The time has come for a modest proposal. Everyone everywhere is told to have a ’cause’ or something they must rail against or for. At the same time we are also told to keep out religious views private. While this is contrary viewpoints, it is not to the world – who does not see that everyone has worldviews, some of which are based in reality. What is this modest proposal that can change the world: Enjoy the gift of appearing dull and enjoy the pleasure of being ‘bored’.
The issue is that that people are protesting or are expressing their beliefs (unless they are damaging lives or property), it is that they are really scared of having nothing to do or believe in. In fact it is this nothing that can open their minds to the big questions, the real questions.
This is what Pascal hit on the head when he wrote “I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.” We do not like to be alone in our thoughts because then we would have to think the big questions. Peter Kreft commentates on this thought in his book Christianity for Modern Pagans, Pascal’s Pensees Edited, Outlined, and Explained by saying:
“We want to complexify our lives. We don’t have to, we want to. We wanted to be harried and hassled and busy. Unconsciously, we want the very things we complain about. For if we had leisure, we would look at ourselves and listen to our hearts and see the great gaping hold in our hearts and be terrified, because that hole is so big that nothing but God can fill it. So we run around like conscientious little bugs, scared rabbits, dancing attendance on our machines, our slaves, and making them our masters. We think we want peace and silence and freedom and leisure, but deep down we know that this would be unendurable to us, like a dark and empty room without distractions where we would be forced to confront ourselves. . .
If you are typically modern, your life is like a mansion with a terrifying hole right in the middle of the living-room floor. So you paper over the hole with a very busy wallpaper pattern to distract yourself. You find a rhinoceros in the middle of your house. The rhinoceros is wretchedness and death. How in the world can you hide a rhinoceros? Easy: cover it with a million mice. Multiple diversions.”
Pascal also writes:
Thus the fact that there exist men who are indifferent to the loss of their being and the peril of an eternity of wretchedness is against nature. With everything else they are quite different; they fear the most trifling things, foresee and feel them; and the same man who spends so many days and nights in fury and despair at losing some office or at some imaginary affront to his honour is the very one who knows that he is going to lose everything through death but feels neither anxiety nor emotion. It is a monstrous thing to see one and the same heart at once so sensitive to minor things and so strangely insensitive to the greatest. (427)
Paul Nowak writes in ‘The Eternal Revolution’:
Our world is not tired for want of an ideal for which to fight, we are uncertain of what we are supposed to do. Early Christian teachers recognized this restless, uneasy, and constant distraction as acedia. It was the poisonous attitude that your own efforts were not worthwhile, that if circumstances were to change in this way or that, then things would change, but until then such change was beyond our reach. Acedia was recognized as making one apathetic, busy about less important things, overly concerned with the affairs of others, and sluggish. Over time, acedia was referred to as sloth or laziness and we forgot its meaning.
These are the main group of people who usually protest. It is not that they really have something to protest; they are running from the reality of having to confront themselves. The song below is based off of that thought and was written due to a comment told to the composer/singer, which was something to the effect of “If I run our of things to protest I will have to someday protest myself. That thought terrifies me’:
Here is the big kicker, even the secular world sees this. In an opinion article in the Guardian this was said:
Confessing to boredom is confessing to a character-flaw. Popular culture is littered with advice on how to shake it off: find like-minded people, take up a hobby, find a cause and work for it, take up an instrument, read a book, clean your house And certainly don’t let your kids be bored: enroll them in swimming, soccer, dance, church groups – anything to keep them from assuaging their boredom by gravitating toward sex and drugs. To do otherwise is to admit that we’re not engaging with the world around us. Or that your cellphone has died.
But boredom is not tragic. Properly understood, boredom helps us understand time, and ourselves. Unlike fun or work, boredom is not about anything; it is our encounter with pure time as form and content. With ads and screens and handheld devices ubiquitous, we don’t get to have that experience that much anymore. We should teach the young people to feel comfortable with time.
Instead of railing against the world because we are so very scared of being not entertained or not mattering choose to enjoy the quiet moments of dull or boring and think about what really matters – eternal things.