When I was a child Sundays were practically synonymous with boredom. Everyone went to church and the whole thing was an incredible performance; dressing up in your best (and most uncomfortable) clothes, sitting still through hours of excruciating boredom and not being allowed to do anything fun. When I was a teenager it was hardly less exciting as the pubs were closed most of the day, only the paper shops were open (and with restricted hours) and there was nothing to do. It is hard to see a connection between all of this conformity and the teachings of Christ.
Religion everywhere is a magnet for those who seek power. The tragedy is that religions often stem from prophets or messiahs who preach against power – but the lure of getting people under your spell by promising heaven and threatening hell and by aligning yourself with the gods you are supposed to be worshipping, is too great. One survivor of Catholic abuse said a nun told her ‘I’m God.’ This is the most basic idolatry ever and you can’t understand how they don’t realise it.
But! Yesterday was an antidote to all that because I went to a brilliant service at All Saints. The church, so often associated with shaming gays and lesbians and excluding those who don’t fit in (thus directly contravening the teachings of Jesus) has changed – and one small church in Loughborough has taken the brilliant step of having a Pride service. It was a terrific event, inclusive and welcoming not just to gays and lesbians but to everyone, encouraging us to love ourselves as God made us.
After that I went to the pub and then to another pub and then for lunch and then for a walk along the canal. That’s what Sundays should be like.
I’m not often bored; however sometimes a state of tedium does overtake me and nothing I do can shake it. I feel like Sherlock when he lacks an interesting case to exercise his brain; like Sherlock I would probably fire some bullets into the wall if I could get away with it:
but my inner Mrs Hudson heads off any such activity (not to mention that I don’t own a gun) so I am reduced to pacing up and down and sighing. Deeply.
However, as my wiser self well knows, boredom is not so much the lack of interest as a lack of being interested. And whereas when I was a child I often suffered excruciating boredom through, for example, having to sit through three services every Sunday, nowadays I am rarely bored – just so long as I have a notebook and a pen. Because no matter how dull the situation, there is always something interesting in it: and the something interesting usually lies in describing it. Suppose I’m stuck in a particularly dull lecture where to walk out would be either rude or impractical. I amuse myself by describing the situation: first, my own sensations, then the voice and demeanour of the speaker, then the surroundings and then, most interesting of all, the reactions of the audience. If I have long enough I can work up quite a good blog post on the topic, and that’s a portion of my day’s work done.
But often being bored is not so much about what’s happening outside as what’s occurring inside. I find myself unable to take an interest in anything that has previously absorbed me. All my books are dull. TV is dull. There’s nothing on Netflix, nothing at the cinema, I don’t want to go for a walk, the guitar is tedious and I’m fed up with sewing. Quite simply nothing engages my interest because my interest is not ready to be engaged. But just as we found with the children that the best response to ‘I’m bored’ was ‘I’m sure you’ll find something to do’, so rather than bombarding the brain with possible toys I allow it just to be bored. Boredom is the mental equivalent of fallow ground: it is necessary to the creative brain, and often my best ideas come after a period of boredom.
Mind you, I don’t go to the lengths that Graham Greene did: he made life more interesting by playing Russian roulette:
So there it is. Sorry you’ve been subjected to this, but I hope the post was more bored than boring.