Sunday, July 29, 2012

the blessing of boredom

Duck and cover! Here comes aunt Sally and her endless tales of her wonder dog, Fifi! Or perhaps it's Uncle Phil, a converted Baptist and ... well, we all know what converts can be like. Or Veronica and her beauty products. Or Sam with his heart-felt positions on global warming or nuclear energy or political chicanery. Duck and cover!

Booorrrrring! There is something within that screams, "Give it a rest, will you?!" Over and over and over again ... same shit, different day.

But worse than Sally or Phil or Veronica or Sam, there can be a recognition within that I am capable of boring myself deaf, dumb and blind. Republican, Democrat, skier or stock broker, spiritual enthusiast or drunkard ... the over-and-over-and-over-ness can assert itself and, with luck, be noticed.

On the one hand, a sense of boredom can send a person scurrying to find something else to be interested in ... something which, in its turn, will probably turn boring. This is the addict's route. Something new, something more consequential ... if one shot of bourbon is good, just think how great two might be.

But I think boredom may be quite a good friend.

Take the precepts in spiritual life. Don't lie, cheat, steal, kill, etc. These are really quite important efforts and yet as attentive time passes, what becomes apparent is that, in fact, I am precisely what I try not to be... a liar, a cheat, a thief, a killer, etc. No matter how refined my effort ... still. And running out of energy about something I may have attempted for years, running smack-dab into boredom about my sweaty efforts ... well, isn't that worth the price of admission? I think it is. I am what I claim to dislike ... and what does that say about what I like?

The off-beat Zen monk Ikkyu, whose antics endeared him to a public that often ignored his long years of practice, once encouraged others by saying, more or less, "stop running around pestering all the Buddhas." Sally and Phil and Veronica and Sam are such pests! I am such a pest. Stop selling ice to Eskimos. Within and without -- stop being booooorrrrring.

Fifi the wonder dog.

Spiritual endeavor.

If it gets boring ... that's something to know. And if it doesn't get boring, that may be even more important to know.

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