On boredom, creativity, and the not-so-necessary
There have been a number of articles and books in recent years with this same title. I suppose copy-write laws do not apply to titles. So here is another, though much briefer (for those who get bored).
I have been known to tell my children (three marvelously curious boys) that “boredom is a sin” for those of us who live in God’s endlessly extraordinary universe of people, places, creatures, and things of every size, shape, and color imaginable. Yet, I have learned a qualification to this sentiment from some of these recent publications, that boredom can actually be a good, since “downtime” with nothing to do is a necessary counter-balance to the frenetic-(fanatical)-fever-pitch over-scheduling of our lives and our childrens’, many of whom have never had the delicious languidity of a summer day laying in the hay or along a brook with a good book, day-dreaming in leisure of very little that may be deemed “matters of consequence” by those mostly concerned with what-is-necessary. Deprived of the gift of boredom, and tethered to the ever-present-absent, and virtual (not-real), in-iverse of the NET, we lose the moment of imagination and creativity. As Richard Simon quotes Paul Persal, that in worshipping “Nowism” we have “an addiction to technology and the instantaneous response, the disconnection from the natural world, the final triumph of consumerism and the desperate longing for more and more and more.” And as Richard Winter quotes Mary Pipher,
“Most real life is rather quiet and routine. Most pleasures – a hot shower, a sunset, a bowl of good soup or a good book. Television suggests that life is high drama, love, and sex. TV families are radically different from real families. Things happen much faster to them. On television things that are not visually interesting, such as thinking, reading, and talking, are ignored. Activities such as housework, fund-raising and teaching children to read are vastly underreported. Instead of ennobling ordinary experiences, television suggests that they are not of sufficient interest to document.”
Boredom, all the same, can be related to Sloth in its “refusal to delight, a loss of wonder and a worship of numbness.” This is the side of boredom that we parents fear, that it can become a “Slough of Despond” (a swamp of despair). So, we compel them anxiously: “Don’t Just Sit There, Do something!” Yet, we must admit, at that moment we may have killed off their innate ability to imagine in their quietude and solitude, and to begin to create out of their boredom something beautiful and lasting in their God-given drive to respond in wonder and worship of our awesome Creator, in awe at all that is, and at what can and could be . . . at what is still possible.
As Winter says further,
“In God’s creation we can find so much to take an interest in, but it takes effort and self-discipline for us to stop long enough to look and marvel at the structure of a flower or a leaf, to wonder how long it took a mountain to form, to see reflections in the smallest puddle, to watch the wind blowing seeds from a flower, to want to know what each snowflake looks like, to marvel that our nails and hair and skin are constantly growing, to learn the names of birds and trees or to learn to listen to bird songs. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem, ‘Aurora, Seventh Book,’ expresses something of this:
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes–
The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.”
And so, to do my part, I will be joining the Slow Food Movement, and, if they will have me, the Slow City Movement . . . to better learn the lessons of discipline in my boredoms, and the gift of leisure in God’s Sabbath design of things that ironically enables us to fulfill our vocations. The days of rest being made for us, and not us for them . . . as Jesus tried repeatedly to convince the Pharisees; always concerned with matters of great consequence they could see nothing good in Jesus feeding his disciples from the fields on a languid summer afternoon, nor with the opening of the eyes of the blind (and the bored) so that they can praise him in wonder at his glory and love.
In contrast to these sentiments, revivalist-mountain-top-experientialist-culture, ever tries to find more exciting and glamorous ways to get the bored, young people “pumped up” and thrilled that they are in the middle of something BIG that God is doing: the larger the crowd the better, the more hip and appealing the speaker the better, the more loud the music and moving the crescendo of noise the more certain God is REALLY present . . . the more exotic the mission . . . Yet, contrarily, “The work of ministry is not so much about finding new, tantalizing ways to make people excited about Jesus, but about the timeless rituals that shape their hearts.” It is in the seemingly insignificant liturgies of our daily life of loving and serving and praying and learning and working, in leisure and play, with regular folk, that we must walk the talk of faith in the valleys of the ordinary, where Christ is Lord of every (extraordinary) atom that sustains our oftentimes not-so-glamorous and boring lives.
 Richard Simon, “Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There,” Family therapy Networker 23, no 1 (1999): 36.
 Richard Winter, Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment: Rediscovering Passion & Wonder, Downers Grove: IVP, 2002, p. 116.
 Winter, Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment, p. 120.
 Winter, Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment, p. 124.
 Daniel Darling, “Boring Church Services Changed My Life,” Christianity Today Pastors, February 2017, accessed on July 18, 2017 at http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/channel/utilities/print.html?type=article&id=137763 .