"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Boredom—Gateway to the Darkness or the Light?

By Micky Wolf
Boredom: in a state of being weary and restless through lack of interest.
(Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Repetitive tasks, familiar commutes, routine appointments or meetings on the calendar, the same faces and voices in our days—all can contribute to that sense of weariness and restlessness.  

And yet, as each day passes, I’m more and more convinced there is something much darker beneath the simple phrase “I’m bored.”

Seems to me the boredom we encounter these days is characterized by attitudes and behaviors we could not have foreseen, as recently as a decade or two ago. Why?  Too many of our strategies and tactics for dealing with being bored are loaded with unpredictable, potentially lethal consequences.

Back when…

Back in the dark ages of the 19th and 20th centuries, people had an endless list of job and home responsibilities. Dawn to dusk laboring (field, factory, or office) was the lot of most families. It is also true present day families have plenty to keep them busy as well.

So, what’s the difference?

In grandma’s day, having time to get bored was not a concept. Letting off steam was a more common idea, which meant kids ran around outdoors, regardless of the season. The grown-ups often rested or relaxed by reading books and newspapers, chatting with the neighbors, or tending to the never-ending piles of clothing or tools in need of repair.

Eventually, sitting in front of the television became the way everyone could focus on something besides work.

Along came…

And then, slowly but surely, one by one, the tools and toys of a new age began to materialize. The ways to distract oneself or divert our attention began to impact our collective psyche. We began to realize we didn’t have to wait for much of anything—unless, to our great dismay, we found ourselves stuck in traffic or in a line at the checkout.

What we are now discovering is how attached we have become to an almost insatiable desire for immediate (or sooner) gratification.  We want “it” now. Little or no waiting, thank you.

With the availability of each new appliance, mode of communication, and mass production of everything from soup to skyscrapers, said “it” can be in our hands or homes before we have barely clicked on the ‘place order button’ or fired off a brief text.

In the meantime, we hardly know what to do with ourselves until the “it” arrives on our doorstep.

The joy and gift of anticipation…

In our present culture of want-it-get-it, we have lost the meaning of all things in due time and season. It seems our thinking and attitudes have become so focused on the now part, we have lost sight of the value of the journey. As a result, boredom sets in. Sadly, this mentality can permeate our religious gatherings as well. God, I’m here. I need an answer, now. I need a consolation, now.

Boredom is no fun. It’s well—empty. Blank. No excitement. No chills, thrills, or palpitations of any kind. We are seriously restless and restlessly uninterested in spending a single moment in this no-action-activity-state of being. It is simply existing, an impatient waiting for the next thing to happen.

The gateway opens…

And therein, the danger. In our state of boredom, we decide to do something, make something happen, anything to not feel the nothingness. Given our desperation to escape, we make a poor choice, an unloving choice, a choice that too often ends in sin.

Unaware, or resistant to the idea the still small voice of God may desire to speak to us through how we are thinking and feeling when we are bored, we look around for a way to alleviate the discomfort. Miserable, we are now susceptible to medicating ourselves in some manner or form to obtain relief. Drugs? Sex? Shopping? Pornography? Gossip? Food? All of it—often a mere reach from the ends of our fingertips.

It would be a misnomer to suggest every occasion of sinful behavior is rooted in being bored. Yet, pause for a moment and ponder those occasions when you have fallen off the good path, the one marked by choices of loving and serving God and others. How were you feeling, what were you thinking, in the moment before the stumble?

Being bored in itself is not a sin. However, when we allow our state of weariness, restlessness and lack of interest drive our choices to seek relief, we may well end up in a mess of self-engineered pain and unnecessary suffering. When it is all said and done, maybe the real explanation for being bored has much more to do with our stubbornness and pursuit of our personal expectations and agendas as anything else.

Darkness or light…

We don’t have to die physically to know what it feels like to be dead on the inside. Our soul and spirit are listless. When we allow ourselves to wallow in boredom, parts of us succumb to that darkness, maybe even give up.

A great antidote to moving out of the weariness and restlessness is to focus on the Light and the Truth—begin by thanking God for what you do have. For most of us, that means people who care about us, a roof over our head, clothes on our back, and food in our bellies. Having a heart of gratitude is more than a sweet phrase on a greeting card; it is a foundational attitude for anyone who claims to be a Christ-follower.

Thankfully, we know being bored is not a permanent condition. In fact, it may be a blessing in disguise. How so? God may be hoping to get our attention by showing us our lack of interest means it’s time to make a choice that focuses on His desires, His will for our life. In fact, we may eventually discover that being weary and restless is a wake-up call to pay more attention to the Divine Will, rather than the my will.

What does being bored mean to me?

How do I feel, what am I thinking, when I realize I’m bored?

Do I need to ask God to help me be more patient?

Is it possible God desires to speak to me through boredom?

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