There is a kind of lethargy which does not lie precisely in pleasure. John Cassian, the 5thCentury Christian Monk (wrote approximately 495 A.D.), writes of a discontentment, a not caring (a-kedia, a lack of care):
Our sixth combat is with what the Greeks call ἀκηδία, which we may term weariness or distress of heart. This is akin to dejection, and is especially trying to solitaries, and a dangerous and frequent foe to dwellers in the desert; and especially disturbing to a monk about the sixth hour, like some fever which seizes him at stated times, bringing the burning heat of its attacks on the sick man at usual and regular hours. Lastly, there are some of the elders who declare that this is the “midday demon” spoken of in the ninetieth Psalm. [Ps. 90(91):6, where the Latin “et dæmonio meridiano” follows the LXX. καὶ δαιμονίου μεσημβρινου̂, instead of “the destruction that wasteth at noonday.”]
John Cassian, “The Twelve Books of John Cassian on the Institutes of the Cœnobia,” in Sulpitius Severus, Vincent of Lérins, John Cassian, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Edgar C. S. Gibson, vol. 11, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1894), 266. He goes onto discuss the ends of this disease thus:
AND when this has taken possession of some unhappy soul, it produces dislike of the place, disgust with the cell, and disdain and contempt of the brethren who dwell with him or at a little distance, as if they were careless or unspiritual. It also makes the man lazy and sluggish about all manner of work which has to be done within the enclosure of his dormitory. It does not suffer him to stay in his cell, or to take any pains about reading, and he often groans because he can do no good while he stays there, and complains and sighs because he can bear no spiritual fruit so long as he is joined to that society; and he complains that he is cut off from spiritual gain, and is of no use in the place, as if he were one who, though he could govern others and be useful to a great number of people, yet was edifying none, nor profiling any one by his teaching and doctrine.
John Cassian, “The Twelve Books of John Cassian on the Institutes of the Cœnobia,” in Sulpitius Severus, Vincent of Lérins, John Cassian, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Edgar C. S. Gibson, vol. 11, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1894), 267.
While there is the appearance of ease, it is not precisely laziness. It comes from giving upon seeking the true, the beautiful, the good. In Christian theology, it is giving upon God. The English novelist Evelyn Waugh deals with this issue in The Sword of HonorTriology:
Here is why acedia is so difficult to identify: this vice does not attempt to replace our human telos, which is to love and serve God, with some secondary good like sex, possessions, or food. It does not inordinately prefer a particular good at all; rather, it says “no” to a difficult and demanding good. In Waugh’s words, acedia “is the condition in which a man is fully aware of the proper means of his salvation and refuses to take them because the whole apparatus of salvation fills him with tedium and disgust.” The vice might manifest either in lethargically refusing to do what “the whole apparatus of salvation” requires of us, or in seeking distraction from the parts that happen to be irksome. Any distraction will do, even something good: the fourth-century desert Christians told stories about slothful monks who did works of mercy in order to distract themselves from some greater good of prayer or service which they had come to abhor. Acedia, therefore, cannot be diagnosed by what we happen to be seeking (either good or bad), but by what we are avoiding, and why.
Heather Hughes, “An Unconditional Surrender,” baylor.edu, accessed January 7, 2019, https://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/212242.pdf.
Jen Pollock Michel in an essay in Christianity Today, “Move Over, Sex and Drugs, Ease is the New Vice, https://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2019/january/technology-move-over-sex-drugs-ease-is-new-vice.html, accessed February 4, 2019 speaks of the effect of technology which continually grants us more ease:
The decline in sexual activity and cereal sales hardly seem correlated, but both seem to point to one of the most seductive promises of a technological age: that ours should be an unbothered life. As our lives (at least in the developed world) get easier, we are increasingly formed by the desire for ease. Of all the cautions we raise about technology—its distractions and temptations, its loneliness and superficiality—this promise of unencumbered living is perhaps the most insidious danger and also the one we talk the least about.
In making this evaluation, she sees something real (technology takes away effort and allows a disembodied ease — there is no need to exert the body), but I believe she has missed something the earlier Christians noted: this Midday Demon, acedia). She does note that this desire for ease is the enemy of love. In that she is correct. But the analysis may be wrong: if this “ease” is not actually comfort but is really more not caring: a spiritual dullness as opposed an actively sought comfort and ease, then the analysis is a bit different. The technology is making use spiritually stupid, dullards to reality.