Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Creative Boredom

In 1969, Ursula Le Guin wrote, "When action grows unprofitable, gather information; when information grows unprofitable, sleep." I realise that I've always believed implicitly in this.

What I think is that many of the young people I've met — by 'young', I mean roughly anyone born around 1984 or later — are not good at coping with boredom. They find it hard to detect when action grows unprofitable, are bad at (or disinclined toward) gathering information, and are hopeless at tactical sleeping.

I used to fall into a sleep-like reverie in meetings, a bit like that of Tolkien's Middle-Earth elves. My former boss once asked, "Are you getting enough sleep? You keep falling asleep at my meetings."

I replied, "My brain has learnt to go into sleep mode whenever it's not being stimulated and I can't do anything about it."

Which brings me to Savielly Tartakower (the original Professor X!) and his distinction between tactics and strategy. The man who once said, "It is always better to sacrifice your opponent's men," also said, "Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do. Strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do."

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