A British computer scientist wanted to determine which day was the most boring day in the 20th Century. So he fed 300 million facts into his computer and soon he got his answer: April 11, 1954.
On that day, nothing important happened, he said. No famous person was born, no famous person died, no war broke out, no natural disaster occurred. It was a boring day—at least according to the facts the scientist fed into his computer. (I personally object to his conclusion. My older brother John turned 13 on April 11, 1954. That day was far from boring for him!)
Boredom is a very real problem for some us of. Remember when you were a kid and you went complaining to your mother or father, “I’m bored!” You were hoping they’d come up with something exciting for you to do. Instead my mother often said, “I have a few chores you could do if you’re bored.” Needless to say, I got un-bored in a flash!
Boredom, ironically, can be caused by over stimulation. In our age, we are constantly bombarded with all kinds of sights and sounds from TV, radio, music, movies, video games, cellphones, the Internet. Such stimulation can give us unrealistic expectations that life should be exciting every single minute. And if it isn’t, something’s wrong.
Another cause for boredom may be this: we are too self-focused. The problem isn’t out there with life; it’s inside of us. We’ve become so focused on ourselves we can’t even begin to see the beauty and wonder of ordinary life–let alone the needs of people all around us.
So what can we do when we find ourselves bored? First we can remain faithful to our ordinary duties and responsibilities—which can often be boring. One thing that helps me, is to look beyond the task at hand to the people I am doing the task for—whether it’s cleaning the kitchen, cooking a meal, or writing my blog. Other routine tasks include things like attending a meeting, writing a report for work, taking care of a customer or client, studying for a test, shoveling snow, correcting homework papers, running to the store for a prescription, getting an oil change. The task itself may be ordinary and even boring; but the love with which we do the task and the people we are doing it for makes the task beautiful and significant.
A second way to deal with boredom is related to the first: find someone who needs help. We don’t have to look far. We can read the parish bulletin or the local newspaper for volunteering opportunities. Or we can reach out to someone who has lost a loved one, is ill, is overworked, or is elderly. People needing our help are in our own neighborhoods. Some are even in our own families. Serving others is one way to banish boredom.
Another way we can deal with boredom is to reflect on it. Might it be a nudge from the Holy Spirit to change something in our life? Perhaps God is asking us to shake off our old way of doing things and to try something new. The Danish philosopher, theologian, and poet Soren Kierkegaard said something interesting about boredom: “Boredom is…the despairing refusal to be oneself.” Perhaps our boredom can be God calling us beyond the person we are to the new person we could be!
Let us conclude this reflection with a short prayer:
God of Love, today is another day. Let me detect the beauty and wonder in this day, a day I have never lived before, a day that will never be again. Keep me faithful to my personal responsibilities. Help me to see beyond my routine tasks to the people I am doing them for. And when I am tempted to be too focused on myself, break me out of my cocoon of self-preoccupation so that I see the people around me who need my help. And if my boredom lingers, help me to determine if it is your Spirit, Dear God, who is nudging me to let go of my old self to become a new and better version of who I am. I ask these things of you, Dear One, believing you are never bored with me—and you will never grow weary of loving me. Amen.
Are you ever bored? If so, what do you do about it?
NOTE: If you did not take the survey last week, I’m attaching it below again. As I said last week, I would like some feedback on my blog. The survey should take only about 5 minutes. The deadline is January 31, 2014. One lucky person (chosen randomly) will receive one of my books just for filling out the survey! Thank you!