Tolerance takeover: Augustine on modern boredom
The world we live in today is what it is due to technology. We use our phones to connect with others from across the world, whether it is through a basic phone call or to simply post a picture on Instagram.
But, we have failed when it comes to human interaction in a world of virtual connection. Instead of becoming more connected with others, we have locked ourselves in our own minds.
Fr. David Vincent Meconi, professor of theology at St. Louis University, came to Assumption College on Wednesday Sept. 26th to give a talk on how Augustine would cure the world of modern boredom in today’s society.
Meconi would argue that boredom is the cause of why our society has lost connection with itself. He quoted Walker Percy, a philosophical author, saying that boredom is, “the self being stuffed with itself.”
Meconi gave his own definition for today’s modern boredom saying that, “The modern-day soul seems to be more crippled and more stuffed with itself than ever before.”
How did this come about? According to Meconi, this kind of world we live in today is dictated by one of the seven deadly sins, sloth. Now, just hearing sloth, the first word that would most likely come to mind is laziness.
But, the ancients did not consider sloth as physical laziness. “Sloth was being so busy, you didn’t have time for what was really important.” Meconi said. Basically, a slothful person is so absorbed in other things they do not have time for prayer, worship or relaxation.
With a technologically advanced world, humans tend to spend more time focused on getting tasks done than trying to connect with each other. Our society enforces this idea of “multitasking”, even being rewarded for having this skill.
We as students feel proud when we can get that 10-page paper for English done, while listening to the chapters in our next reading for philosophy.
This idea of sloth is also closely associated with the tendency to wander or be restless. This true for the mind as well. For a modern-day example Meconi said, “These are the Wikipedia kids. These are the kids who do not want to read the novel. They don’t want to know the argument. They just want to know the trivia to make it look like they read.”
Slothfulness leads to acedia, the inability to care about anything. Nothing tastes good and nothing gives you enough pleasure. There is nothing to bring joy to the world. In the end, sloth is the cause of modern depression.
So, how would Augustine fix this? Meconi gave two recommendations: wonder and joyful prayer.
When humans become lost in the sin of sloth, they lose their wonder. Sloth causes us to lose the inability to care about the mundane things. We forget that things we do every day are miracles, like a child being born, but because it is so common, we do not see it as such.
What Augustine would say, according to Meconi, is “we should shun the anesthesia of boredom.” We need to take the activities we use to satisfy our boredom, like Netflix, and remove them from our lives.
Instead, we need to surround ourselves with the beauty around us. Go for a walk through nature instead of binge-watching Friends.
Unlike wonder, however, “prayer is precisely that which moves one out of temporal goods and affects a longing for eternal joys.” Meconi said.
The joyful prayer that we forget to partake in helps us move from temporary happiness into eternal happiness. We pray to find the real joys we want instead of falling back on ones that are brief and not long lasting.
Sloth makes a person tolerant and desperate. We get lost in our daily routines of going to class, working and studying; and forget there are other things that are just as important. Mental health is just as important as passing that test.
According to Meconi, without wonder and prayer, a person would be lost in the boredom of today’s society.
Some students found the talk to be interesting. Nadia Reed, freshman, attended the talk. She said, “I think he [Meconi] proved a point…We just go on our phones to make us not bored.”
Shannon Grady, senior, said that she found that Meconi’s talk was “insightful, specifically about our loss of wonder in today’s society.”
Madison Phillips, senior, said, “I thought it was informative because I never made the connection to Augustine and the modern world.”
Meconi said, “Boredom is the vice of our generation.” So, to better our lives, we need to remove boredom and fill in what is most important to us.
What do you think? Is technology the source of our boredom? Are Augustine’s methods the only way to cure modern boredom or are there other ways to improve our lives?
Katelynn Rosa, a senior, studies English. She is a staff writer for Le Provocateur.