Fighting Against Fighting Against Boredom

August 31, 2016 — Ecclesiastes 1:8–11

All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,“See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.

One area of life that I am really struggling with at the moment is boredom, but not for the reason you might think. The fact of the matter is that we live in a society that is obsessed with entertainment. It would appear that the thing that most parents are most worried about is not if their child is good, or fit, or polite, (although those certainly factor in) but rather that their kids are protected from boredom.

This is certainly well intended. Who wants to listen to a complaining human? And this way of thinking really affects me too. This morning I was talking with Josie about whether or not screen addiction is a thing. I tend to have a high level of scepticism about people who demonize modern technology and say that it is leading to an epidemic of addicts that are as bad as heroin users.

Josie rightly pointed out that I was more reacting to the people who go full swing into media prohibition, and not really addressing the points that were being made in an article we both read about how there are some actual characteristics between people who exhibit screen addiction and substance addiction. The fact is, if we train our dopamine receptors to expect a flood of good feelings from notifications, the buzz of alcohol, or the kick of cocaine, we are going to be chasing the next hit. In a sense, chasing a high can often be mistaken for running away from a low.

While I might be sceptical about the sensational headlines that depict kids that grew up on iPads as burn-out druggies, there is something to be said for the state of affairs that we are in. I too hate being bored, and I am really good at not being bored. I have often said that one of my favorite things about being an adult is that I can really easily be completely shielded from it. If I am not into something that I am doing, I am the one in charge of deciding to do something else.

The fact of the matter is that we live in a world where it is remarkably easy to turn to that something else. There are amazing worlds to explore that are always at arm’s reach. Don’t get me wrong, I am pretty into the world that we live in. I like being able to read and learn about millions of topics. I can learn how to change my car’s oil by a quick search on google. However, I need to be honest with myself when I avoid boredom if I am just doing the easy thing.

When we take the easy option in life it is rarely the most healthy. It is easier to grab tasty tacos for dinner than it is to eat a well balanced meal. It is easier to stay up late playing turn based strategy games than it is to go to bed at a reasonable time. It is easier to browse Reddit for 15 minutes than it is to work through a book, or go for a walk. On their own, or in moderation these things aren’t wrong, as a matter of fact we will read later on in Ecclesiastes that we ought to enjoy the moments of joy we are given by God in life.

The fact is that chasing after the next new thing, the next interesting tid-bit is just a distraction from the ultimate sameness of reality. The fact is that life is pretty boring. It consists of a lot of the same tasks over and over again. When we strive for novelty it reveals our idols of entertainment and our fears of boredom. Rather than striving to keep ourselves engaged we ought to seek out the discipline of sameness. It won’t be easy, but God desires that we serve Him in the midst of the mundane.

As the teacher here says, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” Rather than trying to convince ourselves otherwise though another dopamine hit, we must enter into the suffering of honoring God in this rather unimpressive life.