Boredom

In order to control our minds, to be able to counteract boredom, we must focus on what we want to remember, what we want to achieve, and how we want to tell our story.

Rabbi Berel Wein

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One of the effects of being cooped up in one's home for weeks on end, which is the situation for many if not most of us over the past month, is the fact that sooner or later it becomes very boring. Boring is a curse for rabbis, teachers, lecturers, and unfortunately for students as well. There is no comment more devastating to someone who has made a presentation, to say to that person, "I was bored listening." 

There is a limit to how many classes one can view online, and because of that limitation, eventually boredom sets in. And when it does, the rabbis describe that being bored or unoccupied leads one to a feeling of desolation and depression. That is something that one must guard against at almost all costs, because there is nothing more depressing than being depressed.

Boredom also jogs our memory. When we are bored, our mind never turns itself off. Rabbi Yisroel Salanter, in his famous introduction to his work on Jewish ethics, begins by saying that the imagination and mind of a person never closes. It is always streaming. And since we are bored, our mind is not occupied with new things, it is preoccupied with old things. In boredom we remember things that we long ago thought we had forgotten or had sublimated. We also remember pleasant incidents in our life, but unfortunately, we are also reminded of incidents in times that were less than pleasant. All of this naturally affects our mood and how we view things.

One of the actions to counter boredom while I am here in the United States, is the time that I set aside to speak to my grandchildren, and great-grandchildren at length. In fact, at greater length than I have ever spoken to them before, about my life, my experiences, and my ideas. I speak to them about our family roots, where we come from, who we come from, and the details that I never had an opportunity to share with them. Since the magic of Zoom and other internet wonders are now commonplace, I have been able to do this four times already and will probably do it a few more times before they open up Israel and I can return home again.

I find it fascinating, because I have been able, through these Zoom sessions, to communicate a sense of the past, to the children, of the future. I hear in their comments, the wonder and amazement that always accompanies recollections of a world that they never knew. There is a longing they have for understanding who they are and gives them direction as to where they are going. It is a refreshing situation, that one is able somehow to record the stories of one's lifetime, to restore the memory in such a way that it can be meaningful not just to the person who is remembering, but to those who hear those remembrances as well. 

This has relieved a great deal of boredom, at least for me, because by nature I am a storyteller, and I can think of no more fascinating story than the incidents and occurrences that happen during one's lifetime.

The other antidote to boredom is reading. However, my eyesight does not really allow me to do so for any length of time, so  my daughter has been kind enough to read for me at 15 to 20-minute intervals, a very fascinating book that I find the most informative and really instructive. The main idea is to keep the mind active. Don't let it run by itself. When it does, which is a symptom of boredom, then many things will be remembered that really are of no benefit and need not be brought to our attention once more. 

But, in order to control our minds, to be able to counteract boredom, we must focus on what we want to remember, what we want to achieve, and how we want to tell our story.

So, this is the recommendation that I have, to recall all the positive incidents and accomplishments in our lives, that each one of us has. And that the relief from boredom that this will bring will be a great blessing to all concerned.

So, until we can face each other personally, I hope that this article of mine is not found to be too boring, and that you will accept it and the gracious spirit that is being sent to you.



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