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The lust for comfort, that stealthy thing
that enters the house a guest,
and then becomes a host, and then a master.
— Kahlil Gibran

I can purchase a Zero Gravity Two Seater Swing with padded neck support and armrests—“an oasis of relaxation.”

I can purchase a heated, massaging bed rest with cup holder and built in reading light.

I can purchase an automated calf and foot massager with three kneading programs and advanced reflexology nodes to stimulate the vital acupressure points in my feet.

I can purchase a thermoelectric wine chiller to keep wine at optimum serving temperature at all times.

I can purchase a portable beach canopy that will shade my face while I’m sunbathing the rest of my body.  An added feature is that it provides a pillow for the head. I can use this with an outdoor, battery-operated, oscillating fan with built-in AM-FM radio.

As an animal lover, I can purchase a leopard print pet carrier with a faux fur-trimmed opening and a matching leopard print chaise with a detachable cushion for the dog.

I can purchase a wireless intercom system so that I don’t have to walk to another part of the house to talk to someone.

I can purchase a Butterboy, a plastic container with rounded edges that makes it quick and easy to butter corn-on-the-cob—no more butter sliding off the knife!

I can purchase headphones that are also earmuffs, with a behind-the-head design that won’t mess up my hair.

I can purchase a special electric lamp that will allow me to heat a scented candle and release the fragrance without risking the smoke or fire danger from actually burning the candle.

I can purchase a voice-recognition recorder into which I can speak my grocery list or errands and it will print the list for me, without having to write it down.

Entire industries are devoted to making my life more comfortable.

***

I was already well into my forties before it was pointed out to me that I am not by nature comfort-seeking. I was on the phone with someone during the evening, and she was horrified to hear the click of my shoes on the floor as I spoke to her.

“Are you still wearing your shoes?” she asked, aghast.

“I guess.”

Her habit, she explained, was to come home, change out of her clothes and shoes, take off her bra, put on the most comfortable clothes possible, go barefoot or in colder weather don fuzzy slippers, and unwind.  My habit was to come home, sit at my desk and keep working. I would be wearing my shoes until I went to bed.

The exchange caused me to reflect upon this tendency of mine.  I can maintain an uncomfortable position for hours without that registering.  I don’t notice if the chair I’m sitting on is bad for my back.  It’s not that my muscles don’t hurt, it’s that I don’t expect them not to.

A former girlfriend broke up with me because, in her words, “A relationship with you is all about learning and challenge and growth.  I want a relationship that’s about comfort and relaxation.”

I think it must have something to do with how I was raised.  My childhood home was tense almost all of the time.  Perhaps relaxation is a learned skill?

***

That doesn’t mean, however, that I am completely immune to the consumer comfort craze.

I own a pillow made of special foam that conforms to the shape of my neck.  I bring it with me when I travel.

My girlfriend owns a foot spa that massages your feet as you soak them.

I’ve installed two box air conditioners in the house—in the bedroom and the office.

In addition to my laptop and my iPhone, I own an iPad because, well, no reason really, it just seemed cool to have one.

And I have a cabinet full of Chinese herbal medicine, ready to address any malady (is health seeking not a form of comfort seeking?)

***

Nearly 1 billion people earn less than $1 per day.

There are 9.9 million refugees worldwide.

854 million people worldwide suffer from hunger.

An estimated 744,313 people in the United States are homeless.

16,000 children die from hunger every day.

To what else do our comforts numb us?

***

Compassion.  Mercy.  Integrity.  Fortitude.  Courage. Endurance.  Wisdom.  Self-reliance.  When did we decide that comfort was our most important value?  That doing the easiest thing in the most expeditious way was the ideal for which to strive?  That pain avoidance was the primary goal to seek?

How many of us could repair our vehicles?  Forge our own tools?  Grow our own food?  Find and haul and decontaminate our own water?  Defend against predators?  Fight a fire?  Withstand torture?

When the machines designed to mediate discomfort break down, what will we do?  Swaddled in cushy blankets, lulled by the flickering images of TV, distressed when the temperature of the wine is not correct or the high-speed internet isn’t fast enough, how will we and our children meet the hardship to come?

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