How tuning in, turning on, and dropping out every once in awhile may be the best thing for all of us.
Intense new experiences are what childhood is about. Everything is new—until it’s not. And when things are no longer new and exciting, we become bored. Boredom is everywhere. I see it around me, and I hear people complain about it, and I see people trying to resist it.
I think it’s fair to say my children haven’t yet been bored with life (sure, once or twice they’ve said they were bored on a long, hot summer day, but a few minutes later they were building forts or whatever), and I think it’s also fair to say I’ve yet to experience boredom. In fact, I often wish to experience it, so that I could know what it feels like, and also because that would mean that my jobs would be done, my interests and curiosities would be satisfied, and my dreams would be realized.
I can’t help but wonder, though, if given enough time, we’ll all feel it. Do we, as we age, from childhood to adulthood, become a bit more numb? Do we start feeling dull about the world and its mysteries? Do our interests and curiosities actually get fulfilled? Do we start looking for antidotes for boredom? Or do we just get tired and sort of give up?
I have to believe it’s part of our job to consciously resist that, to keep trying to live the well-examined, self-reflective, full life that most of us inherently want—if only because it will keep us from boredom and despair. And in the end, that’s why I’m a fan of these sudden, odd trips: new culture, different language, surprising food, red snakes, weird varieties of chickens, and donkeys as a primary mode of transportation.
When we got back to Colorado after our winter trip, my lips immediately became chapped, my eyes got scratchy and dry, and the kids returned to schedules of school and violin and swim lessons and computer games. I was so happy to be home, to have hot water and water pressure—both at the same time! To have familiar meals and drinking water I didn’t have to purify! But I also noticed that when I took my daily walk in the hills, that everything was a little sharper, a little clearer. It felt, in fact, that I had taken some sort of drug that brought life into focus. Again, it was the little details: how the ice cracks on the nearby stream when the sun hits it, for example. Or how long my son’s eyelashes are, or how bright my daughter’s laugh is. And it all made me very in love with life, and that was my hope for my children, too: That they find ways to live with sharp awareness, and have an entire lifetime that abounds with a sense of wonder.