I have a low-grade addiction to spy films. You know the type: snipers, secret (and double) agents, intrigue between government agencies…the works. At one point, shortly before I entered the Jesuits, my Netflix queue contained the entire James Bond series. There are some pretty awful movies in that lineup (particularly films number 9 through 16), but I was still intrigued when I stumbled upon this the other day:
Now it’s bad enough that I’ve seen the entire series, but as I was mindlessly watching Bond characters say the phrase “Double-Oh” ad nauseum, my interior monologue started asking annoying questions: what the heck are you doing? Why are you watching this? Isn’t there something better you can do with your time? But I do this kind of thing frequently. And, honestly, the Bond clip was a shorter investment of my life than most of my spells of Youtube boredom (Exhibit A: the four-plus minutes that I spent watching Homer J. Simpson say “D’oh,”).
You’ve been there too, right? That place where boredom and restlessness meet in front of a computer screen? Maybe you’ve watched Marcel the Shell With Shoes On just a few too many times, or you keep hitting refresh on our own Michael Rossmann’s cover of “Call Me Maybe.” Or perhaps you’ve gone through your Facebook news feed umpteen times through the day when it hasn’t changed in hours.
So it may come as a surprise to know that this most modern of temptations has already been named centuries ago in the monastic tradition: acedia, the noonday devil. The fact that something like this has been around and noticed for this long suggests that the struggle with boredom may have deeper roots than the internet.
Editor’s note: next week, Tim will be back with a piece on how acedia can be resisted.