Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Are you bored yet?
by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register
(From the July 21, 2011 edition of the Inland Register)
(From the July 21, 2011 edition of the Inland Register)
Classrooms around the nation have been closed for about a month now. So I decided to venture into a mid-summer conversation with a few students from our parish school who attended the social hour after Sunday Mass last weekend. I noticed a certain sadness in the eyes of one particular young man. Upon inquiry about how summer was unfolding for him, he mumbled a complaint about how boring this summer was.
In fact, the summer not only was boring; it was plain b-o-o-r-r-r-ing. The way he drug out the word indicated the painful doldrums he evidently was experiencing.
Some young folks have a way of saying that word in total deflation and disinterest, making it sound as if the end of the world is nigh. It’s as if nothing new existed under the sun to capture their attention or stimulate their imagination. Invitations to participate in this or that activity frequently are met with the same despairing sigh: b-o-o-r-r-r-ing.
Young people do not have a monopoly on boredom. The seeming disinterest and flatness of life that affects them often can be experienced by adults as well. Adults just aren’t as honestly verbal, and, let’s admit it, our resources for chasing away the haunting grip of boredom are more plentiful.
We all get bored from time to time. Boredom is frequently part and parcel of our daily living. Like other aspects of our personal lives, it calls for integration into our spiritual growth and development. Boredom is essentially a state of mind. Perhaps that’s why the listener often has a difficult time relating to the groans of
“b-o-o-r-r-r-ing.” It is impossible to enter into another’s frame of mind to that point where we can make him or her see what might strike us as interesting, worthwhile, or meaningful.
Boredom is the inertia of freedom. (Now, how’s that for a fanciful phrase!) As individual persons we are gifted by God with freedom – that ability to give ourselves to other persons, places, or events. Unfortunately, only you and I can exercise that freedom, making the choice to give of ourselves; no one can make that choice for us.
Boredom, and the frame of mind it represents, keeps us locked in ourselves. Our own petty needs and wants become the measure of our interest and the motivator of our involvement. Despite our complaints about the lack of stimulation in our lives, no amount of stimulation would make any difference. We simply choose (while blaming others) to remain inactive and inert. This inertia is the tendency to remain at rest, and to not reach out beyond our confines or our presumed limitations. We simply choose not to be involved, to not give of ourselves. The complaint about boredom might even contain a prideful dare to others to make us change our minds. (God help anyone who tries!)
We wonder why things are so boring. We wait for stimulation from the outside: a blaring headset, a frightening movie, an unexpected text message, a crash in the asphalt jungle – perhaps an atomic bomb. We seem able only to relate to what rattles our cage, as it were; meaning has to be given to us, and yet whatever anyone offers strikes us as meaningless and boring.
Blaring music and atomic bombs notwithstanding, boredom can only have its cure from within. You and I must choose to give of ourselves, literally to get off our duffs, and become involved in living. There is no cure for boredom except that openness of heart and mind that engages in dialogue with the people, places and events around us.
If excitement is to be measured by the extraordinary and the fantastic, there is no doubt that we live in boring times. The world has pretty much seen all the fireworks. Boredom will not be cured by complaining about its intensity, or seeking its artificial and short-lived satisfactions. If we are chronically bored, we have a problem. We are the problem. We have not become sufficiently mature or capable of giving of ourselves to the world around us in such a way that life becomes stimulating and satisfying.
It is interesting that boredom is one emotional state very rarely (if at all) mentioned in the testimony of our faith tradition. This state of mind is almost entirely absent from Sacred Scripture. People of faith do not get bored. God’s activity is abundant – in people, places and things. The world is filled with newness of life, and the overwhelming invitation to explore its riches and grow in its knowledge. The history of the world – even our small, personal world – is the story of new adventures into unexplored territories.
It is a truism to say that life is what you make it. If we exercise our freedom by giving in to personal inertia, we choose boredom as a way of life. In turn, we run the risk of becoming boring persons. On the other hand, if we choose to engage in the excitement of human living, we will revel in the innumerable experiences of life that God gives us as grace and blessing. In turn, we become sources of life and stimulation to others – lest they get bored.
(Father Savelesky is pastor of Assumption Parish, Spokane; director of the diocese’s Deacon Formation Program; and Moderator of the Curia for the Spokane Diocese.)
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