Many people plan their lives around the pursuit of comfort. Whether it comes to work, relationships, or day-to-day living, all decisions are made with the goal to increase comfort while decreasing discomfort. The problem with this approach is that comfort does not provide you with meaning. You can have all the comfort in the world but still feel bored, unhappy, or depressed.
In 2006, I was in a state of extreme comfort. I shared a big house with two other people, had a stable career that wasn’t particularly demanding, owned a car and motorcycle, and was able to take exciting vacations abroad. I had no urgent concerns besides securing my next instance of sex from weekends jaunts into the city. I achieved pretty close to the modern ideal of comfort, and yet I saw little value in it. Would comfort inspire me? Would it make me a man? Would it give me even the tiniest scrap of life meaning? Within two years, I got rid of most of my possessions and went to South America, the beginning of an ongoing tale of nomadism.
Today, I find myself again in a state of extreme comfort. I live in a cozy apartment in the center of an Eastern European city, earn a basic but livable income from book royalties, and receive a mostly stable supply of sex. I experience little anxiety or genuine difficulty from my living situation. Was the point of my decade abroad merely to reproduce the comfort I had before I left? How was the same flavor of comfort able to find me again? Am I destined to grow old without ever having real concern for my survival or material existence?
Is it not degenerate to seek comfort, of desiring to sit and relax while expending the least amount of calories possible, where your muscles physically degenerate, and where you have to artificially simulate a non-comfortable life by lifting weights in a corporate gym? The drive to comfort may simply be a relic of our childhood, where we rushed to our mother’s bosom to isolate ourselves from a world that exposed our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Comfort is a need for mother and the safety she provided us for the bulk of our lives, of running back to the first safe space we have ever known.
The first time around, I made comfort a goal, but the second time I did not. When your ability to earn a livable wage surpasses a certain threshold, from being born in the resource-rich West or having a competent IQ, comfort will be a part of your life whether you like it or not, and any attempt to fight it will just reinforce how comfortable you really are. We live in a time where food and resources have never been more plentiful for the average man, so we will not face the survival difficulty of our ancestors no matter how hard we try. We are the house cat that can return home whenever things got too cold or dangerous outside.
Right now I’m faced with a decision of remaining in my comfortable Eastern European environment, where I no longer have to work hard to enjoy its rewards, or go somewhere different, challenging, and slightly more uncomfortable. In the past, I would pick the challenging environment to satisfy an ego that was desperate to prove it can overcome hurdles through hard work and intellect, but I no longer have anything to prove. All that’s left is asking if I want to grow old in a fashion so stable that most of the lessons I’ve learned in life will never be called upon for my survival, or if I want to venture out into the unknown and live a slightly more raw and spontaneous existence.
Either way, I know that if I deny comfort today, it will find me soon enough. Stepping foot in another new country will be like going to Corporate Gym—I’ll get an intense but short workout before walking back out to sit and eat and relax and consume limitless entertainment. My ability to earn a modern wage means that comfort will always be waiting for me. When the world outside shows me its teeth, I know that mommy earth is always ready to take me into her arms and make things comfortable again.
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