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01/07/2007 Archived Entry: "The intriguing challenge of boredom"

BOREDOM WITH A CAPITAL B. We've been having a lot of the kind of weather you don't want to go out in. Today is one of those days. Now I feel the pangs (but also more promises) of being truckless.

On another morning like this, I'd have at least driven out in the woods and given the dogs a short run behind the Toyota. Might then have taken the long scenic back road into town. I'd have run to the grocery store or filled the tank with gas. Now on days like this neither the dogs nor I venture outside without extreme motivation.

To make conditions even more primitive, my WildBlue satellite connection is still going out for hours every time the weather catches a cold.

So in my own mind I'm reduced to the conditions of some pioneer frontiersman. Never mind the computer. The heat. The electric light, the washing machine, the cellphone, the CD player, and the miniature waterfall that plays sounds of thunder or the cries of loons on a lake. And never mind the grocery store and the hospital close enough to walk to if I absolutely had to. Socially, my Inner Drama Queen feels as isolated as Trapper Joe in his snowed-in den.

I keep remembering that in Minnesota, to this very day, even with all our modern comforts, both the murder rate and admissions to mental hospitals go up in late winter. Cabin fever. And we aren't even close to that low point of the year yet. How long, long, long the winter is.

Past people had tribal tales around the fire or practice combats for young warriors. We don't have this. We have television. I don't have television. Well, I have one I use only as a DVD box. And I just moved it out to the yurt, which is now an unheated storage building. I need to be super motivated to go over there, huddle before a space heater, and watch a movie.

I miss my tribe, both the one in town and the one online. You might expect me to tell you I miss my truck and my Net connection, too. But for this moment, I welcome not having them. I'm thrilled to be bored, even as this day stretches endlessly before me and I find myself thinking bleak thoughts of the future.

Overcoming this challenge of boredom through inner resources is one of the great experiences of being human. It's here that, if we don't go stir crazy and start playing solitaire compulsively or start ax-murdering granny, we have the opportunity to approach wisdom. Here, we get to find out who we are inside and what really drives us. Are we going to turn to amusements, merely trivial (as I admit I often do when left to my own devices)? Or are we going to use this time by being open and receptive to our surroundings? And our inner selves.

"Mindfulness" the Buddhists call it. A rare state in highly driven, high-entertainment lives. In my life, too. But there are those moments ... if we let them happen ... when we get a glimpse. It may be a glimpse within ourselves. It may be a glimpse of something far off in the universe. But these are the moments the gods or the fates, or our own complex human makeup, lead us to the question: "What really matters?" And that question -- or even a silent receptivity to that question -- leads to intriguing answers.

So bring on the boredom, January. I want it. I crave it. I want to find out what's on the other side.

Posted by Claire @ 02:40 PM CST

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