The Joy of Boredom

I have recently been reflecting on what I spend my free time doing. I have wasted countless hours on the Internet either checking email, fantasy sports, scanning headlines, tooling around on Facebook, or a recent vice of mine – getting lost in a maze of blogs. I can never get that time back, but I am making it a point to be more careful of where my time goes.

For example, after a great nap Sunday, I flushed a couple hours down the drain just browsing around a number of Christian/Reformed blogs. So many of them had tones of anger, blame-shifting, accusing, or just downright attacking. These blogs (mostly from the commenters) were mainly focused on calling out prominent Reformed pastors or theologians who may have said something a bit confusing, had a comment wrenched out of context, or maybe were a bit vague in an interview or a book. Thanks to the anonymity of the Internet and misusing the Scriptures’ command to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:16) as excuses, many commenters vehemently and venomously attack several faithful servants, going so far of accusing them of heresy or apostasy. The more I read, the more I grew discouraged. With so many polarizing opinions within Christianity, even in Reformed circles, what is one to do? Who can be believed when everyone claims to hold to the inerrant Word of God? Most of these arguments were not even on essential issues of Christianity (like the deity of Christ), but on issues of secondary importance to salvation.

I digress. My point is not a criticism of the Reformed “blog police,” or a treatise on when and how to argue for the faith and doctrines I believe, but it is a criticism of how I spend my time. With the information glut that is the Internet right at our fingertips, it is easy to get caught up in surfing the web and not realize you’ve just wasted hours of your day. Things like Facebook, StumbleUpon, and the aforementioned blogs are just a poor way of using my free time.

I came across this article thanks to the Media Ecology Association‘s listserv, and thought it very pertinent to my recent musings on how I spend my free time. It is an interesting article on how Americans spend free time – even the spare minutes in the grocery store line or in traffic. The author argues that even the minuscule (“snack size”) moments are now being filled by our addiction to technology, productivity, communication, and entertainment. What is being lost are the “quintessentially human moments.” The author claims that we are most human when we feel dull. New age/postmodern thought aside, I think that the author’s stance on boredom is very revealing:

“To be bored is to stop reacting to the external world, and to explore the internal one. It is in these times of reflection that people often discover something new, whether it is an epiphany about a relationship or a new theory about the way the universe works. Granted, many people emerge from boredom feeling that they have accomplished nothing. But is accomplishment really the point of life? There is a strong argument that boredom — so often parodied as a glassy-eyed drooling state of nothingness — is an essential human emotion that underlies art, literature, philosophy, science, and even love.”

I would add to the first sentence: “…and to reflect on the spiritual one.”

I can’t totally identify with some of the examples in the article (i.e. watching “Mobisodes”) because I don’t even remotely have a desire for a cell phone that does more than make phone calls, but I apply it more to my 30-minute commute to work and those times when I am home alone pining for Elizabeth.

While I’m not going so far as to promote Christian/eastern mysticism, I will say that I love the moments when I am “bored” and can reflect on God’s character, Christ’s work, the Holy Spirit’s comfort, or other theological issues. I definitely don’t do it enough. These “productive” times aren’t a result from an emptying of my mind, but instead filling it with God’s Word, promises, and prayer. These “boring” times are important to Christ’s followers as times for reflection, thought, confession and repentance of sin, and prayer.

So now that I’ve wasted your time with this long, rambling, poorly-organized post, I’ll close by committing to be more productive in my free/”boring” times – whether by praying, studying God’s Word, reading books, or writing more awesome posts like this.

2 thoughts on “The Joy of Boredom

  1. Joel. Hello. I came across your blog today through a process of ‘surfing the net’ as you spoke of in this blog entry– how non-coincidental. I was thinking of you today. The voice in your writing is as unfamiliar as it is to me, a being in his life in the ways that he is, in a life of which I know not. curious and interesting and happy and fun, to me.I hope all is as you need it to be. as well, if you are curious or interested or searching the net ever, I have a blog as well– it is a joint-two-person blog. http://babythebreadisrising.wordpress.comCheck it out if you choose, don’t if you don’t.As well, know that I do not mind if you choose not to ‘approve’ this comment as it is a personal message, and not specifically intended as a response to your most recent post.life and life to you,Rebekah

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