Secondary: Current Assemblies
Key Stages 4 and 5
To help students reflect on the experience of feeling bored.
Preparation and materials
- Perhaps it is the ultimate put-down, one that you use all the time, aimed at phenomena as diverse as going to church, cricket, classical music, politics, your double maths lesson or even sometimes a party – ‘it’s boring!’
This is the phone and tablet age, where every waking moment is filled with some kind of gadgetry and technological distraction, but being bored does not only happen to young people. For many of us of all ages, our need for distraction is insatiable – there is only so long that our smartphones can hold our attention before we need another, more exciting way to distract us from reality.
If, for a moment, we are in a situation when the assault on the senses relents, when – shock horror – we are asked to be silent for a few minutes or engage in an activity that does not bring instant gratification of the senses, we proclaim that it is boring.
- Perhaps the problem does not lie with the things we deem boring, but with us.
How long is it after we have got the latest phone, game or clothes that the intense feeling of excitement wears off and we start to get bored? Then we start to look for the next new thing – and so the cycle goes on.
- Could it be that part of the human condition – and certainly the human condition in the latter part of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries – is we are endlessly and relentlessly looking for distraction? Could it be we even do this to the extent that nothing, no activity or thing – no matter how fascinating or noble – can hold our attention for long?
Could it be what we really mean when we say something is boring is that it is not distracting us enough?
Perhaps the truth is that we all look for ways to distract ourselves from our deepest fears and feelings of insecurity, loneliness and pain. In other words, we are looking for ways to stop ourselves from having to think too deeply.
Time for reflection
The following words, from Paul in Acts 17.22–24, are addressed to a group of people who were also restless, distracted and searching. He was talking to the people of Athens, a city characterized by its intellectual activity and search for the latest innovations. He said to them, the thing that you are searching for, I now proclaim to you:
Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, ‘Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.’
In the great spiritual traditions of the world – including Christianity – we are taught that we do not find contentment in the ceaseless pursuit of material things and constant distraction. Rather, we find contentment in finding ourselves and finding God – in moments of silence, in standing in quiet awe and wonder before the beauty of nature, in prayer, in nurturing deep and meaningful relationships.
Finding peace within ourselves – that is how we truly resolve the problem of boredom. Spend a few moments now, just being still and quiet.
In the words of Augustine:
God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.