Children (and grandchildren) are such great fun! When we’re at play with them, they have a way of wringing every possible measure of delight from whatever activity has captured their attention at the moment. Push a child on a swing, push him or her high, high, and higher! You’re bound to hear the child squeal, “Again! Do it again!” Ring around the rosy, all fall down and inevitably, the activity must be repeated. (They scramble quickly to their feet for another round.) It’s rare for any child to lose interest before the adult begs off from the tedium.
I’ve heard my young grandson tell me from time to time, “I’m bored.” This high-energy kid loves to be active and doing-doing-doing things non-stop. The idea of a child being bored amuses me. (I wonder if boredom is simply a modern invention.) What my grandson is really telling me … he needs direction. As I guide him to a new activity, he’s immediately distracted by it and moves forward quickly to entertain himself.
As people grow older, they may find relief in monotony … or at least, they yearn for a slower pace at which events bombard them. Sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch and watching the world go by used to be a common pastime. How many people still do that today?
For as long as I can remember, older people have been accused of being “set in their ways.” They do the same things day after day, eat the same foods, walk the dog at the same time everyday. When you can set your watch based on the predictable comings and goings of certain individuals, I think it’s because they’ve become comfortable with a familiar routine.
My mom is a perfect example. Nearly 89 years old, she has a set routine. If the day’s normal flow is disturbed, she becomes anxious and uncomfortable. In a sense, her routine isn’t monotonous; rather, its uniformity allows her to feel at ease … yes, in control. In her case, she actually derives pleasure in monotony.
In his 1908 book Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton observes that grown-ups “… are not strong enough to exult in monotony.” He contrasts the human weakness (not strong enough) with God’s strength – “God is strong enough to exult in monotony.” Then he uses a superb image to illustrate the principle: every morning, God says to the sun, do it again! Every evening, He speaks to the moon, do it again! And of course, both the sun and the moon do it again … as if for the very first time.
Implicit in Chesterton’s observation is that there’s actual beauty in the monotony! We can look at the sun every morning as it brings us morning light and find it repetitious (boring) … or, we can look at the sun as we’ve never looked before, savoring its beauty and exulting in its life-giving goodness! This quality of exulting in the monotony (with its apparent sameness) can transform how we, as adults, view the world. Tomorrow – and each tomorrow thereafter – is new, exciting, fresh!
Chesterton asserts that God our Creator has “the eternal appetite of infancy.” Jesus Himself says: “Behold I am making all things new.” Day after each new day, the rising of the sun and the appearance of the moon are tangible demonstrations of God’s love for us. With Him, we can exult in the monotony and eagerly repeat the child’s squeal, “Do it again!”