Let Comfort Die
I want you to recall, if you can, the moment in your life when you felt the most alive.
As you mentally shuffle through the archived 35mm film reels stuffed in your memory’s file cabinet, it shouldn’t take long to retrieve this roll- it’ll be the one without dust and it’ll be covered in fingerprints. You’ll recognize it easily because you enjoy seeing it.
Now while you’ve got it playing there in your head, I want you to freeze it. Good. Let’s take a look at that still-frame, and tell me if you notice something. Whatever image you’ve got in your mind right now, I’d venture to say this about it: it doesn’t involve you sitting on your ass, doing nothing.
Sure, you might not be in the middle of jumping a horse over a blockade of burning tires while wielding a bloody saber, but you’re definitely not sipping a cranberry-tart margarita from beneath a fragranced bath of bubbles while dancing a toy boat to the slow notes of a Celine Dion song. How do I know this? First of all, I’ve done the latter, and frankly, it’s boring. But more to the point, life isn’t lived in sedation. If the movie-clip of memory playing in your mind doesn’t depict you in direct action, then it shows the fruits of your labor. If you’re not picking a path up the frozen face of a glacier, then you’re heaving a sigh of relief while enjoying the view from the top.
The lie that would discourage us and which has been leading a generation of my brothers astray, is the idea that life shouldn’t require us to bust our asses. In addition to this skinny-jean society’s desire to invent the constitutional right to not be offended, they also seem ignorant to the idea that success requires growth, which in turn requires effort.
Being a pathetic fan of pop music, I’ll point to the lyrics of Colbie Caillet’s song, “Try.” Specifically, because it calls us to not.
As she would have us believe:
“…You don’t have to change a single thing,
You don’t have to try,
You don’t have to try…”
I cringe whenever my reflexes are too slow to change the station before these filthy words violate my speakers. They are a celebration of mediocrity at best and a lie about the nature of life at worst. The song is intended to encourage self respect, but with these words, it crosses the line into self-worship. It might upset your delicate feelings to hear this, but if you never try and never change, then there’s very little about your character that’s worth respecting.
As a Catholic, I will assure you that the inherent value of your human life is irreproachable, but while God’s gift of life to you is of unquestionable and eternal worth, it is still a gift intended for use. You are called to live, my friend. And living isn’t comfortable, especially at its greatest fulfillment. Is it comfortable watching the dollars fly out of your bank account? But if they never did, what would be the point of having them? The truth is, in living our life, we spend it. And when you spend your life, you end up with pain; you end up with discomfort. Broken bones, uncertainty, anxiety, and grief are all uncomfortable, and yet the only way to escape them is to hide from life- to refuse to live.
My moment of being most alive is actually hard for me to pick out, but one that comes immediately to mind is the helicopter ride into a wildfire in Idaho. It was really my first time working a fire. I was scared, hot, carrying a shit-ton of gear, and facing who-knew how many hours of hard labor ahead of me. But it was the very descent of all those demands upon me that gave my heart a pounding ferocity and my face, a shit-eating grin. I was uncomfortable as hell and loving every minute of it!
I’ve met young men who thirst for adventure but who are unwilling to pay its price. Such a thing as adventure is pleasant enough to observe from the comfort of an air-conditioned home, but the reality is that adventure- by definition- involves the practice of all those things we find uncomfortable: being tired, hot, cold, wet, thirsty, hungry, lost, scared, and challenged. In short- being uncomfortable. Observing the comfort of wealth, G. K. Chesterton says about the rich:
“They fail to feel adventures because they can make the adventures. The thing which keeps life romantic and full of fiery possibilities is the existence of the great plain limitations which force all of us to meet the things we do not like or do not expect.”
Or, as my badass brother, Lieutenant Artwrench, would put it:
“It’s not an adventure until something starts to suck.”
In the sentiment of that truth, I will offer you this blessing: May your life be uncomfortable, uncertain and at times painful- but in every moment, from sorrow to joy- fully felt and fully lived.
Have courage, good luck, and don’t get dead.