Chemistry.

In prehistoric times, scholars of India observed the changing seasons — spring, summer, fall, winter and looked at the waxing, waning of the moon, and thereby came up with the concept of revolution of the Earth around the Sun and the Moon around the Earth and predicted the occurrence of eclipses.

Other people who like reading/ writing and are attracted to languages produce outstanding books, poems; they also write about the essence of language itself. The world has produced hundreds of litterateurs — Aristotle, Plato, Goethe, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Gide, Kawabata (Japanese Nobel Prize winner) Rabindranath Tagore (from India) and so many others. India produced epics such as Vedas, Upanishads through the works of Vyas, Kalidasa, Panini to name a few. Aryabhatta was a renowned Indian mathematician who is credited with the invention of zero.

I am not mentioning names of other outstanding men and women who excelled in several spheres.

What do we see today in many parts of the world especially the affluent people, for whiling away their time and to keep busy?

Apart from activities such as games, horse races, drinking in roadside cafes, people are busy with their smart phones. These tiny gadgets have virtually captivated people especially the younger ones, who seem to be busy for almost half of their waking hours. One can play, watch breaking news, get WhatsApp messages, listen to classical music, receive emails, etc. apart from conversing with these smart phones. They are so involved with these gadgets that they ignore their neighbours while traveling on trains or busses; they are often involved in accidents since they don’t watch their steps while walking.

Yes they get around their loneliness and boredom but create angst instead. Some people complain that if they have to talk to their teenage children living in their homes, they have to use the medium of a smartphone to converse with them.

So who or what is to blame for the isolation and loneliness that people especially the elderly are victims of — economic systems, technology or the nature of human evolution? If we did not experience this isolation, would we be able to be creative, to meditate, and to produce works of art, science, and religiosity? Not likely; but there is no clear answer to this riddle. Let individuals find their own answers, their own paths.


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 24 Dec 2018.

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