A Fascination With Boredom

This article is by Ed Welch and published by CCEF

 

“I’m bored.” These are loaded words.

“Only boring people get bored.”

I think my wife and I tried that motto at one point with our children when they were young, but it was an ineffective and, yes, a boring response to their boredom. So we began to consider the phenomenon more carefully. I even took a look at the definitive academic work on boredom, Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind, by Patricia Spacks (1995), which wasn’t boring.

There are at least three different types of “boring.” One is actually a very good thing, at least I am committed to that interpretation because I have been called boring by someone very close to me. It means predictable, steady – traits, from my perspective, that are close to the very heart of godliness! It should be wonderfully soothing to my spouse that I get the same meal at our favorite restaurant and prefer to stick with a good thing when I find it. But we are still working on our shared interpretation of this one.

Another type of boredom has been called micro-boredom. Look on any I-phone and you will find it: hundreds of songs and dozens of apps that fill all potential space. I saw it on a recent episode of “The Office” when a quick survey of the room showed one person playing solitaire on his computer, another searching the web for recipes, another trying to figure out how to trick Dwight . . . . We love to be amused, or distracted. This is certainly worthy of biblical consideration.

The third type might connect to the second, but it deserves its own treatment. I have heard it called macro-boredom. It overlaps with depression, and it truly is a serious matter. It is one of the psychological consequences of a functionally God-less world. Take away the personal center of the universe and everything becomes “whatever.” All life is trivialized. Nothing is more important than anything else. Internet games and Pandora mixes are no different than knowing and enjoying another person. Nothing has gravitas.

With this in mind, the Purpose-Driven genre stands out as down right prescient. Purpose means that there is a reason to get up in the morning and some things are especially important, and, as long as human beings are alive we prefer purpose over life being globally trivial. Of course, if purpose becomes a means of self-fulfillment, it too will become “whatever.”

Life lived for God’s glory can sound like a cliché, or, more accurately, it can be words without content because we don’t talk about glory in everyday conversation, but what a meaningful contrast to macro-boredom! “Why bother?” could creep up on us all without it.

A thought: I have been suggesting that people write purpose-statements. This is basically taking “I am not my own I have been bought with a price” and making it more concrete. I am even writing out some of my own (we don’t have to settle for just one expression of a purpose-statement). It will, no doubt, make me more exciting.

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