Why Curious People Don’t Get Bored

There were two weeks left in summer vacation. For another two weeks, the kids would be off school and out of class. For another two weeks they would experience the freedom they long for through ten months of every year. For another two weeks they would be dead bored.

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I remember my summer vacations fondly. I remember them as times I roamed free and spent all day every day with childhood friends. We wandered woods, and drifted down streams, and discovered the world around us. And, of course, there were the vacations, mostly spent at a cottage four or five hours from home—close enough to be accessible, but far enough to be a vacation.

But, realistically, I know I must have spent a lot of my summer moping around and whining to my mother, “I’m bored.” Parents try to help their kids through the summer, to keep them entertained. But most parents don’t, and just plain can’t, keep up the excitement for two full months.

There were two weeks left in summer vacation. Two of my kids were sprawled on the couch in dejected boredom, wishing they could just watch a little more Netflix or play a little more Flappy Bird. One of my kids was wide-eyed, staring into the pages of a book. And it occurred to me: Curious people don’t get bored. People with a deep sense of wonder don’t get bored. People with a deep desire to appreciate the world around them and to learn its secrets—these people have developed a resistance to boredom.

This realization came a little too late in the summer to do me much good, but it is one I have been thinking about ever since. It makes me see that the challenge with our children is not to find things that will entertain them, but to find wonders that will impress them. The challenge is not to pile up things for them to do, but to find things that will evoke that sense of curiosity, that desire to know more.

And the same is true with me. I am rarely bored because I am endlessly curious—there is always something to discover, something to learn, something to understand in a deeper way. Each of those things that evokes my curiosity soon generates projects to accomplish, and these propel me through most of my life. There are always facts to learn, ideas to pursue, projects to complete. Each of them is beautiful in its own way—the beauty of historical events, the beauty of an idea understood in a new way, the beauty of accomplishment. They all make my heart beat just a little bit faster.

But in those times I do experience boredom and am tempted to mope around like a disgruntled child—in those moments I can identify a distinct lack of wonder. In those times of boredom I have lost the awe, the wonder, that generates curiosity. I have lost the ability, or the desire, to be moved by beauty. The problem in these times is not that I have nothing to do; the problem is that I have nothing to pursue.

I am convicted that this has been the deepest and longest-lasting impact of Steve DeWitt’s excellent book Eyes Wide Open—It has helped me to identify and delight in beauty, to follow that beauty to wonder, to follow wonder to worship, and to enjoy it to God’s glory. He says it so well:

Beauty was created by God for a purpose: to give us the experience of wonder. And wonder, in turn, is intended to lead us to the ultimate human expression and privilege: worship. Beauty is both a gift and a map. It is a gift to be enjoyed and a map to be followed back to the source of the beauty with praise and thanksgiving.

Bored picture courtesy of Shutterstock.