the koan of boredom

September 27th, 2012

Please see the link at the bottom of this post to read the entire essay online.

The message comes with good intentions, as do most things designed to inspire, so I click on the link in my email and watch the short video.

First I see a sleeping newborn swaddled in a blanket, followed by a silken black butterfly perched on a finger, a dewdrop dangling from a leaf tip, and a nest cradling two luminous robin’s eggs. Images dissolve to a piano serenade—a foggy meadow at daybreak, the fiery blaze of an ocean sunset, a peach pie cooling on a plank table, and a vase of peonies gracing a windowsill. A boy bites a glistening red popsicle at that perfect instant before it slides off the stick. A golden-haired girl blows the dancing flames from her birthday candles. “Moments,” the voiceover says. “Moments like this are all we have.”

They are happy, captivating shots, drenched in color and sentiment. The eye wants to drink them in and dwell. Compared to this, my life seems mostly washed-out and even wasted.

I stop the show. Something’s wrong with this picture. Pies and popsicles are appealing, but these pictures don’t quite capture the essence of life. Not the whole of it.

Later on, in the bathroom picking up dingy wet towels, I notice the mildew creeping up the bottom of the shower curtain. This is not the life of precious tributes. It’s not one of the moments you want to frame and keep. It’s one you want to throw out. And many of us do. We replace people, places, and things that have grown charmless and tiresome— which they always do. Fascination fades and restlessness stirs.

Chasing the picture perfect, we can lose what we have in abundance—the times that teach us even more than the rare delight of butterflies or a robin’s blue eggs. We lose the hours, the days, and the decades when nothing much seems to happen at all. Time freezes. Paint dries. Mildew spreads. We’re bored out of our minds.

Boredom is the unappreciated path to patience, peace, and intimacy, so who would read a paean to it? Let that be your koan.

Don’t quit now! Continue reading this complete article online at Shambhala Sun.

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  1. I was introduced to wabi sabi, or the beauty of ‘imperfection.’ Life is in the mold, rust, and deterioration. Thank you.

    Comment by Susan — September 27, 2012 @ 6:38 am

  2. Another beautiful and poetic post! I especially like the bit about “We lose the hours, the days, and the decades when nothing much seems to happen at all. Time freezes. Paint dries. Mildew spreads. We’re bored out of our minds” I flashed in moment to all those beautiful photographs of chipping colorful paint and rusted out old trucks. An instant impression of how beauty can be searched for in some elusive ideal in the moment and then dreamt about as we see relics from the past.

    Comment by Buffy — September 27, 2012 @ 6:45 am

  3. boredom was one of my guiding principles for parenting

    Comment by MJ — September 27, 2012 @ 3:20 pm

  4. You touch on something here that I think about all the time. I am a self-proclaimed over achiever and I find it very difficult to “settle” because I was taught to always strive to improve. Is there anything implicitly wrong with that? Isn’t that how great things are achieved? By settling for less than we are capable of, aren’t we wasting our gifts? As a stay at home mother who gave up medical school in exchange for a family and kids, I know that I have disappointed people and sometimes I can mistake other people’s disappointment for my own.

    Comment by Shelby — September 28, 2012 @ 1:48 am

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