There’s nothing wrong with enjoying good entertainment.
With Netflix, video games, and mobile apps being so ubiquitous, you can binge-watch TV shows in the bathroom, on the highway, or flying in a plane. It’s easier than ever to indulge the itch.
We all joke about it. Commercials have even satirized “the show hole” (that moment your series ends and you have nothing else to watch). But it’s all representative of a real addiction to entertainment.
I used to play video games like it was a full-time job. From time to time, I still break out an old game like Zelda: A Link to the Past and grind out three or four hours of blissful worthlessness. It can be great. It can be fantastic. It can also make you feel like a balloon with a hole in it.
I love getting together with buddies and having “v-game” parties. It’s great to bond over competition and innocent fun. Entertainment itself is good and valid. God invented it. It’s great.
But it’s really easy to give it inordinate sway in our lives.
Sometimes it’s good to be really really bored. Sometimes, after you force yourself to be really really bored, you actually feel fantastic. For a while, I wondered why.
Why I love being really really bored
I’ve heard that constant stimulation by digital media has a similar impact on our brains as heroin abuse. It damages our ability to behave with self-control and to enjoy the boring things in life (which is basically everything that matters). It hurts our actual, real, physical brain. If that doesn’t creep you out, I don’t know what will.
Heroin addicts need more and more heroin each time to get the same high. Doesn’t take much of an imagination to wonder about entertainment.
To be fair, other studies show that small amounts of time devoted to video games like Call of Duty can increase our brain’s capabilities. When I first heard that, I ran with it—“AMEN BROTHER! OOH-RAH!” But the point is: entertainment-in-small-doses=good. Entertainment-as-life=bad.
Most of us have had our couches grafted into our thighs, and our smart-phones plugged into our wrists like an IV. If ever the world has looked like the Matrix, it’s now. Just go to any restaurant and count the number of people too absorbed in their phone to notice the color of paint on the walls.
After a while, you’ll start checking the corner for a man with sunglasses who may refer to you as, “Mr. Anderson.” Or a guy with a gap in his teeth offering you two different colored pills and making cryptic references to Alice in Wonderland.
A while back, when I was trying to figure out this whole writing thing and having an extremely difficult time convincing myself to grind out a few more words and finish the rough draft of Cain, I realized I had a problem. I felt I didn’t have any time in the day. But my mind told me that probably wasn’t true.
So I counted the hours I spent playing video games and watching movies/shows/etc. every day. It was an enormous amount of time.
I still felt like I couldn’t give any of it up. That creeped me out.
So I tried going off of video games. Cold turkey.
It sucked. I instantly became really really bored. My eyes darted around the room looking for ledges for my ninja-assassin to climb. My fingers twitched as if triggering the crosshairs of an AK-47 to raise on the blank screen in my living room.
I had no idea what to do with myself. Should I roll around on the ground? Should I eat some poptarts? What the heck did people even do before modern entertainment?
And then, after a while, everything calmed down. I was still really really bored. But the buzz in my mind died away and there was merciful quiet everywhere. Inside and out. I was really really bored and kind-of liked it. I could think for once. Time slowed to a snail’s pace, and I was able to take stock of who I was and who I wanted to be.
But most of all, I was able to pray. That, for me, was life changing.
So when I’m struggling with anxiety and stress, or whatever, I try to get really really bored. Because when I’m really really bored, I’m free to sit in the arms of my Savior. No distractions. Nothing between us. Just the comfort of his presence.
Call of Duty ain’t got nothin’ on that.