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looking out the window - working on the creative life

When was the last time you let yourself be bored? Not in a “the repeat of this home renovation TV show is really boooorrrring” way, but in an “I’m just going to sit here and stare out the window” way? Sometimes our lives are so busy, it feels like there’s no space for daydreaming, or for the kind of thinking that’s not focused on a task.

This is how Nora Young introduced her radio show, Spark. In her interview with Eva Hoffman, they discussed her new book with the tongue-in-cheek title: How to be Bored. Hoffman argues that our constant level of activity has real consequences:

We can become very disoriented as we move from one activity to another. We become emotionally depleted, paradoxically. We begin to experience not more but less. We begin to lose our ability to savour experience, to make sense of it, to experience our experience.

We need time for reflection, for introspection, for the cultivation of self-knowledge. Without that time, we can lose sight of what our preferences are, what our desires are, but also what our values are. The time we need for this self-knowledge is different from our everyday scheduled time, or the quick hits of our digital lives. It is a time for musing… for dipping into our memories, for connecting our memories to our present situation.

In my series on Time and Timelessness, I have wanted to re-aquaint ourselves with the natural and necessary desire to imagine, to reflect, and to be creative. I was fortunate enough in my childhood I suppose, to have long stretches of unencumbered time to explore, hike, play, and get lost in thought and geography. Thus when I began my own spiritual journey with Jesus, all this lent itself to what Christians call “quiet times”, “devotional times”, or little “sabbaths” in order to be alone with God, to listen to Him, to journal, and to pray.

So it was with interest that I heard about Hoffman’s re-encouragement for this age to learn How to Be Bored. This book “explores the importance we place on success, high level function, effectiveness and alertness in today’s competitive society. In a world where it is almost impossible to be idle, she draws upon lessons from history, literature and psychotherapy to help us embrace boredom and find meaning in doing nothing – to appreciate real reflection and enjoy the richness of our inner and external lives.” (Panmacmillan).

Since I lived in a home with five other siblings, there was no space for being alone in a full house. When I came to faith in Christ, naturally I was drawn to seek Him; my first quiet time found me perched on the roof of the old garage/chicken pen in the backyard. There I would read the scriptures and talk with God in the most primitive, child-like way imaginable. No one showed me this; it was – I came to know – His own beckoning me into the marvellous boredom of being in His presence.

Though I do not discern any overt spirituality in Ms. Hoffman’s encouragement, let me encourage you to be still with the One who is still with you, remembering what an ancient worshipper intoned,

Be Still and Know that I am God

This is so much more enigma than dogma.