Ennui Revisited

B”H

I think that ennui may manifest as boredom; while, on the other hand, ennui may have to do with the lack of a cohesive and complete sense of existential meaning in an individual’s life. Therefore, boredom could be understood as one particular sign or indicator of a lack of all-encompassing existential meaning in life. Otherwise, would’nt life be captivating every moment in time?

Also, I would contend that the avoidance of so-called boredom by way of a preoccupation with activity, in and of itself may be an attempt to distract oneself from the problem, unless that activity is meaningful. So, ennui could be hidden, seemingly so, behind the perpetual need to occupy one’s time with distractions. 

My daily religious routine brings a distinct sense of meaning and value to my life. I would emphasize how it is exactly the value of connecting to G-d that permits me to transcend the type of ennui that may mask itself as boredom.

Yet, there is an inherent risk in constant religious activity, if this is done without kavannah (intention). In like manner that a lack of patience – an inability to rest in the moment – may lead to pre-occupying oneself with various distractions, so too, can religious practices be done in a way that does not consist of true nourishment to the soul. The resultant circumstance is that religious practices, like secular distractions may unfortunately take on the status of busy activity, if not performed in a sincere manner from the heart.

In the religious realm, it is ultimately quietude that provides for a reflective state of mind to connect with G-d. In Judaism, this is called deveykus – clinging to G-d; yet, a rote practice, without focusing on meaning, erodes the significance of deveykus. Moreover, a hurried and distracted mind will not contribute to a sense of kavannah (intention).

Even so, a religious routine contains the potential to calm and focus the fettered soul; that is religion’s advantage, akin to meditation in the Eastern tradition. Incidentally, Judaism has its own brand of meditation as well as the more common element of prayer, inasmuch that meditation in the Jewish tradition often precedes prayer, by placing the adherent in a state of mind more conducive to prayer.

In summary, the ennui that manifests as boredom, or lurks behind the compulsion to stay active in order to escape the existential truth of one’s life, will dissolve over time as a meaningful focus on G-d transcends any discontent in our lives.