Boredom, it seems to me, is a signal, an alarm. It means more than itself. Just as a fever is the body’s way of saying we’re full of internal contradictions—we aren’t sick because of the fever; the fever is explaining that we’re sick for some other reason—so boredom is ringing a bell on a sort of psychic thermostat or smoke detector. The brain’s in trouble, and the trouble isn’t boredom. We can shop around for another distraction, or we can think about what’s wrong.

John Leonard, “The Sweet Science”, in Private Lives in the Imperial City