let’s be bored together

“Were we nuts when we went up to the moon? That’s right. We went up there and you know what we got? Bored.”

You have to hand it to the American cocktail of workoholism and consumption: even when you make fun of it, it’s attractive. I watched this commercial during the Olympics with a measure of righteous harrumph tempered with a secret desire to drive the car.

Here’s the commercial, and I’ll trust you to resist the urge to blow your pledge check on a plug-in Caddy:

The line about being bored is my favorite. Here we are, going into the season of Lent, which we can also think of as “the season of stopping” and not be too far off the mark.  The fasts we choose tell a lot about what consumes us these days:  food, drink, vices, and of course, media.

If you’re looking for something to “stop,” many of us need look no further than the little media portals in our pockets or the larger compulsions that keep us hooked on them. Why do we fear putting them down for time? If I had to guess, I’d say it was a fear of what Cadillac Man describes with dripping disdain: boredom.  We are terrified of being bored.

If a lenten fast involves any of our data-producing trinkets, will we be bored? And what will happen to us when we are?

The answer is: I’m sorry to say, yes. You are going to be bored for a time. You will have no darn idea what to do with yourself. You will feel unproductive and wasteful. But you’ll live.

Boredom may just be something we have to experience for a little while if we are to wake up and see (or simply remember) the difference between our real lives and our ego-fueled fantasies. We are headed into a season in which we have the opportunity to do exactly that.

Boredom is something we fear because it makes us feel less valuable and important, and can have the unconscious message that whatever it is we’re doing, we’re doing it wrong. But if we’re choosing to fast from the hard-driving compulsions of our lives, then a dose of boredom may be an early sign that we’re actually doing it right.

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About bernardowens

I am an Episcopal priest who serves St. Andrew's Church in Greensboro, North Carolina.
This entry was posted in spiritual practice, the Christian life. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to let’s be bored together

  1. Anne Wilkinson says:

    That commercial was the epitome of arrogance and shamelessness. i can’t even say that i was tempted to drive the car, because cars are just useful tools for me, not status symbols, having never had the money to afford such an attitude. If people based their self worth on the sole fact that each individual is a child of God, they might not find themselves getting bored. As one of those rare housewives (stay-at-home moms who don’t contribute financially in an obvious way to the running of the home) i can say that a certain way of life can have a value that is greater than any one object, but it can be a struggle to live out this belief when other folks 1) are still trying to make ends meet on two small incomes and fill the role of homemaker or 2) are so caught up in having the latest things that they feel both have to work & end up fighting over who minds the kids.
    Frankly, for those who are bored, developing simple but productive or meditative hobbies that are not too costly can really keep boredom away and lead a person to a sense of wonder in the world. Being present in the moment is something we often forget to aspire to, and perhaps Lent is one of those seasons that emphasizes being present. i haven’t decided what i am going to give up yet, usually it’s a bad habit that i need to work on, not a pleasure. But perhaps that is not the right thing to do this year. I am basically a selfish person who doesn’t want to give up pursuing interests (painting or gardening) for Lent. i suppose i could give up Chocolate, like many people do. Yes, I could do that, and it would be a way to remind myself daily of the season. And it is a way of saying my sacrifice is so small compared to the one Christ made for us. As far as bad habits go, those ought to be a project all year around.

  2. Anne Wilkinson says:

    BJ, after writing the above, and then rereading your post, i think i have not stayed on the point you were trying to make. But Maybe Lent is a time when one can transform being bored into being present.

  3. bernardowens says:

    I think you made some observations about the commercial that I hadn’t picked up on. If we take a critical eye towards the ad then there’s lots of angles of approach.

    My only hope is that you don’t give up gardening for lent. If it feeds your spirit, and I know it does, I say keep doing it. There are always things to let go that don’t do that.

    • Anne Wilkinson says:

      the only thing keeping me from gardening is the weather and my knee. i am giving chocolate up for Lent. it is something i truly enjoy (i have hot cocoa every night no matter what season) and have always felt that a brownie a day keeps the shrink away. Can’t give up painting because it serves as meditation and it is a gift that keeps me human.

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