Comfort. We all instinctively operate from a need for it. For a great number of humans in America, living is no longer fight or flight. Those basic survival instincts are still there, of course, but rarely surface. We seek out adrenaline rushes in our entertainment and leisure time, and rarely put ourselves in uncomfortable situations. We control our surroundings and our social interactions. We limit our knowledge-seeking to only what we want to hear; what fits our confirmation biases. Information that feels uneasy is to be avoided, maybe even refuted, because we trust our instincts far more than any external information source. Our instincts tell us to avoid discomfort.
Long ago, I established a personal habit of facing my fears head-on. I realized that personal growth required me to “get out of my comfort zone,” and I am dedicated to personal growth and self-awareness. The outcome of this habit of rooting out my fears means that I am reasonably comfortable with discomfort.
Some equate discomfort with anxiety. Anxiety is a normal human emotion (I am not talking about anxiety disorders, which require medical intervention). I am talking about the regular feelings of stress and anxiety which, in a doctor’s office, often get prescribed away with pills.
Our modern society avoids discomfort, stress, and anxiety. And I wonder if it’s to our detriment. We dampen our emotions with medication, avoidance, and denial. We become less individual and more average, like automatons.
I prefer my individuality. As I write this, I am sitting in a community college library, where free thought is celebrated and encouraged. The great humans of the earth are represented on the stacks behind me; every book a gem of knowledge, an entirely different world from mine.
Most of the students around me are much younger than I am, and they grew up feeling the unease in this world. Terror is somehow just around the corner every day, and they still walk forward with their heads bowed to their cell phones. They have only begun their journey of individuality, and I hope they are not avoiding discomfort. I hope, instead, that they think through it, and expand their minds as they question their place in this boundless universe.