Inquire, Inquire part 7 – 5779
Additional thoughts about ennui
On a continuum, the simplest definition of ennui is boredom, while the most complex has to do with existential meanings. Yet, boredom could be a sign relevant to a greater existential reason. Also, I would contend that the avoidance of so-called boredom by way of a preoccupation with activity, in and of itself may be an attempt to distract oneself from the problem, unless that activity is meaningful. Therefore, ennui could be hidden behind the perpetual need to occupy one’s time with distractions. This borders on a more nuanced understanding from a psychological perspective, relegating ennui as more common than what most people would think it to be.
For myself, whether boredom is a cause or symptom of something greater, it is my daily religious routine that brings meaning and value to my life, regardless of any lull in activity throughout the day. In fact, as a matter of recourse, I would emphasize how it is exactly the value of connecting to G-d that permits me to transcend ennui. Yet, there is an inherent risk in constant religious activity, if this is done without kavannah (intention). In like manner that a lack of patience – an inability to rest in the moment – may lead to pre-occupying oneself with various distractions, including the incessant need to check on news and updates on social media, so too, can religious practices be done in a way that does not consist of true nourishment to the soul. Therefore, religious practices as well as secular distractions may easily take on the status of busy activity.
In the religious realm, it is ultimately quietude that provides for a reflective state of mind to connect with G-d. In Judaism, this is called deveykus – clinging to G-d. Yet, rote practice, without focusing on meaning, erodes the significance of deveykus. Moreover, a hurried and distracted mind will not contribute to a sense of kavannah. Even so, sometimes, a religious task will calm and focus the fettered soul; that is religion’s advantage, akin to meditation in the Eastern tradition. Judaism has its own brand of meditation as well as the more common element of prayer, inasmuch that meditation in the Jewish tradition often precedes prayer, by placing the adherent of religion in a state of mind more conducive to prayer. In summary, the ennui that manifests as boredom, or lurks behind the compulsion to stay active in order to escape the existential truth of one’s life, will dissolve over time as a meaningful focus on G-d transcends any discontent in our lives.