In Defense of Discomfort and Despair

Lately I have been obsessed with my own comfort. I just got put in my place, and am grateful for the despair I’ve experienced.


Commentary By: somegirl

After a long absence I feel compelled to post today after coming across an amazing post on a site I’d never been to before. Please read the whole things as it offers much wonderful food for thought. Here’s a taste:

I once had a Professor of Polish culture who was a key figure in the Polish resistance in WWII. He was captured and was dying of starvation in a prison camp at war’s end, a skeleton, ill, terrorized, barely alive. The American government brought him to the USA where he had important things to do concerning New Europe. He was put up in a hotel in New York. It was ironic, he told me, that only six weeks later, he was complaining to the laundry about how they did his shirts.

It’s bizarre, he would have said, that we spend most of our lives in search of the pleasure of comfort and ease, convinced that happiness lies there. The truth is, comfort saps your real strength. Ease is treacherous and steals your ingenuity. The devilish pair robs your intuition and dulls your vision. I have in mind also metaphysical comfort and ease, not only natural human desires for creature comforts which in practice, as we all know, are never enough.

Yesterday, I read a post on Think Progress that really pissed me off. The comments really got me riled as they showed such ignorance, and lack of caring for veterans of the Iraqi occupation with traumatic brain injuries, which it’s now estimated is a full 20% of them, a staggering statistic. The big joke was the term “mild traumatic brain injury.” As in haha it’s an oxymoron, how can it be mild and traumatic? As someone who has struggled daily with this condition for nine years, I just want to say it’s no joke.

Last night, seeing as it was meta weekend at ASZ, I was ready to list all the ways my functioning has changed and how the world has wronged me, but after reading “The Twin Evils of Comfort and Despair” my tune is changing a little. I know I am very lucky to have almost hit 40 when the life changing event of my brain injury occurred, but at the same time, it also propelled me into a whole new reality I was totally unprepared for, leading to isolation and depths of despair I had never known before. (Not that I was ever from the happy school, but this was a whole new level.)

The election of GW Bush the following year, the disintegration of our economy along with the our constitution, and the rise of fascism, American-style, have contributed heavily to my despair over the past several years. I tried to make my home in a couple other countries, but couldn’t find anything that quite worked. I have lived in alternating terror (for my own security) and exhilaration over the thought of economic collapse in the good ol’ USA because I see it as the only way out of the debt-ridden consumer culture that is quietly destroying the hearts and souls of individuals, and sucking them from the earth as a whole. I fantasize about revolution, wondering if it could bring true purpose back into my life.

And I consider this:

Psychologists instruct us that there are only four things that people really need for their happiness: a feeling of security, a feeling of belongingness to a group, a feeling that people have affection for them, and the respect and esteem of others. That’s it. Basic needs are quite simple.

I once was highly organized and able to successfully manage people in a high stress, creative environment. When I lost many of the innate abilities I depended on my entire life, I felt for a long time that I lost the things mentioned above, even the ability to feel those things. I have found the search for meaning in my life since then to be a grueling, totally unwanted struggle most of the time, and have spent an awful lot of time bemoaning my fate, all the while knowing that I still have it so much better than most people in this world. Still, we tend to focus on what we do not have. Perhaps it is just human nature, but it seems to me sometimes that we have built an entire society as a testament to that. What a waste.

Today I find hope in these words:

The much-pursued pair of comfort and ease removes and alienates us even more from reality. Comfort and ease is a golden cage. Retreat into the beguiling cocoon of comfort and ease erases the possibility of communication with the rest of mankind. It is a rejection of the reality of the world and man’s place in it.

A rejection of comfort and ease as a life goal is to choose truth over lie. It is to choose the way of extremism, of opposition to the lie. There are periods when truth exists more easily. There are other periods, mendacious and ugly periods, when truth rings seditious, subversive, revolutionary, when it however shines in its extremism.

In my mind, comfort and ease as a goal reflect anti-reality, anti-man, anti-life. For to live life, you have to accept and live with reality–in the desperation and despair it provokes. You have to learn to live without illusions. That is unpleasant at first. Uncomfortable. Uneasy. But, we can learn.

Monday, January 21st, 2008 by somegirl |

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