Same ol', same ol'!
Studies by the people at Psychology Today indicate that between 30 and 90 % of Americans experience boredom at some point every day. Among young people the percentage escalates to between 91 and 98 percent. It's hard to conceive of such numbers in our fast paced, multi-faceted culture. With information at our fingertips and mobility a new norm, ennui, that is, listlessness or tedium, would seem to be consumed by the traffic of everyday life. Even so, busyness and frenzied activity aren't antidotes to the lethargy so often experienced by twenty-first century humans. There are certainly times when our life routines become wearisome. If you'd like to review the Psychology Today article on boredom, click here.
So, there's the treadmill thing, what scientists refer to as the hedonic treadmill, or hedonic adaptation. It's the tendency of "humans to return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes" (see hedonic treadmill at Wikipedia.com). On the mean streets it's simply the same ol', same ol'. And, like it or not, every room in our lives can become the bored room at times. I mean, the living room, play room, dining room, bedroom, prayer room, school room, break room, tap room, sun room, mud room, ballroom, and even the bath room can morph into places of routine and monotony. About the only room safe from repetitive life motion, at least in my experience, is the labor room. There's nothing perfunctory happening there.
The information age has multiplied our capacity for the same ol' same ol'. The geek world of schedules, contact lists, repeat buttons, copy and paste systems, and hundreds of apps that reduce motion to a simple key touch have made many life functions more mechanical and habitual. Most of us employ the alarm and warning gadgets that keep us on target with our time and give us reminders of activities on the calendar. Yes, there are automated to-do lists, mapping devices, messaging programs, traffic updates, Bible apps, and health monitors to assist us running in circles. Ours is a whiz-bang culture for sure. But, there are down times even in the hectic pace.
If the stats about boredom are true, most of us live in a rut at least some of the time. Shoot, a good many of us prefer it. Life in a rut frees us from the tyranny of being unprepared, and from surprise interruptions that can crash our plans, goals, and objectives. This kind of existence, however, can stop the flow of creative juices and energy, making the rut deeper and more difficult to escape. I'm reminded of the Christmas a friends family gave him an expensive treadmill as their family gift. For him in was a metaphor of our times, a costly image of getting nowhere fast. He told me that a high-tech treadmill was a vivid picture of the rut that defined so much of life. It's now the nicest and most elite clothes hanger in his house.
There's an interesting concept in Scripture that takes us to the edges of boredom. Being weary, or suffering from weariness often occurs in contexts when people are physically worn or tired. An example would be Lamentations 5:5 (ESV): "Our pursuers are at our necks; we are weary and are given no rest". Another example could be Deuteronomy 25:17-18 (ESV): "Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary...". It's a term often picturing exhaustion or fatigue. A culture that moves like hours makes this weariness a common malfunction in our species. People are tired.
There are, however, contexts, when this weariness signals the emotional stagnancy that results from repetition. You know, the same ol', same ol'. One vivid example was when God told Moses how he would turn the water in the Nile River into blood. "The fish in the Nile shall die, and the Nile will stink, and the Egyptians will grow weary of drinking water from the Nile". Sounds pretty awful to me. But, surely they wanted to drink something more than vile water over and over again. And, as usual, there are other examples of the emotional turmoil caused by repetitive tasks.
There are also warnings about this kind of weariness. Make the leap---warnings about boredom. Two are from the pen of the Apostle Paul.
And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do
not give up.
Galatians 6:9, ESV
As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.
2 Thessalonians 3: 13, ESV
So, is boredom a sin? Maybe not. Then, again, I'm reminded of what MaMa Holmes always told us: an idle mind is the devil's playground. And, the Apostle's word to the Galatians may give us a truthful addendum to the thing about boredom. He gave them the conditional result of this kind of weariness----"for in due season e will reap, if we do not give up". That's the dangerous element of boredom, the impetus to give up. After a while, the same ol', same ol' wears on us to the point we may just quit. Don't get me started on finishing.
Sadly the prayer closet, the worship center, and the disciplines of faith can become bored rooms as well. But, the life of faith should never be the same ol', same ol'. I love what God said through the prophet Isaiah: "Behold I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" (Isaiah 43:19). This new thing is truth through the eternal word that is always fresh and vibrant, fit for new wine.
And not the same ol', same ol'.