Here’s the gist of my message in Quaker Meeting today:
I recently read an article on how the state of boredom is no longer a part of our daily experience. We have in our pockets small devices that allow us to entertain, amuse or at least stimulate us whenever we want, whether it is riding the train, sitting in a dentist office waiting room or lying in bed before sleep. We have conquered boredom! But is that a good thing?
I am the worst culprit. I sometimes have as many as three different digital devices on the table when I am eating alone, and find each of them “essential” in some way. I can’t just sit there and enjoy my meal.
This need for constant stimulation is one of the reasons why friends of mine often have a hard time grasping what happens during Quaker Meeting for Worship. The idea of sitting for an entire hour in silence, with apparently “nothing happening” is baffling to some of them. It just sounds… boring.
In the old days, as I understand it, it was not uncommon for Quaker Meeting for Worship to go on well beyond an hour. It just kept going … until it was done. I’m not sure I could have tolerated that.
An hour to me often seems like a long time to “just sit,” even after a decade or so of practice. But for me it is the process of working through the boredom, the nodding off, the mind wandering, and then getting to a deeper state of meditation and prayer that is so valuable. Sometimes it takes nearly the entire hour to get to that state. But it is always worth it when I get there.
I do wonder if our practice is too hard for many people in this age, and how that effects our ability to bring in new people.
At the same time, I do believe that Quaker practice of silent worship is needed even more in this age of constant instant gratification.