So I'm in this blog chain started by a few folks over at the Absolute Write forums. I'm not entirely sure what it is. It brings to mind the chain gang, or possibly a log chain, or a chain letter. None of these are very encouraging, I'll grant. Except for the log chain, which I assume is some sort of forestry equipment. Come to think of it, if you're a staunch environmentalist, a log chain would probably put a fly in your totally-organic-100%-ethical-premium-grade-flaxseed-honey comb-wheat-grass-and-hemp oatmeal.
But I digress.
The idea is to write a blog post, then have the blog after you use an element from your post in their post, and so and so forth until, presumably, all topics of discourse and enlightenment have been spent, or until the chain gets to the last person. Whichever comes first.
The seed of todays topic comes from tjwriter who wrote about comfort zones, encyclopedias, being the strange new person at work, and posting your fiction where anyone can read it, and possibly comment. So many topics to touch upon.
Comfort is a fine thing. When on an airplane, the attendant often asks, "Are you comfortable?". It's the quality we look for in sensible shoes, queen sized mattresses, and often (heart-attack inducing) food. It's also the mainstay of most charitable organizations. Particularly the ones that go into war torn parts of the world offering something along the lines of 'comfort and succor'. Succor being a word that sounds like the punchline to a slightly off-colour joke, needs a solid, life affirming word like Comfort, right beside it, to give it heft. And to stop the peanut gallery from snickering.
Comfort of course, has a dark side. Besides the aforementioned flight attendant. "Are you comfortable?" is also a question posed by a dentist, holding say, a large and seemingly overpowered drill, or that sneaky KGB interrogator before he proceeds to attach the electrodes. I imagine it might be the same phrase that a Manhattan shrink would ask before delving into your psyche to reveal that yes, you do have a fetish for Big Bird and are maybe too attached to your 1983 collection of World Lacrosse Player cards.
But comfort can be lulling. It's the lazy boy chair that convinces you to take a nap instead of cleaning the gutters, the tryptophan rich turkey that knocks you out before raking. It's something that we strive to get, comfortable, but something that we are constantly trying to escape. Hence the term Comfort Zone. Zone makes everything seem more serious, even dangerous. You don't want to stay in a zone too long. Zones are created by totalitarian regimes with an extensive military police force and the blind eye of the UN. Must get away from your comfort zones.
Which isn't bad in and of itself. Outside of comfort zones is its unimaginative opposite, discomfort: nature's way of telling you that you are doing something different.Something new. Maybe not exciting, maybe not fulfilling, but new. And on balance, don't most of us prefer to hoard what we have rather than risk it for something better. Because better is a constantly hungry idea. Everything and anything can get better (all references to New Coke excluded). It seems like a bit of a treadmill.
So one is left with the two choices, the lazy boy or the treadmill. And while one might be alluring, the other is better for you (there's that word). Even if the experience isn't all it's cracked up to be, there is always something to learn from it, even if that something is: "Don't do that again".
The road to betterment, the path outside the comfort zone, is a journey of growth (oh my, using that term makes me want to grow a beard and form my very own cult, or possibly write a series of self-help books that can boiled down to "There is no try, only do"). Which is what we are all geared to do. Grow mentally, emotionally. We get antsy in that lazy boy. The comfort becomes uncomfortable. Not in any way that people usually measure comfort. But in nebulous, I-feel-antsy-like-I-shouldn't-have-had-that-fifth-cup-of-coffee antsy.
So one way to think of it is that one moves outside one's comfort zone to once again achieve comfort, with oneself, at least. And this is where the whole lazy boy treadmill analogy kind of falls apart.
Next up on the chain is Food History, which I hope posts a long polemic on the wonders of macaroni and cheese.
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Life, Writing, and Other Things
A View From the Waterfront
The Road Less Traveled