Growing up, one of my father’s pet peeves was having people declare, “I’m bored!” as if those around the person were responsible for making the person’s life more energetic or exciting. And so, his typical answer was simply, “Then stop being boring.” While comical, the response carries some important truths.
Spiritual wisdom shows boredom to be a true disease of the soul. It seeks out and consumes souls that have forgotten contemplation and authentic leisure. It preys on people who cannot sit quietly alone and who need constant stimulation, gratification, and distraction. It strips the person of initiative and robs him of his imagination.
In a vulnerable soul, boredom spreads rapidly. It quickly stifles a person’s creativity and isolates him from others. The possibilities and opportunities of life are eclipsed by a self-imposed melancholy, while other people are either viewed as burdens or made into clowns for selfish entertainment.
Of all the consequences of boredom, perhaps the most debilitating is its treatment of time. Boredom acts as if time is eternal and so disrespects its fragility and limitedness. The bored person says to the world: “My time is so insignificant that I can just sit here and waste it by doing nothing of value.”
And such a person goes even further, as misery loves company, and says to others: “And I also don’t honor your time and so I’ll sit here and complain about my boredom and try to drag you into it.”
The Gospel Reading this Sunday is Saint Mark’s account of the Lord Jesus’ prophecies on the End Times. While alarming, these teachings on the end of the world remind us all of the contingency of time. It teaches us that time will eventually come to an end, not simply in our own lives at our deaths, but also universally at the end of the world.
This sobering reality shatters boredom and wakes us up to the giftedness of time. We have the time we have, it moves quickly, and it will come to an end.
Such a deeper awareness of time convicts us to use it well, gracefully, and productively. In sight of its certain conclusion, we should ask ourselves how we’re using time along the way. And this type of self-questioning, when it’s done well and honestly, nurtures an accountability within us. As the Lord Jesus describes the end of the world, we can ask: How am I using my time? Do I treat it as a precious commodity and see it as a means for spiritual growth, self-enrichment, and service to neighbor?
The early Christian theologians defined time as the measurement of motion. And so, our self-inquiry broadens: What am I doing with the time given to me? Are my actions edifying or destructive to myself and others? Do I reach out and aspire to help those in need?
As we come to a renewed knowledge of time’s futility, boredom is dethroned because a new vigor is brought forth. As we ask ourselves questions and realize – this will all end at some point – we are energized to get to work, to use our time well, and to pay attention to how we can make the world a better place.
With this sense of accountability, which intensifies as we take it seriously, we discern and begin to accept even deeper lessons about ourselves and the world around us.
As we comprehend the power we’ve been given with time, and as we dive into using it well, we are shocked as we grasp, in a more practical way, the awareness that we were not made only for ourselves. As a gift is unwrapped, time progressively unveils to us that we did not create ourselves.
We were created by a loving God, gifted with time, entrusted to one another in the human family, and promised eternity.
These are some of the tempering lessons offered to us by time. If we engage time well, then it can be a gentle and helpful teacher. If we give into distraction and boredom, however, then time becomes a tyrant who causes desolation, regret, and emptiness.
The choice is ours. What will we do with our time?