I have a very broad taste in music that ranges from Bach to a lot of what kids are listening to these days. Some music takes a while to appreciate. I remember it took about six times through Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony before I grew to love the last movement. Some modern music is easy to like right off. I heard a snippet of a catchy tune on a television show recently so I went to iTunes to get the full version. A lyric in the song caught my attention and hasn’t left me—“We’re young and we’re bored*.” My interest in this line isn’t because it is clever but because it’s a tragic reality for way too many healthy people, young and old.

When I was a teenager, any hint of boredom was a signal to my parents that I needed a couple more chores around the house. Consequently, I kept myself involved in sports, music, study, and reading—any activity that showed I wasn’t bored. I guess I have my parents to thank for my current lack of boredom. One of my favorite stories about boredom is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Most people think it is a story about good and evil. I think they miss the point.

Dr. Jekyll was a prominent physician, respected and honored in the community. However, doing good and serving those in need no longer excited him. By most standards, he had a great life but he longed for excitement and adventure. He was bored. He was a man of principle without passion.

Instead of seeking out meaningful pursuits to fill the void in his life, Dr. Jekyll took a drug that created an alter ego, Mr. Hyde. His new identity was exciting, fearless, and unbound by the constraints of social convention or morality. He felt alive! He was full of passion but had no principles to guide him. Mr. Hyde would go on reckless sprees of destructive behavior leaving Dr. Jekyll to suffer the consequences. It became the doctor’s undoing.

Boredom shouldn’t be taken lightly. Except among the clinically depressed, I have found boredom is a void that demands to be filled—and as the story above illustrates, how one fills that void makes all the difference. In a relationship, boredom is a vacuum that can suck the life out of your partner and replace him or her with a Mr. Hyde. Drugs, alcohol, affairs, endless internet surfing, and other selfish activities can overcome your sweetheart in their effort to quench the parched feeling of boredom.

Or . . . boredom can be the spur to push you to achieve more in life. There are positive ways to overcome boredom. Boredom in your job can inspire you to pursue your dreams. Boredom in the bedroom can inspire greater romance and communication. Boredom after work can push you to seek for opportunities to reach out and serve. Boring thoughts can motivate you to read, study, and learn in an effort to expand your intellect.

Feelings of boredom are the hunger pangs of the soul. In our fast-food society, it often feels easier to feed our inner self the emotional equivalent of a Twinkie than give it what it really longs for. We found in our studies at The Eight-Cow Relationship that successful relationships shared a passion for life. They attacked boredom head on and replaced it with meaningful activities that benefited the relationship and the individual. However, just like Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the most fulfilling pursuits in life do take time and effort to appreciate. They aren’t the easier solution to boredom but they can last a lifetime and bring the most happiness.

Kurt Dowdle

* “Blow” – written by Kesha, Klas Åhlund, Lukasz Gottwald, Allan Grigg, Benjamin Levin, and Max Martin. Performed by KE$HA.