An old song by a British band I once liked was titled “I’m bored”. I’ve identified with the sentiments of the song numerous times in my life, and this little admission forms the basis of a theory of mine which I believe explains many maladies in our world…
I was listening to a discussion about Don Quixote, the fictional, self-styled knight-errant, created four hundred years ago by Cervantes. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it-most particularly the Tobias Smollett translation. Quixote made himself what he could never really be-a brave knight-and went out into the world in search of adventure, causing all kinds of trouble, mostly for himself.
The learned panel discussing Quixote debated whether he was mad or just eccentric. I go with the “eccentric” diagnosis. However, I say that it was an eccentricity born of boredom, as eccentricity probably often is. Quixote had had it with his dead-end, uneventful existence, and having read all those exciting stories of knights traveling the world and fighting dragons and saving beautiful maidens, he could only find a way of avoiding madness by re-making himself as one of the knights he’d read about.
Isn’t that the kind of thing children do? Their little minds (before television, overbearing parents and public education get a hold of them) are vitally, vibrantly, constantly active, and unencumbered by the stiff, monochrome, limiting confines of reality, they create their own worlds to find fun and thrills in.
We humans look for meaning and entertainment in all kinds of ways. In the West large numbers of people are fixated on Television. I’m not saying TV us intrinsically wrong. It isn’t, but for millions who live out drab, uneventful time-lines, or who don’t have the time, energy, money or imagination to do the real thing, it’s a convenient and easy way to experience any number of situations and activities without moving out of the comfort and safely of the e-z chair. The rest of us are virtually (pun intended) addicted to various forms of digital entertainment via the internet and computer-based devices. We’re all trying to brighten our lives somehow.
Conquerors and marauders do their thing partly because it’s so thrilling. It’s much more fun setting fire to things and picking fights with people than spending eight or ten hours of mundane drudgery a day at the office, followed by a few hours of sitting on a log or in an armchair, dreading the thought of doing it all over again for the bazillionth time the next day. People take hallucinogenic drugs not necessarily because they’re evil but because normal life is so stale, empty, gray and uneventful in comparison. I’m not condoning illicit drug use-just stating a fact. Even cats are similarly challenged with boredom, which is why they sleep so much. Some people sleep their lives away because dream worlds are much more interesting than the real one.
I’m not pointing any fingers, because I’m as guilty as anyone. And anyway, I’m convinced that God created us for so much more than what we as a society have made available to ourselves.
Neither am I saying that sin doesn’t play a part in such things as despotism, alcohol and drug abuse, and sexual promiscuity: it does. In fact, it’s the central cause, the root cause. But sin is frequently manifest in the lives of us humans because we’re seeking-consciously or unconsciously-meaning and fulfillment. Just look at Eve, who was persuaded that she would gain some exciting kind of enlightenment by doing what God had told her not to do.
We’re bored. We’re more bored than we realize. We’re seeking vital, real, experiential, fun-filled, scintillating lives. And because we’re so incredibly and intricately designed, so fantastically crafted, yet using only five percent of our brains and sometimes even less of our physical potential, we look for a way-any way-to do something to alleviate the mind-numbing, crushing frustration and boredom which we often don’t recognize or identify. We’re unable to analyze our problem, let alone look for an answer in any constructive way. And having not lived long enough or having been unwilling or unable to find the wisdom or the power to control ourselves, we-that is, some of us-launch out in ways which may be destructive and which are sometimes sinful. Profligacy, hedonism, harmful proclivities, addictions all come from an inability or unwillingness to assess or conjure up a proper response to our pent-up potential.
Modern society is part of the problem. It also seeks to profit from the problem it creates, taking natural freedoms and real paths to fulfillment from us, and then providing endless forms of entertainment at our expense to fill in the gap. However, in many ways it fails to give what we really need to overcome our condition.
So what’s the solution: what do we do? I’m not sure that there is a completely satisfactory fix in this life. I do, however, agree with Augustine, who, having once lived a life of unbridled hedonism, came to the following conclusion:
Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.
Solomon, sometimes seen as the wisest man who ever lived, sought after meaning and fulfillment through entertainment, sex and wealth. Being a king, and a very successful one, he was in a position to fulfill all his sensuous desires in as many ways as he could imagine, including possessing a huge harem. However, having tried it all he eventually came to the same conclusion as Augustine. Deciding that it was all “vanity” or emptiness, he declared:
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13 KJV).
I hear some of you groaning and complaining about “church”, and about how boring and unfriendly it can be. Actually, I didn’t say anything about “church”. And do you know what? I agree with you: “church” is frequently not what it should be, and no amount of what’s called “contemporary worship” is going to cut it for me personally-although I understand that it seems to do the trick for some people. Yes, church can be rather dull and can fail to provide the things in life we crave for, but really, it isn’t intended to, on its own. Church attendance is part of a much bigger picture of living life in step with our Creator.
How do us active-minded, imaginative souls live a life of faith and obedience without screaming inside with frustration? Is the entertainment the world offers off-bounds to believers wanting to live a godly life? The answers to these questions could be the subjects of an entire series of blog posts, and I could probably not do them justice even so. However, in part 2, I’ll attempt to offer a few thoughts…
Copyright © January 2017 by Nick Fisher