The Ins And Outs Of Ennui– How A Drunken IQ Test Can Show You That Being Bored Is Useful
Boredom. It comes to us all from time to time. To some more than to others, but we are all hit by it occasionally, no matter how busy we attempt to keep ourselves. If you are struck by a sudden attack of boredom and no amount of favourite books or stimulating activities can shift it, there is no need to panic. There is one sure fire way of lifting that veil of lethargy. Get drunk.
Alcohol is like kryptonite to boredom. Under the blowtorch of getting pissed, boredom melts away like a snowman in a tropical rainstorm. Though getting drunk won’t stop you from getting maudlin. In fact, if you drink enough, the maudlin stage is pretty much inevitable. Practically compulsory.
So, though you might feel a bit down about the mess you’ve made of your life or start to get a bit mushy at the memory of your long departed first pet, it won’t occur to you that you have nothing interesting to do. With enough booze on board, you boredom threshold becomes so elevated that nothing can possibly make the leap over the top of it.
Have you ever wondered why this is? Ever wondered why, when you are drunk, you will cheerfully stay up until Silly O’Clock in the morning watching television programs which would normally have you reaching for the remote control as soon as they reared their ugly heads on your TV screen? Why you get the sudden urge to dig out your shameful copy of “Carry On Columbus” and optimistically persevere with it in the vain hope that it won’t be totally shit this time?
The answer is laughably simple. When you are drunk, you are stupid and stupid people are very easily entertained. The success of programs such as X Factor is patent proof of this fact.
To take this principle to its extreme conclusion, I’m going to use the example of my cat. My cat, much as I love him, is as dumb as a box of rocks. He’s stupid even for a cat. Thicker than pig shit on a frosty morning. He thinks he’s a dog for one thing. Follows you around like a dog. Offers his paw to get attention like a dog. You know that thing that dogs like when pretend to use their ribcage as a pair of bongo drums? My cat loves that. He’s the least intelligent sentient being I have ever encountered.
He’s really fucking happy though. He purrs all of the time, even when absolutely nothing is happening. He doesn’t have a long enough attention span to be bored in. That’s what happens to you when you get drunk. You turn into my stupid cat. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but not as much of one as you might think.
Have you any idea exactly how stupid drinking makes you? I do, because I did a scientific experiment to find out.
I performed this experiment way back in 2001. The BBC, in association with MENSA, did a television program called “Test The Nation”. The aim was to get as many people as possible to test their IQ simultaneously. There was a series of questions, with set times allowed to answer them, followed by a discussion session and then the answers. You marked your answers and then scored your IQ according to the scale presented on the program. So far, so nerdy.
I decided I wanted to do the test, but also wanted to give myself a handicap. I happened to know the highest score I’d ever achieved in an IQ test and thought it might be interesting to compare “drunk me” to “top IQ form me”. The results were quite startling.
I watched the program and answered the questions in the allotted time, all the while consuming liberal amounts of Stella Artois. When I was finished, I pressed record on my VCR – this was back in 2001 remember – watched something else and then went to bed.
The following morning, I had my breakfast, watched a bit more telly and waited for my hangover to subside. Then, confident that I was fully alert and sober, I played the tape from the previous night and marked my answers.
Now, I was fully prepared for the fact that eight cans of wife beater would have shaved a fair few points off my all-time best IQ score. What I wasn’t prepared for was the fact that it didn’t so much shave points off my score as decapitate it. Sixty five points, that was the difference. Sixty five points. That’s the IQ of a really intelligent dog. Basically, over the course of the evening, Lassie had sprung out of my cranium and gone off to rescue Grandpa from down the well, leaving me dribbling onto my answer sheet and staring blankly at my TV screen.
So what did this experiment teach me? It’s taught me the value of boredom. There are times when you need to be running around doing things or improving your mind. But if your brain is insisting on boredom and resisting all attempts to the contrary, go with it. Your mind needs the odd spell of wakeful rest, not just sleep. Being bored is a time for contemplation and boosting your creativity. It’s bit like a Giles cartoon. Giles was famous for the beautiful snow effects in his winter cartoons. And what were those beautiful snow effects? Blank paper. Merely the absence of ink.
Sometimes the times when you do nothing are just as important as the times you do a lot. Next time you are bored of an evening, don’t reach for a beer and watch mindless television. Just sit quietly alone with your brain and see what it comes up with. You never know, it might surprise you. Trust me, it’s sound advice. I might even follow it myself one day.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2014