I have a fear of boredom. Some people are scared of spiders or rats. I once knew a girl who had an irrational fear of bananas, but then she had a lot of issues… come to think of it, I’m not a big fan of rats either, or avocados, but that’s just a taste thing…

But boredom, really scares me. That I mightn’t be occupied with some task, with some activity, with some mental process. I fear the empty space of inactivity. There are lots of reasons for this which I’ll not go into now, cause I started this to talk about something else.

In the same way, I fear silence. I think it’s part of the boredom thing. That if there’s silence then maybe I’m not doing something and then I must be bored. Noise, music, recorded speech – occupies all my waking moments. I love to multi-task (I knew I should have been born a woman – oops, did I just say that… darn backspace key is broke… araghhh…). I cannot just read, or write, or study, I must do all at the same time, preferably with some ryan adams in the background.

Part of this is from society. We have ‘musack’ everywhere. Everything must be accompanied by some form of melody, however terrible it might be. There is an entire industry producing CDs for stores and supermarkets. In NZ they all seem to have to contain at least 2 Crowded House songs (usually ‘don’t dream it’s over’ and ‘fall at your feet’) and a selection of terrible 80s twaddle that I hate but end up singing along to as I wander round Woolworths buying my cheap noodles. Today I was singing bloomin well Eurythmics. My parents told me coming here would all end in tears…

And there’s of course elevator music. Which is kind of good in a way, cause I’ve never been more awkward places than elevators. There’s just you and the random punter, and you’re in the elevator, and it’s got mirrored walls and you don’t know where to look. And it opens at a floor where no one gets on and no one gets off, and there’s just the painful silence, like a scene from ‘the office’, and I feel I have to say something but I just can’t seem to put a rational sentence together. You then realise you have one of those pseudo-sneezes going on, and you do a few rapid inhales like you’re going to sneeze but you don’t – I know you’re all with me here, we’ve all been there. At that moment ‘Weather with you’ (flippin Kiwis and their crowded house everywhere…) comes on in the elevator, and we all breathe a silent sigh of relief and the guy beside you relaxes and feels able to clear his throat in confidence.

So, after that disproportionately long paragraph, then maybe I’m not completely against ‘musack’.

I do wish I could content myself with silence a bit more often. When I go for a cycle, or a walk, I make sure I have music with me. If only for the reason that young men walking by themselves look less pyschopathical (?) than young men walking by themselves with headphones. I’d probably be better with a dog though not sure if the dog would. Funny, that when I’m cycling (with music or a John Piper sermon or two) I’m actually less distracted than usual and can use the cycling to focus on what I’m listening to. If I just listen to something without actually doing something else, then I tend to drift and go ‘oh look a fluffy cloud’ and then I’m gone…

The flat where I’m living, while not especially small, is easily big enough for sound to travel throughout the whole place. And I have the computer wired to some cheap (but flippin lovely) speakers and i always have iTunes on or Radio 4, or as I have most recently found, video clips from Newsline 6.30 from the BBC website (how cool is that!). All I need is Angie…

So wherever I go, and whatever I do in the flat, then I can always multi-task. I find it hard to eat a meal in the flat in silence. I always have the music on, or I’m reading the paper at the same time as eating. When I go to the loo or have a shower then there’s always background noise, there’s always something to occupy my mind. Though you probably didn’t need to know the loo bit. Though while I’m here (wherever that is, there is a strong family –well me and Simon – tradition of prolonged, well occupied toilet breaks. Be it a newspaper a book, or as I used to do, take in a whole box of lego and play pirates with them. Beginnning to wonder if this needs censorship. Or at least editorial review…

The fear of silence is roughly speaking the fear of boredom. The fear of the cold harsh reality of who I am, that there’s all types of appalling stuff still going on in my head and my heart. And the fear that if I stop, then I might need to face up to some of it. That GOD might be speaking to me about some of it.

In the silence right now, all I can hear is the hum of the speakers (I told you they were cheap) and the noise of my fingers on the keyboard. And there’s fifty people living beside and above me and I can’t hear anything from them. And I’m not scared. And I’m not lonely. And I’m not bored.

It takes time, but the ‘tinnitus’ of the ‘musack’ and the ‘80s twaddle’ of my life slowly begins to die down. And I can hear my internal carotid pulsing as it angles past my middle ear. And slowly, following that, there rises the cacophony of my own soul. With the thousand images of who I think I am, and who I want to be, the movie-script ending. And the faces of all the people I love, like headshots in black and white. And all my fantasies and dreams. And all the patients I’ve ever treated and all the people I’ve watched die. And the history of GOD’s word and his people and his overpowering grace to me, a sinner.

And I’m not bored. I’m not scared. I’m alive.

There was a Paul Simon song, I believe there still is a Paul Simon song, if we’re talking tenses. Unlike ‘there was an old woman who lived in a shoe’, I presume she doesn’t live there any more, I presume she got benefits or DLA and moved out.

Anyhow, the song goes:

‘I’m heading for a time of quiet, of peace without illusion
When I can lie down on my blanket
And release my fists at last’


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November 2006
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