Too Commonly, “I’m Bored” Is Our Response to the Mystery of Life

89440-856371-230x204When I speak with groups of parents or educators about the “self-esteem trap”—about kids’ obsessive self-concern, unreadiness to engage in adult life, restless dissatisfaction, and desire for celebrity and wealth—several recurrent themes appear. First are worries about the absence of meaning and purpose in their children’s lives. Usually, they say something like “I don’t know how to convey spirituality to my kids.” Or, “It seems as though our children have lost a feeling for moral integrity; they don’t know why they shouldn’t lie or cheat or steal if those actions are not immediately harmful to someone they personally know.”

Why should we be surprised that children feel this way? Many of their parents—especially the best educated ones—live their lives without a sense of mystery or awe about how and why we happen to be here on this planet spinning in space. And they raise their children with the same attitude. Some are nominally involved in a church or synagogue. Usually they say, “Even though I don’t really believe in my religion anymore, I think I should take my kids to church/temple so they can make their own choice when they grow up.” When I see young adults in psychotherapy who came of age amid such ambivalent or tepid religious practices, I find they are not impressed with their parents’ “open-mindedness.” In most cases, the parents either have no clear religious beliefs, or they’re exploring Eastern religions and New Age spirituality without the daily time-consuming activities of devotion or contemplation or meditation that sincere religious practice requires. Many educated parents don’t give priority to such activities.

In fact…