“I’m bored!” I remember saying this to my mother growing up. She would tell us to go out and play or find a game while dad would say he would give us some work to do.
Boredom. Many of us are feeling its sense of malaise and emptiness at this time. We’re blocked from much of the activity that we like to do—that gives us meaning. Sometimes I wonder if we are still bored underneath some of the activity that we do. This is what I would call seeking distraction—to be distracted by something that prevents us from feeling our boredom. Right now, we’ve lost many of our distractions that shield us from our boredom. Boredom, the word, comes from a German word, meaning long and drawn out, and English for hollowed out. We have also lost activities where the Spirit has been bound with us in meaningful ways.
When I am bored, which has usually never been a problem until lately, it means that my center or core of my being isn’t holding and this manifests itself in an inner restlessness or ennui (annoying sense of being “stuck”). Our spirits are seeking something with which to engage in chronological time. It is at this point where we come to a fork in the road. We can see to listen to the boredom and discover that which we really desire. Or we can seek a distraction so that we can escape it. We can feel boredom living in our body. It is prudent that we learn to connect to the uncomfortable feeling of boredom, listen to it and sit with it so that we may receive the visitation of the angel: “Hail O favored one, the Lord is with you.” If you think about it, does it make more sense to run away from an angel or run toward it? Of course, our minds struggle to comprehend how the perceived “negative” boredom might be at the same time a visitation from an angel.
Ultimately, you and I both know where I am going with this. Ultimately, “our souls are restless until they rest in thee” (Augustine). When I allow Eternity (Kairos) to bond with me in chronological time, only then will I know where I am being directed to join with another or an activity where the Spirit and my spirit can dwell together. Unless our activity is directed from the soul within, we’re usually self-referencing.
None of us truly listens for our voice and the Voice all the time and will subconsciously choose distractions to seek symptomatic pain relief. Media (TV, tablets and phones) is the current drug that we “hook” into to avoid boredom’s cry out for us to connect to it and listen for what we truly need. In a sense, boredom is a gift of the Holy Spirit calling us to wake up and show up. It’s times like these when the usual venues of activity, whether meaningful or escapist, where we are called to go deeper into our soul where our boredom cries out for conscious contact with God—the Eternal who meets us in the here and now of wherever we are.
So in your boredom, STOP! Don’t “get busy” with work or seeking fun. Don’t pull out the phone, tablet or the remote to the TV. Sit with your boredom. Write about it, share it with a friend except that your friend won’t have “your” answer for you—you’ll still have to sit and listen for the direction to come to you.
You can tell if your activity is either distraction oriented or focused oriented. When we have chosen distraction, after the activity is over, we are still restless. If we have connected to our boredom and listened, heard the “still small Voice” (I Kings 17), we will experience the stillness and serenity of the Ineffable One.
Boredom is like a gift from God. Open it.
We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light.
-Hildegard of Bingen
Boredom leads us to a fork in the road…