Thoughts to Ponder, Number 20
24 Marcheshvan, 5760; 4 November, 1999

More on Boredom

Boredom is a multi-faceted phenomenon in our days and we may well be justified in considering still another dimension of this destructive force.

In the "olden days," it was a privilege to be mature. It was something people would strive for. It meant maturity of attitude, a great amount of experience and knowledge of how to deal with the problems of life. It also meant well-considered opinions. This is no longer the case. This is not due to the fact that younger people have become more experienced or knowledgeable, but because the older generation, i.e. those who used to be considered mature, have suddenly shown signs of immaturity. They have stopped being mature. This is shown in the way that the older generation deals with free time. While in earlier days people used their free time to do creative work for which they had no time when they were working, we find that most "mature" people today spend their free time by returning to their childhood days. They watch television, go to a movie or spend their time in bed. This is exactly what they did when they were very young: to hear, watch and sleep; extremely passive behavior.

Passivity, however, is no longer the "privilege" of the young. It has become the preferred norm for all ages. As a result, the distinction between young and old has been obliterated.

There is a distinct difference between a father who is involved in a creative activity, even when it is only building a chicken house, and a father sitting for hours in front of a television screen. In the first case, he is mature; in the second case, he has returned to his immature days. And it is exactly in these kinds of activities in which their children watch them. His or her father may be a professor at a university, but at home he has returned to his childhood. This is not to deny the value of watching television. Sometimes television offers excellent programs. But one has to realize that one is selling one's birthright for a soup of lentils. The difference of age is revealed primarily in the way in which free time is used. When grownups' behavior is identical to that of youngsters, all distinction has faded.

That this results in the fact that the older generation has lost its dignity in the eyes of the young is obvious. Strangely, however, this does not mean that the mature admits his immaturity but that the immature considers himself to be mature. The son recognizes that he does the same as his father: nothing! And out of that negativity the son fills his life: he clothes himself with the garments of maturity which his father has rejected.

But there is another issue here. Our problem also relates to the decline in religious consciousness. This time it is the disappearance of the belief in the "afterlife" which seems to play a role. In earlier days, youth had a degree of respect for the elderly, because they were closer to death and therefore to the "truth." Somehow elderly people were "nearly there." A few more years, months or days and they would enter the "real thing." As such, the elderly person sat close to the door, while the younger ones were still in the waiting room. Today, however, this is no longer the case. The elder is no longer seen as one "nearly there" but as one "nearly nowhere." This has entered into the communal consciousness of modern man. The older man has lost his grandeur, and the younger people see him as having served his turn.

Redistribution of this essay is permitted when printed in full.

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