Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Cult of Comfort (Journal Post)

I am seduced by the cult of comfort, which is really a great poison.

Comfort in itself is good; it brings pleasure and frees the mind and the body to respond to challenges and goals that are not immediate. We need to do more than simply survive in order to have the space to work towards something beyond duty, the maintenance of our biological life, and supporting those who are closest to us. Without some degree of comfort, life is unbearable; creativity, friendship, and happiness all depend on allowing our guard to go down in a way that only comfort can provide. Imagine being without anything but what one needs to maintain the functioning of our organism. You probably cannot imagine it; imagination breaks down when there is no respite from the stress of merely surviving.

The cult of comfort is another matter. The cult of comfort is the desire for more comfort than anyone needs, the desire for comfort at the expense of other values that might make an individual life meaningful and noble. It is the desire for comfort at any price or at least a price that is simply too high, comfort at the cost of one's best values. To give up art, creation, philosophy, friendship, community, and the search and fight for justice for the easy relaxation, the easy happiness, the easy distraction is to give up on life. It is to become bloated on the fat of the land. It is to die an early death while still alive.

We give up so much that we otherwise would not for the sake of feeling safe and buying pleasure. We quadruple safeguard against the possibility of going without in exchange for denying others a single dram of security and luxury. We make sure we will never lack for things and forget the spirit.

rotting fish lake Michigan beach
Detritus by the Lake
Here is the political and cultural problem par excellence for my peers (the relatively affluent) and my generation (those who have just reached and those who are just now reaching the traditional age of maturity). We have no guts! We have no fear of losing that which could make us human! We have no sense of proportionality in being wronged! We have no sense of our opportunities to be our best selves!

What do I mean? We who have much in the way of comfort: the ability to travel, good food, a roof over our heads and places to turn if we lose that roof, a voice and the media to have that voice heard, friends, families, and lovers who have our backs, opportunities for more because we were privileged enough to get good educations, and more (or less) depending on our individual situations—we who have so much in the way of comfort all too easily shout for more for ourselves. I'm not talking about altruism here. I'm not saying that we quit caring about ourselves simply because we have more than most people. I simply mean this—we have many values, including some values that we might consider our best values. For me, my best values are the will to create, the will to forge relationships with others, and the will to fight against oppression. You, my reader, will have your own set of your own best values, whatever they may be. We hold these best values as more important and more noble than the pursuit of more comfort, more pleasure, more security, and more luxury, but we sell those best values out to the cult of comfort all the same.

Enjoy your sip of wine. Enjoy your bite of bread. Enjoy the caresses of your lover. Enjoy knowing that you won't be homeless today or tomorrow or likely ever. Enjoy your trip to Sweden. Comfort and luxury are necessary and good things, things that for many are in too short supply. But comfort and luxury are our undoing as possibly great humans if acquiring more and more becomes obsessive, if it becomes a cult. It becomes a cult when we sacrifice that which we truly believe makes life beautiful and worthwhile for it. I bet that you, my reader, are a part of that cult (like myself). Let us help each other escape. Let us leave the cult of comfort, which is really a great poison. 

2 comments:

  1. So, question though: if my highest values are just whatever I've creatively decided they can be, am I not at liberty to shift them? To shift them to something like valuing the most comfortable and luxurious life I can procure for my family and self? I suppose this kind of goes with the concept that we can't exactly choose our beliefs or values, but really - if I know that my own values are self-constructed and have no basis in any kind of external reality, why can't I decide that pleasure is the only meaningful one to pursue? Sure, it feels nice to help other people or to create or whatever, but all that is just personal preference, so I'm really just deluding myself if I think it matters whether I choose those or re-upholstering my easy chair in gold fiber.

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    1. Yeah, you're certainly free to choose values like maximizing comfort or pleasure. I'm just guessing that there are many people--and this is my intended audience--who despite setting aside many things they find more worthwhile in order to achieve a little more security or comfort, actually value other things even more. This little essay is an attempt to get people who do value other things more to consider how often they succumb to the cult of comfort.

      If you really do value luxury, security, and comfort to the exclusion of other things, I have nothing to say to them.

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