Why we need positive boredom

29 August 2019


When I look back at my childhood, some of the best days of my life were spent roaming the streets with my brother and the other kids in our neighbourhood. We did a lot of random and strange things: we would, for example, spend hours on our bikes going around our street – it was a small cul-de-sac. Or we would play cricket late into the night – we had a game once that ended at 9.00pm, and we were still primary school kids!

But the most fun we had always seemed to grow out of boredom. When we were bored, our imaginations went wild. Some days we were the Power Rangers defending the earth from the bad guys. Other days, we were cops and robbers, planning and scheming, trying to outwit each other. Or, if no one wanted to go outside to play, I would create a magical land for my toys that always had a princess that needed saving. It was, without a doubt, a wonderful childhood.

One of the reasons my childhood was filled with imaginative adventures, was because my parents got rid of our TV. They noticed that my brother and I were spending a lot of time in front of it but there really wasn’t that much worth seeing. And oh how we cried when we woke up to no TV. It was horrible! The other kids, we felt, were watching all these amazing shows while we had to…read.

At first, for me, reading felt like a chore, like something I had to do to fill in the time, but after a while, something peculiar started to happen. The words and pictures started to take on a life of their own. They would jump off the page, and I could vividly see what was happening. I started to long for the hours of boredom; the characters in the books suddenly became my best friends and I wanted to know everything about them. The stories I read, I took them outside with me and told my friends about them. I wanted to share my excitement, my love, my joy with them, but they wanted to talk about the TV movie they saw the night before.

As the years went on, our childhood adventures ended as school life took over. Our parents would rush us from one activity to the next before we’d come home to tackle the never-ending pile of homework. It seemed like there was no time to be bored. It is something I’ve noticed a lot of children today aren’t allowed to be. Every minute of every day is structured. They have no time to feed their younger brother a mud pie -something I may or may not have done – because after all, idle hands are the devil’s playthings. And this is true, only if you’re negatively bored. Negative boredom is picking up your phone for the tenth time in five minutes to check Facebook. It is spending a weekend binge watching Netflix. It is anything that doesn’t allow your mind to wonder.

Positive boredom, on the other hand, allows room for the imagination to run rampant. But more than that, it acknowledges that we need to give God room to work. If we fill every second of our day with outside noise, we block ourselves from hearing His voice. It is in the quiet that we are filled with inspiration. It is in the quiet that we ask questions, wonder and experience the beauty of the world around us. Mankind’s deepest desire to get closer to God is what inspired our great artists. They opened themselves to allow His beauty, mercy and love to shine through.

I recently read that Hell is boring. It is boring because we end up being stuck in self-centredness that is blind to all external beauty. I know I have experienced this boorish hell from time to time. Where instead of looking at the beauty around me, I’m fixated on myself, fixated on trying to find something that will give me immediate gratification. The problem with immediate gratification, it’s fleeting. You’ll always be chasing it, wanting more and, for it to be better than the last time. It doesn’t provide you with room to grow. Instead it robs you of time, as it slowly seeps into every aspect of your life. And before you know it, you’re no longer searching for true beauty.

Positive boredom guides you towards true beauty. It lets you step outside and experience every day as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Be happy in boredom. Let it take you away from the TV – and your phone – and allow it to open you up to God’s voice. Let it inspire you to do great works. Do not fear it, but rather marvel and be blessed in it.

This article was originally published in the August 2019 (Issue No. 201) edition of the Broken Bay News.

With thanks to Catherine Day, Broken Bay News and the Diocese of Broken Bay.


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