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On the Corner

By Robert Docter – 

I’m enthusiastic about life. Are you?

I talk to some people who seem to believe that life is just kind of hum-drum. Not much happens for them. It’s just “awful darn daily,” they say. Get up. Go to work. Eat the same lunch at the same place with the same people and go back to the same tedium. Watch television. Go to bed. Wake up and start over.

Do you know anyone like that?

They’re bored with life. They can’t figure out how to live with enthusiasm. They seem trapped in their own nothingness. Boredom is an immature response. I’m confused by people who tell me they’re bored. My first reaction is to try to remedy the situation by improving my own song and dance so I can “entertain” them more effectively. I do my shuffle and syncopated two-step. I leap into song with a broad grin, and I discover to my great amusement that they are no longer bored–at least for the next 45 seconds.

Then I realize that entertainment–even “good” entertainment–will not combat boredom. At this point I usually tell the person: “Well, if you’re bored, then fill your empty space.” They usually don’t get it, but it’s good advice even if it’s not good communication. Boredom simply is empty space. The problem these people have is that they want somebody else to fill their emptiness for them. They are unwilling to accept the responsibility to do it for themselves.

The age in which we live fosters the notion that our boredom should be remedied by external stimuli–by something exciting outside me. My teacher should be more exciting than the newscaster on channel four; better than the actor playing Hamlet on public television. My food should be more deliciously prepared, my house should be more decorative, my garden more luxurious than anything Martha Stewart herself could assemble. The sermons I hear should surpass those presented from the largest television pulpits in the nation. The choir at my church should be comparable to the Master Chorale. I cannot be expected to tolerate amateurish performance at any time. Fill my space, my world. Entertain me. Keep my life exciting so I can feel enthusiastic about living.

Pretty sad–even hilarious if it weren’t true.

How does one combat boredom and bring enthusiasm to life? Easy! Accept responsibility for filling the emptiness of your life. Recognize that you control the meaning you assign events which surround you. You control how they make you feel. You determine what thoughts go through your mind. You decide the amount of joy allowed in your life. You decide how you will label the time you spend on various matters. If there isn’t any joy in your life, it’s because you aren’t putting it there. Nobody can do it for you. It’s a gift you can only give yourself. People around you can work their heads off trying to make you happy, and if you don’t choose to involve yourself with them, it’s not going to happen.

Try this:

First. Decide to fight your boredom. Say: “I’m bored with being bored.”

Second. Believe it is possible to change. It is, in fact, unavoidable. Recognize that you have the power to control the direction of that change.

Third. Change the way you think. Begin to resist negative labels for activities and events in your life. Find positive words to describe them. Begin to find the people around you interesting. Confront the process of “vegetizing.” Keep your mind active. Read. Study something.

Fourth. Find a way to introduce purpose into your life. Establish some realistic goals. Work towards accomplishing them.

Fifth. Be involved with other people in some joint effort–even if you have to organize it.

Sixth. Be a helper. Find a way to give yourself away for part of every day. Help someone. Volunteer at something–even if you’re tired, because you’ll discover it will energize you.

Seventh. Decide to grow spiritually. It’s a choice, you know. But God loves you too much to impose himself on you. If you want growth here, you must decide to work at it. Boredom is the product of an absence of spirit. A life full of enthusiasm and meaning follows one’s confrontation with boredom.

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