What makes something “interesting”?

Fair warning: this post is sheer pontificating.

A couple of years ago I was having dinner with a psychologist friend. We were talking about what we wanted to do in the future and suddenly she stopped and said to me “when you talk about the things that you want to do, you use one word a lot – ‘interesting'”.

I have thought often about that conversation since then. I have particularly thought about what it means for something to be “interesting”.

I still don’t know the answer. It can’t be merely that an “interesting” thing is new. Something can be new and thoroughly boring (backyard soil composition analysis, for example).

Perhaps our brains are so increasingly wired to be frenetic and distracted that “interesting” just means “new and sexy and shiny”, in the sense that we think “right, I understand that now, let’s move on”.

But I can’t help but think that it is deeper than that.

I think that perhaps “interesting”, for me, refers to something that is stimulating and also consequential.

It must involve both an engagement of the brain and result in some form of output.

The engagement without the output would be a hollow exercise. Without the output, the engagement is entertainment, not true interest

(or “meaningless!” As the author of Ecclesiastes darkly put it)

So – perhaps the word I should really be using rather than “interesting” is “meaningful”.

(Everything must be meaningful? My Gen Y tendencies are leaking through here)

In a work context, something is “interesting” if it combines problem solving (engagement) with a resolution (output). At home, it might be conversation (engagement) that and moves life or relationship forward (output).

In down time, it might even be a video game stimulating the brain (engagement), giving one a different sense of self (output). Interesting study on this here.

…another distinct possibility is that I am overthinking this, and an interesting life is just one consisting of stimulating conversation over good wine with smart people (preferably without insufferable lawyers trying to define everything).

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