Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Boredom, Sin, and the Saints

We used to build cathedrals and
coliseums.  Now we watch this for
10 hours.
Ever sat for hours upon hours on your computer, shuffling your way through StumbleUpon, Pandora opened to your hand-crafted and well manicured internet radio station, while a Facebook has remained open as a tab for weeks?  Yeah, you're not alone.  Its quite fascinating what we'll do when we're bored.  People would rather watch their brains melt out of their heads scrolling through a never-ending stream of half-hearted memes (Oh, you made ANOTHER Willy Wonka meme?  You must be SO insightful.) than be genuinely bored.

We abhor boredom.  People will do great and terrible things to avoid being bored.  We'll waste our entire lives trying to mitigate boredom.  People have killed other people for the sole reason that it was certainly not boring to do so.  Why do we detest boredom so much?  Why is it so horrid to us that we'd rather kill someone than be chronically bored?

In order to answer such a question, we have to understand the nature of boredom.  People usually paint boredom as a deficit:  Not enough motivation, not enough stimulus, not enough excitement, etc.  I don't agree with this analysis; there are times in which I am bored watching an action movie, and a week later, I'm utterly fascinated by a fresh-cut lawn.  No, boredom isn't a deficit, its a surplus.  We become bored when we have a surplus of pride.  That's right:  pride is boring.   Think about it:  No one gets bored being passionate about something outside themselves.  However, everyone gets bored when they seek satisfaction for themselves.  When we genuinely invest ourselves in something other than ourselves, whether its playing guitar, enjoying an lively game of Frisbee, or sympathizing with the plight of the beluga whale.  Its as G.K. Chesterton once said, "There are no disinteresting things, just disinterested people."

Unfortunately, we're usually not perceptive enough to realize that boredom is merely a matter of pride and selfishness.  And thus, our typical response to boredom is a never-ending cycle of seeking new things, exhausting them, and moving on.  All too often, this results in sin.  I have a theory that most people don't use drugs, alcohol, or porn because they want to be high, drunk, or horny.  They use them because they are bored, and the initial thrill of something new mitigates that boredom, until the novelty of the idea wears off, developing a rather restricting cycle of sin-boredom-sin etc.

You see, there's only one real escape from the cycle of boredom: holiness.  Now hold up, before you roll your eyes and go "Dammit, you had to ruin it with the whole 'holiness' shtick, didn't you?"  People get holiness wrong most of the time.  They think holiness and see this:

And don't see this:

And certainly not this:
Yup, that's a mountain climber with a
walking stick and a pipe.

But all of these things are holy. You see, holiness is the universe's greatest paradox, and the eternal solution to boredom.  Holiness is the ultimate discovery of your true self.  It's the journey to understanding exactly who you are.  And the irony of it all is that the path of holiness isn't about you.  Just as pride is the greatest cause of boredom, its the greatest thwart to holiness.  No man ever became holy for his own sake.  Nor did he find out who he was by focusing in only on himself.  Holiness is found in coming to forget oneself.  We become holy by placing our focus outside ourselves.  We learn who we are by learning who everyone and everything else is.

This is the great secret of the saints.  They learned who they were, they became holy, and the conquered boredom, precisely because they lived outside of themselves.  Saints are fascinating people.  They are diverse, they are.  The above pictures are, in order from top to bottom, St. Bruno, St. Therese Lisieux, and Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati.  One was a monk, the other was a nun who had a missionary heart, and the last was a mountain-climbing, pipe-smoking, fascist-fighting, 20-something with a massive heart for the poor.  All were holy, all found themselves precisely because they emptied themselves out.  The searched for God, they found God, themselves, and a profound new relationship to the world.  Saints aren't bored, and they certainly aren't boring.  So quit being bored, and be a saint.

No comments:

Post a Comment