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Boredom and Bag End

I have been bored over the past couple of days and, like most contemporary young adults, have attempted to relieve my boredom with, among the whole host of possible distractions, videos on Youtube. That is to say, I have watched the Hobbit trailer several times over. I can’t wait for Peter Jackson to take us back to Middle Earth. However, while watching the video recently, I had one of those silly, humbling moments so necessary in life: I realized that all my complaining must fall back on my own head. As I watched Bilbo and Frodo waved to each other in the opening shot of the trailer, followed by the shots of Bilbo writing “There and Back Again” at his desk and smoking a pipe in front of Gandalf, I cried (whether out load or to myself, it makes no difference [for I can’t really tell which]) “I want to go there!” And not just to be with a wizard, but to be with a friend. I want to smell the Gaffer’s roses and eat Hobbiton cheese, not just the cross swords and see magick. I want songs around my hearth and an unexpected party, and not just elves and dwarves. Fantasy is fine, but reality is so much finer. The trail is makes the adventure, whether that trail leads through the Pearl‘s marshes or over the MistyMountains.
And then I realized what a greedy fool I was. My living room is made up just like Bag End (minus, of course, the rounded doors, windows and hallways)! The trim is bare wood with light beige walls. Our hearth is always warm this time of year, and all sorts of singing and dancing goes on. I hike almost everyday in the woods behind my house, ride to parks and shops, can see roses just outside my bedroom window while I writing tales of mine own. This summer I hiked, hunted, fell from waterfalls and fought my demons. This school year I’ve had many an unexpected party and late night adventure. This weekend I’ll join many an old friend on a wonderful retreat. So why am I bored?

“You have to be happy in those quiet moments when you remember that you are alive; not in those noisy moments when you forget.” This quote of Chesterton’s entered my mind, and then I realized just what it was I was missing. I didn’t need an adventure that would have me forget reality. I wanted an adventure that would remind me I am a living reality. We grow too used to escapades that are escapes, rather than adventures that are returns. I sat there fuming about the grass being on the other side because I didn’t want to risk having to cut my own grass. Which is another way of saying I didn’t want to risk my own ,Assk you I will: why is the contemporary person so unsatisfied with their over entertained, over indulged, first world, last place kinda life style. Why does our boredom destroy us instead of rejuvenating us? Why do the few blessed hours granted us for recreation soon lapse into desperation for entertainment?

Simple: we’ve forgetton the pure joy of being. Of being what? Of BEING.

You might respond (and probably should respond), “Oh, thank you Daniel. Your metaphysics just solves all my problems. Meanwhile, you JERK, maybe you haven’t noticed, but I’ve got all sorts of things to worry about: a car, a house, a job, school, friends, lovers, haters, etc. I’ve got a life. So what if I want to escape to the land of the elves, or the wizards, or the vampire spouses, of Beyonce, Anime or the LSU tigers. Do not judge my hobbies!”

I don’t judge. I really don’t. They are all fine and good quality things, your hobbies are (except maybe the Tigers’ coaching). It is myself that I’m judging, that I’m making a public spectacle of. What need I of Rivendell when I’ve been to Kahdelea, Bag End when I live on

Stratford Drive

or the Dead Marshes when I have the home of Swamp People in my proverbial backyard? And yet I am bored with it! Why am I bored? Is there something wrong with me?

I always risk being far too intimate in these reflections, but I only do it because I sincerely believe that we all can relate. And what I would like to relate is this lesson (though I live it rather imperfectly myself): boredom is not a curse, but an invitation. Disappointment and disillusionment with our amusements must not be the final word. Rather than taking my word for it, though, here are some more of Chesterton’s, echoing from 80 years ago;

“What we have to teach the young man of the future, is how to enjoy himself. Until he can enjoy himself, he will grow more and more tired of enjoying everything else. What we have to teach him is to amuse himself. At this moment he is more and more dependent upon anything which he thinks will amuse him. And, to judge by the expression of his face, it does not amuse him very much. When we consider what he receives, it is indeed a most magnificent wonder and wealth and concentration of amusement. He can travel in a racing-car almost as quick as a cannon-ball; and still have his car fitted up with wireless from all the ends of the earth. He can get Vienna and Moscow; he can hear Cairo and Warsaw; and if he cannot see England, through which he happens to be travelling, that is after all a small matter. In a century, no doubt, his car will travel like a comet, and his wireless will hear the noises in the moon. But all this does not help him when the car stops; and he has to stand stamping about in a line, with nothing to think about. All this does not help him even when the wireless stops and he has to sit still in a silent car with nothing to talk about. If you consider what are the things poured into him, what are the things he receives, then indeed they are colossal cataracts of things, cosmic Niagaras that have never before poured into any human being are pouring into him. But if you consider what comes out of him, as a result of all this absorption, the result we have to record is rather serious. In the vast majority of cases, nothing. Not even conversation, as it used to be. He does not conduct long arguments, as young men did when I was young. The first and startling effect of all this noise is silence.”

Into that silence, let us pour our prayer, so that our silence yields not despair. Oh Great God, do your best. Oh Great God, give us rest.

About Daniel Lacourrege

Daniel Lacourrege is a 20-something year old theologian living in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. It is the best place in the world to be a 20-something. It is the third best place in the world to be a Catholic (Rome & Jerusalem claiming first & second).
His life has become one adventure right after another. Most of them start in a classroom or library, but very few of them finish there. He likes most things, but usually must be in the mood for them. The only thing he is never in the mood for is traffic.
If you feel so moved, you may email him at lacourrege4@archbishopshaw.us.

Comments

  1. “Do you know, that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom.” ― Terry Pratchett

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