Only boring people are bored



If someone were to ask me what I did not on my holidays this year, I would say, I learnt a little bit more of what Sabbath actually means.

I have always been a bit snooty when it comes to what could be described as lounging by the swimming pool holidays.  I expect culture, history and authentic local colour from my holidays!

This year, however, though not initially planned that way, we spent a lot more time doing very little other than reading, swimming, walking, talking and simply being.  It gave me a lot to think about.  It was interesting, for example, to watch my emotional rhythm.  As usual there was the initial euphoria of the first couple of days of being on holiday.  Then, also as usual, about day three there was a sense of let-down, slight irritation and restlessness.  I have learnt over the years that day three is the one on which I am mostly likely to have a row.

But this year the holiday didn’t go in the usual way.  We did not go out and about that much.  We did not replace the usual diversions of work and home, with many holiday diversions.  For the most part we rested in the way I described above and did quite a lot of staring at the natural world around us and pondering.  And, surprisingly, at the end of the first week of our two week break I felt again the day three emotions – restlessness, anxiety, slight irritation and frustration.  I was uncomfortable in my own skin.  What was going on?

When we read the story of creation in Genesis, we hear that on the seventh day God rested and unlike all the other days, which he said were good, the Sabbath he made “holy”.  What does that mean?  Later in the bible we learn that human beings are commanded to rest one in seven days, too.  But the truth is that nowadays we don’t ever really rest.  We simply keep ourselves distracted by doing things which are more congenial during our times of leisure.  We keep ourselves busy so that we will not have to be alone with ourselves, because, to quote T S Eliot, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”

I can remember Tony Hancock’s character in “Hancock’s Half Hour,” having to get through a Sunday afternoon once and going up the wall with boredom.  This was in the days when pretty well everything closed on a Sunday.  In those days many people considered Sundays the most boring day of the week.  For “holy” read “boring.”  Was that what God intended?  All this has changed, of course: there is plenty to entertain us nowadays on a Sunday, but if anything we are more bored as a society.  When I was a child and complained I was bored, my mother would say, “Only boring people are bored.”  Not perhaps a very provable statement but one that batted the ball back into my court.  Within half an hour I would be busily involved in some sort of play, all trace of boredom forgotten.

At the end of week one, I think I hit the boredom moment and realised what was going on.  We do not appreciate what a drug being distracted has become in our society and how most of us are distraction junkies.  But whilst we are being distracted we are not fully alive to what is in front of us.  The sense of discomfort in my own skin was caused by not being present to what was around me, by not living within the time and rhythm that was real and actual, but rather being pulled by something non-existent and illusory that promised to be better but never is.  St Irenaeus said that “the glory of God is a human being fully alive.”  The boredom moment is the equivalent of cold turkey but if you stay with it you go through it – and on the other side is a place that is not boring at all, but is,as God said, holy.