Boredom: … the mood of diffuse restlessness which contains that most absurd and paradoxical wish, the wish for a desire. Adam Phillips, On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored, p.71
It is one of the most oppressive demands of adults that the child should be interested, rather than take time to find what interests [her]. Boredom is integral to the process of taking one’s time. p.73
You may find it difficult to know what you want. Your parents may have had ideas and prejudices, often unconsciously held, of how you should behave, what is interesting, sensible, important. Schools seem increasingly to be driven to prescribe what children should learn and what is important for a good society. Government and business drive that process for their own ends.
Instead of an engagement with life you are offered, and make do with, unremitting stimulation, excitement and entertainment. Instead of knowledge of self you have reality TV, action movies instead of daily heroism, chick-flicks instead of ordinary intimacy, soap opera instead of a sense of how your life fits into the Universe Story.
We are amusing ourselves to death.
The horizon of the landscape of possibility is set too close to home. The playground is made too safe – and too enticing. Children are not allowed to explore too far, and many never find their natural milieu. You may have grown up with little opportunity to experiment with your own desires and a world of possibility.
And so it may be difficult to know what you want. The desire of another was, and is, too strong.
Boredom is in lieu of a desire, in lieu of inhabiting this body, in lieu of feeling, in lieu of being. It is a challenge to the learnt expectation of continual stimulation and excitement.
What underlies the need for entertainment? What does it hide? What encounter with reality, and with yourself, do you avoid?
We protect ourselves – perhaps necessarily so – from the truth. As Eliot and Becker said, each in his own way:
human kind cannot bear very much reality.
Boredom presents us with a choice: enquiry or distraction. What might you find?
- the usual suspects of discomfort, anxiety and lack.
- being ordinary – your and my “sordid little life”;
- being-towards-the-future: a (usually unconscious) belief that now is not good enough; this is not it; a fundamental feeling that this is unsatisfactory; indeed that you are not good enough, you are unsatisfactory; improvements must be made(!); you cannot live, because nothing is good enough, and you are always reaching out towards a future (that will never come) where everything is resolved;
- lack of an object of desire: you want, but you know not what…
- which is an aspect of the much bigger hole of not knowing – who God is, who you are, what life is about (none of which you ever can finally know);
- … [add your own in here] …
When you feel bored, feel your way into this body. What do you notice?
What gift does boredom give you?