Transforming Boredom & Frustration Into Wonder!
Updated: Jan 6
"Don't let your children watch television until they know how to read, or else all they'll know how to do is cuss, fight, and breed." -Prince*
Of the evils that assault us, under the rubrics of "the flesh, the world, and the devil," two have been most prevalent in educating children. Since I warn my piano students about these two at the beginning of every course of study, I thought I'd share with you, as well. The two are:
These two are so cultivated in our society that every one of us sins by them regularly. We want what we do not possess. We aren't interested in what we do possess. Our entertainments ensure our captivity by carefully enhancing and manipulating these two to keep our attention. Our attention is the commodity to be bought and sold because where our attention is, so goes our energy, often in the form of money. It is our desire for one kind of future satisfaction or another that is yoked to our devices. Even the news, maybe especially the news is designed to play with our fears, anxieties, and hopes. It is this last one, hope, that is most twisted out of shape.
"This one, a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away to the future, the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Adventure. Hah! Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless!" -Yoda*
This is not the same as the concern for the overarching story of our humanity, culminating in the coming of Jesus and the establishment of a new heavens and new earth and the Holy City. Awareness of that future makes us able to be present here living in hope, encouraging one another, pouring out our energy and wealth in pursuit of love, justice, creativity, and mercy as if what God has done affects us here and now. Instead, this is the god of our stomach nagging us into despair.
Luke tells us about Paul’s adventure in Athens with this remark, “All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” In that description we see a diagnosis: ennui. Far from the delight that comes from concern for what you have been gifted with, this is what The Teacher, Qoheleth, says in Ecclesiastes 1:
“All things are wearisome, more than one can describe; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear content with hearing.”
and in Proverbs we find:
“Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.”
I ventured into gaming again in recent months. It was new and exciting for a while; things were challenging, stuff exploded, and the game makers crafted a passable narrative to tie the action together. It was a welcome break from my usual pursuits of reading, music, creating, teaching, study. The familiarity of controls and rules that were common to other games made for an accessible learning curve, so I was able to get in and follow the story easily. Refreshment stretched into a rut of grinding and habit, and every new DLC (downloadable content, or new material added to an existing game platform to freshen it up) was like adding a pan of hot water to a chilled bath, sooner than the original bath, it too would turn to lukewarm dissatisfaction.
By contrast, Van Morrison wrote a song with simple harmony that spoke of describing leaves.
Yeah, I too have a similar sense of weirdness when I think it over; a song about leaves. Morrison’s description of the leaves isn’t especially profound. He says, “Rich, red browney, half burnt orange and green.” Something my kids might say about autumn. And while the leaves themselves were probably amazing, varied, and infinitely able to capture the mind of the attentive person who is willing to see that God crafted each one individually and uniquely, and yet they are all leaves, giving a glimpse into the great mystery of unity and variety, this song is about the personal relationships intertwined with promises. It says:
“We were shining our light into the days of blooming wonder
In the eternal presence, in the presence of the flame”
“I said I could describe the leaves for Samuel and Felicity”
We know them because the narrator does. They are real for us because the promise the narrator makes to them is fulfilled:
“Didn't I come to bring you a sense of wonder?
Didn't I come to lift your fiery vision bright?
Didn't I come to bring you a sense of wonder in the flame?”
Relationship makes it all matter, and the “Presence of the Flame,” the “Eternal Presence,” is both the end of the inquiry, and the means of it. It is relationship that makes common things fulfilling, and so not boring. And it is deepening of relationship that makes frustrations easier to bear. Again, from Morrison’s song:
“It's easy to describe the leaves in the autumn
And it's oh so easy in the spring
But down through January and February
It's a very different thing
On and on and on, through the winter of our discontent…”
Why keep describing them for Samuel? Because you said you would, and more, because you said you would describe “what it means to you and me.” Samuel matters. Leaves matter, too, but leaves do not matter of themselves. Leaves matter because they are a window into the Eternal Presence. Likewise, the promises we keep are a window into the promises God keeps. The Eternal Presence, The Flame, is God’s earnest to us, partly expressed in our promise keeping to one another.
This is the deeper task of every student of music, and truly, every task we do. It makes the labor of running scales, making your hands obey you, and studying harmony into labors of joy. It can be applied to every human endeavor. It is the deep tutelage of love in the life of the human being.
As always, whatever little power you have, be faithful,