Power Boredom


You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

That’s Kafka. But you knew that. It’s a great quote, and the odds are excellent that, if you’re the kind of person who reads what I write, you’ve run across it before. The quote gets shared a lot because it feels true; it scratches the “consider the lillies of the field” itch and reminds us that the universe takes care of its own. So often success comes not through trying to force an outcome, but rather by learning how to get out of the way.

Yes, of course there’s something to be said for hard work. But intention is important here. If you work because you believe in lack, because you’re trying to fill a hole, because you’re afraid, you’re never going to get anywhere. On the other hand, if you get in touch with something inside you that feels so profound, so beautiful, so true that you can’t help but take action, you’re on the right track.

Getting there requires silence and stillness. Happiness, growth, success, prosperity, heroism, revolution depend on a metaphorical trip to the wilderness, as you know from every hero story you’ve ever read. So what happens when we can’t sit still?

How many stimulus-free moments have you had in the past week? They’re increasingly difficult to come by. The next time you’re in a restaurant glance up from your smartphone for a second and count how many folks are texting (or tweeting, or instagramming a picture of their nachos to share on Facebook). Count the number of kids who are playing games or watching videos on their parents’ mobile devices.

Does your television rock you to sleep at night? Does a clock radio (or the digital equivalent) wake you up in the morning?

Same here. None of these things are bad in and of themselves. But the cumulative effect is a culture that seems to be afraid of silence. Here’s my theory: when we’re still and quiet, when we’re present, we eventually encounter the truth about ourselves. I think that some folks are convinced that what they might find there isn’t worth the trip, so they rush to fill any space that might be created before something dangerous happens.

That “I’m not okay, you’re not okay” worldview is reinforced by all kinds of institutions for all kinds of reasons.

But they’re wrong.

You and I have seen moments of genuine heroism, grace, and beauty. Too many to ignore. You and I know what love feels like. The problem isn’t that we’re inherently inferior. The problem is that there are too many things getting in the way of letting that light shine.

People feel angry, hurt, afraid, or bored as a response to an excess of layers of abstraction between their current experience and the truth of who they are. Instead of tossing some of that baggage aside, some folks reach for some kind of distraction, superficial validation, sense gratification. Of course, that’s just adds layers, and the problem intensifies. Maybe that’s the beginning of addiction. It’s definitely the reason it’s hard to quit playing Candy Crush, even when you’ve got a term paper due.

Instead of reaching for the morphine button, sit with the boredom, the misery, the frustration for a minute and see what it has to tell you. If you can’t be YOU when you’re bored, you can’t get it from a metaphorical bottle.

There is something about you that is so beautiful, so true, so unbelievably world-changingly awesome that it, and you, are required by the universe. Getting to a place where you can express it requires nothing but your stillness.

What can you turn off today?