Bored to Death

How Triviality Ruins a Man

My dear Globdrop,

After weeks of silence, you speak. You would have written sooner, you assure me, “if you had something sinister to report.” You stand at a stalemate. You’ve laid devastating traps only to see them avoided. You bemoan the slowness of it all. Do not howl too loudly, my impatient apprentice. Not all who fall, fall off cliffs.

Almost by accident, you mentioned that your man has “begun to spend hours a day upon his phone.” Though you regret that he has bypassed those sites we love so much, look closer, nephew.

Do you see any change in your man these past months? He is not the same. He is being consumed by what he consumes — he drowns in innocent trifles. Though the content is not criminal, his mind dulls. His appetites shrivel. His finger-joints grow sore and his eyes ache from all the texting, scrolling, clicking, and watching. This pandemic has provided a tremendous opportunity — one a demon could not resist.

Despite your sighing, he remains caught, even now, in a fierce strength, a hideous strength, a most suffocating strength — a strength of, well, nothing.

Strength of Nothing

It began with cultivating a habit. When stress tensed his shoulders, or work slanted uphill, or boredom yawned in quarantine, he found some relief in small distractions — a good show, an interesting article, an appetizing YouTube video, a new follow on Twitter. They became therapeutic; a shot of relief from the mounting uncertainties of life. Think of those mouse traps that kill rodents with bits of poison that dehydrate the more they’re consumed.

Then addiction. Gradually, as the season twisted and turned, he stuck his hand in for more and more morsels of amusement. It was all innocent enough, to be sure (as you should be reminding him!). Diseased with triviality, he lost appetite for all the food the Enemy laid out for him. What a waste! What a triumph!

There he now sits, a glutton for interruptions, spending hours on his phone — and countless hours on other distractions. He no longer possesses the power of fixed attention (so vital in the Enemy’s service). With one ding, notification, or some wisp of a thought, you can send him away from his prayers, from hearing one of those loathsome sermons, or break the spell that awful Book sometimes casts upon him. He is never fully present when seeking the Enemy — or anywhere else. His mind is a city without walls, any diversion will steal him away.

He no longer requires a good show to take him from his duties — reruns of a show he doesn’t like will suffice. Trivial Nothings, empty Nothings, scrolling Nothings, watching Nothings, busy Nothings, religious Nothings — you’ve only to choose a flavor.

Men of Nothing

Now, we love to capture children, women, and those with old bones in Nothing. But of all souls, nothing whets the pernicious palate like webbing their men.

Men of Nothing — small men nibbling on snacks, never asking questions nor breaking from their modest comforts, never lifting their voices nor saying anything worthwhile to their neighbors; mummified men of blunted ambitions and stale joys who never rise to anything above themselves and bear no weight to keep them from blowing away — these men are hell’s delicacies, our most treasured trophies.

Taxidermy, Globdrop, taxidermy. Hunt, stuff, present them as living, and put them on display in their homes and churches. They may pay homage to the Enemy with cold formality, but we know deception when we see it, don’t we? What an infection these men have on family and society at large. They abhor nothing. Love nothing. Their affections, harpooned to small things, wither. Their loose grip, glazed eyes, and half-smiles spread as our unreported pandemic.

A Dark Prayer

Let me take you into the trophy room where Nothing leads a man. I shall never forget the moment when, as a young devil myself, I witnessed the damning of one of Screwtape’s patients (though he forgot I stood by to watch it). The man’s last words, serving as a dark prayer before the meal: “I now see,” he said dryly, “that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought, nor what I liked.”

A life spent doing neither what he ought nor liked!

How do I describe the dark delight that washed over me with those words? My mind opened to a new world of devilry. Could there be a more fiendish credit to the mastery, the deception, the sheer artistry of a deceiver’s puppetry than this: The rodents trapped below, lured by unripened cheese which afforded neither health nor delight?

No prize hangs more proudly, no prey has tasted juicier than that man perfectly preserved within the inactivity of Nothing. A certain (and delightful) crunch and crackle accompanies a man who never lived.

That Horrible ‘Something’

Humanity, at its beginning, teemed, burst, abounded with being. It exhausted the best of devils to bridle these stallions. Our Father Below had to go on the field himself to harness the first two. And of course, it took our Father, yet again, to extinguish that dreadful fire when the Enemy himself marched upon our country.

Suffice it to say, Globdrop, the Enemy is busy interfering. We know his awful mind, don’t we? He aims to give new loves, new affections, new passions, new fixations that animate from our listless stupor. He means to raise an army from those dry bones who formerly cared little for life, for death, and for anything in-between or beyond. He means to meddle.

Opposed to our Nothing, he means to bring that dreaded Something. He hopes to pump blood in their veins, newness in their souls, and his awful Spirit within them. He means for fervent spirits, worshiping hearts, singing mouths, and serving hands. He would have them all driven by passion — but not our sort, mind you.

Keep their heads down, occupied with Nothing. Nothing spoils our work like looking up at the Enemy. Though we bloodied that face beyond human recognition, they somehow see Something in it, and become Something by it — Something enough to break from our mighty web.

Your Lowly Uncle,