Comfort Pendulum


No longer are we westerners pioneering and surviving. Those born pre internet, have grandparents who can speak of survival & recall with vivid detail the struggles of growing up with an outhouse, drawing water from a well and dust bowls.  

They worked hard and lived hard. My grandfather had a total of 4 moms before he was 15. His father was not changing wives on purpose, but because they died over and over and over again. He grew up in the alps of Switzerland on a small farm house. When I asked him what he did for fun as a boy and teenager, he laughed and said, "Fun? ha! We made work fun." This man was a bricklayer into his 80's. 

Two generations removed, a friend said he couldn't go on an extended vacation because he can't trust his 21 year old son to feed the dog or take the trash cans to the curb. 

I'm on a plane as I write this. An obese man, too young to carry a cane, wears a tee shirt with a picture of a football, baseball, basketball and a remote, with the words, " I only want watch sports on days that end in"Y."  

A cultural shift has occurred that is killing us, and it's time push back. 

Comfort & ease has become god. The path of least resistance is celebrated, and it's costing us our lives. We are unaware fogged by our endless stimulation, pleasures, comforts, safety nets, consuming. We come home from work, turn on the TV, flip through Instagram, pour a drink, pop a pill, indulge in the most accessible comfort that will distract us from being present. We are lonely, but unwilling to invest in people because it's too hard, takes too much time, or we're just scared. Scared of really being known. We want intimacy but it's easier to watch a romantic comedy. We hurt, but bury it because we don't have others to sit with us in our hurt, probably because we've never sat with others in their hurt. Living in community isn't necessary for survival anymore. We think we can survive on our own, and we can physically, but emotionally, spiritually, and relationally, we are slowly dying. 

The assumption is it will get better. We want change, but change isn't comfortable or easy, and since our entire lives are bent toward comfort, we do nothing. 

I am flying back from visiting family in Maui, and yes, it is a painful and depressing place to have to visit family.  Every year my brother in laws & I plan a camping trip away, usually in the back jungles of Hana. Last year we backpacked for miles over bloodthirsty lava rock, into the crater of Haleakala.  This year we took a ferry to Lanai, rented a 4x4 jeep from a hippie named Mike, and rallied down Sahara like terrain, to a long desolate coastline in search of a secret summertime surf spot. It was hot, dusty, and we were all bloody from thorny kiawe trees that offered some shelter from the sun. We were alone. The empty beaches and Lake Tahoe like waters rendered us silent in wonder. Not a soul was in sight.  We would need to catch fish for all 5 of us to eat. The reef did not disappoint, and we came back with an overwhelming catch from our dive. 

The surf destination was another test of will. Where the road ended, the trail began.  The kiawe tree is a dense, mesquite wood that is amazing for cooking over, but it does not surrender itself easily.  The trail to our break weaved through branches and limbs covered in 1 to 2 inch long sharp spikes.  The thorns are known to poke thru soles of shoes into your foot.  Not a leg or arm came away unscathed. The salt water was a rude reminder of the journey to the break, which in a sick way made the surf experience better. 

The session cost us something. We bled for it, and though the waves were under head high, they will be remembered for many years. My brothers and I shared an experience that we kept pinching ourselves over, and very few ever get to enjoy the fruits of self imposed trial, hardship and risk. 

90+ percent of visitors to Lanai enjoy the pleasures and comforts of the Four Seasons Resort. There is a time and place for that kind of rest, and I don't fault anyone for choosing that experience, but when the "Four Seasons Experience" becomes your standard, something dies in you. A successful friend recently shared with me that all his senses have numbed. He can't smell any more. Elegant food is bland. He self diagnosed the cause as overindulgence; every hotel room is the penthouse, every meal is a 5 course culinary wonder.  His standards have risen to such a level that the best money can buy doesn't satisfy, and in fact has left him feeling numb. 

He is not abnormal, just aware. If you have a refrigerator and car, you are in the top 5 percent most wealthy in the world. Watching television has replaced watching the sunset.  Microwaved, prepackaged food has robbed us the experience of watching our food grow.  Yeah, it's harder and less convenient, but what has been lost by not at least putting our comforts and convenience in question? 

I challenge you to look around and ask yourself what is everyone else doing, and do the opposite. My daughter and I look forward to the rain, because that means we are going for a jog. I use cold water when I shower. My workouts are on the beach with friends instead of the gym. I chose to occasionally not eat food a few days, just to be reminded that my stomach and desires don't have the last say.

If you feel numb, alone, anxious, entitled, depressed, I implore you to try something different that costs you something, physically. Put a little risk and discomfort in your life. Do it with others, and let's see if we can push this pendulum a bit.

Zac ErnstComment