An Easy Solution to Boredom?
PROVIDING endless amusements for millions of bored customers is now a big business. Exotic holidays, sophisticated electronic gadgetry, elaborate hobbies are all contrived to help kill the customers’ time. Yet, boredom still looms large. Even on vacation, bored vacationers need animators to keep them in high spirits. And many a dedicated jogger feels lost without his portable radio to accompany him.
There is no doubt that entertainment, such as television, creates excitement and dissipates boredom, but for how long? For some it is like a habit-forming drug. The next time, greater stimulus and more excitement are needed—otherwise the dreary seen-it-all-before sensation takes over again. Rather than being the solution, such entertainment can end up being one of the contributing factors to boredom.
TV, in itself, doesn’t cause boredom, but excessive television will not banish boredom either. Worse still, the more you are ‘plugged in’ to the TV set, the more you can get disconnected from reality. In the case of children, this happens all too often. In one study in which children ages four and five were asked whether they would prefer to give up TV or their father, 1 out of 3 decided that life would be more bearable without daddy!
Pandering to every desire is not the solution either. Many young people are now “raised in a period of material well-being, with every toy, every vacation, every new fashion,” observed a Social Democratic deputy in the German parliament. Is there anything they can still get excited about? It may well be that good-natured parents who shower their children with all the latest gimmicks are really paving the way to an adulthood plagued with chronic boredom.
The Root Causes of Boredom
Escaping boredom completely is an unrealistic goal. Life in this world can never be one of continuous excitement and happiness. Such an unrealistic expectation could well cause needless dissatisfaction. At the same time, there are definite factors that aggravate matters.
For instance, today more and more families are falling apart. Could it be that mom and dad are so absorbed with their own entertainment that they don’t spend enough time with the children anymore? Not surprisingly, teenagers search for their own ways to amuse themselves in discos, video parlors, shopping centers, and the like. Consequently, in many homes family outings and other joint activities have become things of the past.
Still others are so dissatisfied with their humdrum lives that they unconsciously retreat into their shell, doing their own thing, oblivious of anyone else. And while they isolate themselves more and more, they entertain the vain hope of achieving what can be called self-realization. But it just doesn’t turn out that way. After all, no man is an island. We need company and communication. It is inevitable, therefore, that individualists who isolate themselves spread boredom, unwittingly making life dreary for themselves and for those around them.
However, the problem is somewhat deeper, as Blaise Pascal, a 17th-century French philosopher, pointedly observed: “Weariness [arises] from the depths of the heart wherein it has its natural roots and [fills] the mind with its poison.” How true!
As long as the heart is full of nagging doubts as to the whys and wherefores of life, boredom is bound to stay. Heartfelt conviction that one’s personal life has meaning is needed. Yet, how can anyone face life with a positive outlook without knowing why he is here, without having goals, without having well-founded hopes for the future?
Here is where the ultimate questions arise: What’s the meaning of life? What am I here for? Where am I going? “The striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man,” observed Dr. Viktor Frankl. However, where can such a meaning be found? Where can these questions be satisfactorily answered?
The oldest of all books provides enlightenment on such ultimate questions. Said Heinrich Heine, a 19th-century German poet: “I owe my enlightenment quite simply to the reading of a book.” Which book? The Bible. Charles Dickens likewise said: “It is the best book that ever was or will be in the world, because it teaches you the best lessons by which any human creature . . . can possibly be guided.”
There is no doubt about it. The Bible is a sure guide toward a meaningful life. From beginning to end, it makes a point of showing that God gave man work to do. Man was to care for the earth, to beautify it, to exercise loving oversight of animal life, and, above all, to praise the Creator, Jehovah. Quite some task, one which would not leave room for boredom! Millions of active Christians have discovered that supporting God’s cause, being dedicated and fully devoted to him, does indeed add meaning to life and crowds out boredom.
Widespread boredom may be a modern phenomenon—most ancient languages don’t appear to have a word for it. Still, the Bible, along with showing us the meaning of life, contains practical suggestions for combating boredom. For example, it states that ‘one isolating himself will break forth against all practical wisdom.’ (Proverbs 18:1) In other words, don’t retreat into a shell!
Man is gregarious by nature. He needs to relate to other people, and he has an inborn need for company. Stifling this normal desire to mix with other people—being a loner, a mere onlooker—is unwise. Likewise, limiting ourselves to just superficial personal relationships is tantamount to ignoring all practical wisdom.
It is, of course, so much easier passively to watch movies or to limit our communication to punching data into a computer. Adapting to other people is quite a challenge. Yet, having something worthwhile to say and sharing thoughts and feelings with others is rewarding and leaves little room for boredom.—Acts 20:35.
Solomon, who was a keen observer of human nature, made this forceful recommendation: “It is better to be satisfied with what is before your eyes than give rein to desire.” (Ecclesiastes 6:9, The New English Bible) In other words, make the most of your present circumstances. Concentrate on what you see now. That is so much better than wishfully longing to get away from it all or ‘giving rein to desire,’ as Solomon put it.
Well-planned days, definite goals, and an earnest desire to keep on learning will also help you to prevail over boredom. Why, even after retirement, a person can still achieve many things. One of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Balearic Islands, a retired man in his early 70’s, is eagerly learning German. His goal? He wants to talk about God’s Word to many a bored holiday visitor from Germany. Boredom is certainly not a problem for him!
Finally, what about doing something with your hands? Why not acquire skills in some handicraft, in painting, or in playing a musical instrument? Self-esteem grows when there is a sense of achievement. Why not think about rolling up your sleeves and offering your help around the house? There are so many little things that usually need to be fixed in any home. Instead of brooding about your boring life, make yourself available, do meaningful work at home, become skillful in some craft. You will not be left unrewarded.—Proverbs 22:29.
Furthermore, the Bible advises us to work whole-souled in whatever project we may undertake. (Colossians 3:23) That of course means to get involved, to be genuinely interested in what we are doing. It may be worth remembering that the English word “interest” comes from the Latin interesse, which literally means “to be between, or among,” in other words to be absorbed in the task at hand. That will make it interesting.
All this good advice penned many years ago, if applied, would make all the difference for victims of free-time blues. Therefore, be absorbed in what you do. Get involved with other people. Do things for others. Keep on learning. Communicate freely with others. Discover the real purpose of life. By doing all of this, you will not be prone to sigh: ‘Why is life such a bore?’
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How to Beat Boredom
1. Don’t allow personal initiative to be crippled by ready-made entertainment. Be selective as to distractions and entertainment.
2. Relate to people.
3. Keep learning. Have personal goals.
4. Be creative. Do something with your hands.
5. Have a purpose in life. Take God into consideration.