Friday, March 17, 2017

A Good Article about Boredom at Mass, and Some Thoughts on Boredom

Here is a very interesting article from the Catholic Herald, arguing that boredom experienced at Mass and in prayer can be a good thing, or at least a promising thing.

I like this article because I am always bored at Mass. I go to Mass at every opportunity, usually four to seven days a week, at least during term time in UCD. (Out of term, Mass isn't celebrated in UCD, except on holy days.)

I pray the rosary every day, and I have done so for about two years. I'm always bored when I pray the rosary, too.

Obviously, boredom is a relative term. Sometimes Mass and the rosary bores me less than at other times. Homilies are sometimes interesting.

Does this mean that I don't "get anything" out of Mass, in any subjective way? No, it doesn't. It's hard to describe what I do get out of it, though. Again, I'm speaking in subjective terms. I'm not talking about the all-important sacramental benefit.

The subjective, experiential benefit I derive from the Mass and the rosary isn't something I experience in "real time", if I may put it that way. I experience it in the back of my mind, out of the corner of my eye-- "outside time", in a way.

It's a bit like exercise or waking up early-- a pain in the neck, but something I feel better for having done.

Paradoxical as it might sound, I often wonder how atheists and secularists, as well as "spiritual" people who don't go in for organised religion, get by without the Mass or something like it.

I think about boredom a lot. I think it's an important subject for a social and cultural conservative, and a lover of the ordinary.

Boredom, I think, is a stage that we have to get through before we reach our "second wind"-- or our third wind, fourth wind, fifth wind, etc. Boredom is the border of the sublime.

Every proverb was a cliché at some stage. It's only when it goes beyond the point of cliché that it becomes a proverb.

You can't really love something, or even know something, until you've been thoroughly bored by it.

I hope the reader will forgive me if I quote, once again, one of my favourite passages from G.K. Chesterton, which I can hardly dispense with here:

The principle is this: that in everything worth having, even in every pleasure, there is a point of pain or tedium that must be survived, so that the pleasure may revive and endure. The joy of battle comes after the first fear of death; the joy of reading Virgil comes after the bore of learning him; the glow of the sea-bather comes after the icy shock of the sea bath; and the success of the marriage comes after the failure of the honeymoon. All human vows, laws, and contracts are so many ways of surviving with success this breaking point, this instant of potential surrender.

My favourite movie, Groundhog Day, seems like a dramatisation of this principle.

How often do our friends and our family bore us? How often have you heard the same stories and opinons from them? You listen, and perhaps it's quite pleasant, because you simply like listening to them. You like being around them. You respect the fact that the story or opinion is interesting to them, even if it doesn't seem at all interesting to you.

Art needs to respect boredom, I think. Rhyme and metre and convention were thrown out of poetry because poets wered bored by them. Now poetry bores everybody, because of the lack of rhyme and metre and convention.

Similarly, the conventions of storytelling may seem boring, but deliberately eschewing those conventions eventually becomes even more boring. A story without a plot is the most boring thing in the world, if you're not an avant-garde writer, or a critic that has read far too many stories.

Again, there seems to be a "time-lapse" element to this, just like the strangely out-of-time reward I get from Mass and the rosary. Novelties in art and literature may excite one generation, but they tend to bore posterity.

So committed am I to the salubrious effects of boredom that I make it my mission to bore everyone I come into contact with. That includes my blog readers. 

I sincerely hope you have found this post boring, and I will spare no effort to bore you even more in the future.


  1. No such thing as quoting too much Chesterton.

    The feeling of inwardness and solitude sometimes provided by boredom can indeed be useful to provide reflection, as in your experience of the Mass.

    The other side is the humor in the fact that individual humans can lie bored while so much is happening around them.

    1. I know, boredom seems really perverse when you think that life is so full of wonder and mystery and excitement. All the same, I do still get bored.

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  3. Come to think of The Dangling Conversation by Simon and Garfunkel. The line the borders of our lives may easily be misheard as the boredom of our lives...

    1. I never heard the song but I looked up the lyrics. Boredom would seem to make more sense!

    2. You are right! It´s definitely the music that made their excellence. Read apart it looks too poorly written. We´ll never know what the Nobel prize jury might say though. Have you heard Kathy´s Song? Bleecker Street? There are a few things in other songs also that has something akin to poetry in them, a few phrases that are great at least in its musical context. Boredom as a theme comes not just once either.

    3. The only Bleecker Street I know is a café-bistro in Dublin city centre! I think their lyrics are pretty good, though.

    4. Wow, that café I would like to sip Tea in! Love that song, both lyrics and music.