The blessing of dullnessMar 21st, 2014 | By Ian Poulton | Category: Ministry
Friday lunchtime: sometimes the thought of a weekend is attractive, to finish at five o’clock and to have two days before work began again, but what would there be to do for two days? Where would there be to go?
Sometimes there is a feeling like that expressed by a radio listener who emailed the John Creedon radio programme last night telling of how the monotony of life in the Irish Midlands in the 1970s was broken by listening to Roxy Music on the radio. It would seem laughable to an iPhone generation to suggest that hearing a pop group on a transistor radio might make a day seem entirely different.
Rural Ireland’s beauty is its that it is undeveloped, that there are landscapes unmarred by urban developments, that one can drive for miles and miles on roads where congestion might mean pausing for an opportunity to pass a tractor, that finding somewhere to park is not a question that would ever come to mind. The very emptiness of places draws visitors from Europe (American visitors often come on organized tours and miss the chance of seeing the places not on the tourist trail, though there is so much vast emptiness in parts of the United States that Ireland must seem urban), emptiness also means life can be exceedingly dull.
Perhaps the dullness lies with myself rather than the place, though. In 1998, in a remote town in Tanzania, I met Doctor Samuel. He could have found lucrative work in the cities or outside the country, but he believed God had called him to work in the 100 bed hospital (that sometimes had 200 patients) in this obscure place.
At the end of his rounds he would begin the paperwork for he was also the hospital administrator. A non-stipendiary priest, Doctor Samuel devoted Sunday morning to church duties. If there were no emergencies, Doctor Samuel’s time off was Sunday afternoon before the rapid sunset at 6 pm and his evening rounds.
Doctor Samuel drove us to a lakeshore in his old battered jeep, he heard that going for a drive was what we did on Sunday afternoons. He stood looking out across the lake. There seemed a need to say something.
“Do you ever have a holiday?”
He smiled. “A holiday? How could I? Who would there be to do my work? Who would run the hospital?”
It had been a stupid question, and an unnecessary one. Staring across the lake was refreshment for Doctor Samuel, as restorative as a weekend off.
There is an old Chinese curse that wishes a person may live in interesting times. If interesting times can be a curse, then dullness and boredom can be a great blessing.