A Screwtape Letter on How To Waste Your Life

Many, many years ago, I read a couple of C.S. Lewis books that had such an impact on me that I occasionally re-read them: The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce.

The Screwtape Letters are a series of fictional letters sent from a leading demon in hell to a young demon on earth, one who is still learning the nuances of capturing the souls of humans. You may alternately read it as the impact that one’s subconscious can have on the conscious. Anyway, in recently re-reading portions of The Screwtape Letters, I came across the following:

As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for that is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and out-going activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at least he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, ‘I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.’

It amazes me that this 60-year old satire (originally published in 1941) says so much about today: how Facebook, Twitter, TV, the “interwebs,” … distract to the point that we wind up accomplishing zip-squat.

It angers me that our world has come to this. Will we now begin devolve, instead of further evolving?