Boredom used to be a regular feature in my life.
As a kid, I was bored all the time. This perpetual boredom led me to all sorts of shenanigans, like setting the soles of my shoes on fire or digging a 4-foot deep hole in my backyard, simply because I could (kind of like George Mallory summiting Everest simply because it was there). My discovery that grapevines could be smoked like cigarettes was a direct product of the high volume of boredom in my life.
Even as I got older, I still had long stints of unoccupation. Walking to classes in college. Waiting for a computer program to compile [adjusts glasses and fiddles with pocket protector]. Long drives, doctors offices, waiting 10 freaking minutes for the America Online portal to load (I think I still have several hundred free hours to redeem).
Now I’m literally never bored. It’s actually kind of pathetic. If I have more than 3 seconds of free time, I’ x m on my phone, scoping out Facebook, reading headlines on ESPN, comparing my life to other people’s on Instagram. I am SUBSCRIBED TO 28 PODCASTS (even I can see that’s ridiculous). Between Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and the cable login I “borrow” from my friend, I have 343 years of television to catch up on. Because I have the impulse control skills of a small circus monkey, I am constantly purchasing $2.99 books for my Kindle, not because I’ll read them but because, honestly, who can pass up such a deal?
Lately, I’ve been increasingly concerned about my lack of boredom.
Not because boredom has some sort of moral value, and not because I’m an anti-technology hermit who longs to return to the days of typewriters and velocipedes (not to be confused with velociraptors, which are something entirely different).
I’m concerned because important things happen during boredom.
First, and most importantly, it’s during boredom that God often speaks to me. As I’m driving, or walking, or simply sitting on my porch, my mind often wanders to the struggles scattered across the landscape of my life. As I ponder these ever present problems, the Holy Spirit prompts me to pray, to confess, to supplicate, to plead. He reminds me of Scriptural truths, He strengthens my faith.
I have a friend who is fond of saying, “The Holy Spirit loves to speak, but he won’t raise his voice.”
Of course, the Holy Spirit can get my attention however he chooses, including more dramatic ways such as sickness, faithful friends, and divinely orchestrated encounters so obvious that even I can’t miss them. But most of the time He speaks in the quiet, mundane moments. He speaks through the normal rhythms of everyday life.
If I fill every spare moment with a constant buzz of social media and podcasts and Netflix, it doesn’t leave much space for the Holy Spirit to speak to me. It doesn’t give me any time to ponder, to reflect, to prayerfully consider my life.
I’m also concerned that my lack of boredom may be killing my creativity. I get new, fresh ideas when I give myself space to think. To make connections I’ve never made. To dream about what could be. To identify problems and then create solutions. There’s a reason why top companies like 3M and Google give their employees unscheduled time each week: they know that the brain needs to wander in order to make discoveries.
My brain doesn’t wander much when I’m laughing at Drake GIFs and clicking on articles which promise me that I WILL NOT BELIEVE what happens next. I’m not doing much brainstorming when I’m watching my 7th consecutive episode of The Office. Sites like 22 Words may eliminate boredom, but they also eliminate creativity.
To be honest, I don’t have any profound solutions to this problem. I deleted the Facebook and Twitter apps off my phone, and am making a more concerted effort not to immediately turn on a podcast when I get into the car. But these are some deep-seated habits I’m dealing with. It’s gotten so bad that I often find myself reaching for my phone when I pull up to a stoplight. That’s really bad.
But I can see that something really does need to change. I want to make room for God to speak. I want to create space for creativity. And so I’ll continue to battle on. I’ll continue to try to carve out space in my life. Space for quiet. Space for thinking and prayer.
I’ll battle for boredom.