The other night, while I watched lightning dance wildly among the clouds over
Montana's Little Bitterroot Lake, a young man informed me that he was bored. His
was an unjust boredom, I replied. Never have we had so many things to do and
witness and ponder, and never have we been so bored.
Boredom is relative. One can find great joy and fulfillment in a long afternoon
of porch sitting. One can be bored at the task of skydiving or rock climbing.
It's what is in the mind that counts.
July is National Anti-Boredom Month. It is a worthy war, but we tend to make
matters worse when we set out to solve boredom. An example of this failure is
the internet, which seeks to satiate the bored and idle amongst us.
GotBoredom.com and Bored.com feature links to games and pictures and movies.
CollegeBoredom.com is "helping fight the war against boredom" by
publishing "random" quotes, "random" Instant Message away
messages, and other randomness. The Boredom Network includes websites dedicated
to High School Boredom, Work Boredom, Boredom Ville, Boredom Games, The Boredom
Times, and Bored Sh**less.
One might suppose that all of the technology and all of the information and all
of the busyness and all of the opportunities of our age would preclude boredom.
In fact it promotes boredom.
Our society tells us that we need stuff to do, but sometimes we do so much stuff
and have so much stuff that we don't have any time to think about all the
important stuff. It is quite possible that the busiest man alive is the most
Throwing more activities at the problem is not the solution. The solution is
less busyness and less clutter. For it has become difficult to see the simple,
lasting things for all the bright and gaudy things. We have forgotten that the
things of the spirit, and in our vain attempt to celebrate the things of the
flesh, we miss out on what is truly exciting and exhilarating.
Take my hometown, Puyallup, Washington. It's home of the nation's fifth largest
Fair and year-round activities at the Western Washington Fairgrounds. A river
cuts through the valley, there's dozens of parks for recreation, nearby lakes
and a creek system. There's a gigantic mall on the South Hill, thousands of
youth work opportunities and hundreds of choices of after-school activities,
sports, and clubs. Seattle and Tacoma are nearby, Mount Rainier looms over the
city, the Puyallup River empties into the vast waters of the Puget Sound. And
there are the things common to anyplace, USA: television, internet, radio,
books, movies, cars, art, music, food, schools, churches, people.
"Puyallup can be fun, but it can be boring," a 13-year old girl told
the Seattle Times recently regarding my hometown. Puyallup's skating rink asks
on it's website, "Too boring? Come inside to play!" A report about the
quality of life for youth in my town reveals, "Many of the teenage youth
described feeling bored."
Boredom is not about circumstances; it is about how we misjudge our
circumstances. Boredom is not the consequence of an event; it is a depraved
state of mind.
"Mankind can endure anything but boredom," warned Russell Kirk, noting
that late Rome, like modern America, was bored. By the Fourth Century, the Roman
Empire had become "an empire in which many felt that life no longer was
Life is not worth living when we forget that we are dying. Only when we know
that we are dying can we live, and only when we know that we are spiritually
dead can we live eternally. But we blindly assume ourselves to be alive, we
surround ourselves with things to see and hear and do, we forget God, and so we
make life not worth living.
Boredom is borne of sloth, the seventh deadly sin. Men and nations fall from
that sin, says Solomon. "The hand of the diligent will rule, but the lazy
man will be put to forced labor."
There's still a lot of hard work out there, but hard work without meaning can be
great folly. Mothers, farmers, teachers, priests, soldiers and builders - these
are worthy occupations. Traders and gamblers, bureaucrats and bums, internet
merchants and porn shop workers - these lack the intrinsic value of the first
A plethora of non-essential jobs indicate that economic prosperity is on the
rise, but in a spiritual sense, our poverty is deep. We live for the flesh, but
the flesh does not satisfy, so we live for the next flesh. It's at 5:00, or it's
on the weekend, or it's on the next vacation.
Our needs are met, so we work for leisure. It doesn't always occur to us that
work should be a fulfilling and dignifying endeavor, like life itself ought to
Boredom is of no advantage to those of us who seek the renewal of our
civilization. Boredom is the evil that opposes the command of Paul to
"redeem the time, because the days are evil." As Jesus taught, we must
work "while it is day; the night is coming when no one can
Hans Zeiger is a student at Hillsdale College and president of the
Scout Honor Coalition. www.hanszeiger.com
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