Seeking comfort

Our soft mammal bodies crave comfort. Climate crisis is going to give us a hard time on that score as we struggle with extremes of heat and cold, drought and rain. Those who have least will be hurt most by this. Those who have most will wack on the air con, or the heater and add to the problems.

Some people lack for comfort because they don’t have enough food, or can’t afford enough. Protein and good quality fats are expensive. Our bodies don’t always seem able to tell the difference between the comfort of sufficiency, and the kind of excess that will bring discomfort. We did not evolve to deal with routine excess.

Rest is one of the most important comforts available to us, and hard to come by. Rest requires quiet, space and time in which to do very little and feel ok about that. We’re encouraged to have hectic ‘modern’ lifestyles that deprive us of rest, and then to seek comfort other places – by buying something. A sofa, alcohol, junk food, holidays… None of the things we buy when we are trying to offset insufficient rest will give us the comfort we need.

Emotional comfort goes to those who have most and are most conventional. To be straight and white, middle class, financially secure, well educated, and home owning represents a selection of comforts that may be invisible to the person who has them. To be queer, poor, working insecure jobs and living in insecure conditions is to be much less comfortable. Many of these things intersect with each other to make things worse. Add in ethnicity, and the stresses and vulnerabilities this involves in any white-dominated society, and there’s a lot to contend with.

We seek comfort, all of us. For those of us who are systemically kept outside the comfort zones, this can be hard going, or impossible. For those who have too much comfort, this can lead to lack of empathy and understanding for those who have less. It can result in feelings of having deserved to be comfortable and being entitled to be comfortable. Thus when the uncomfortable make themselves seen and heard, the comfortable often feel threatened by this.

Too much comfort can make a life stagnant and unsatisfying – we do all need some challenges and opportunities to grow and learn. Too little comfort is a problem on a whole different scale. To live a life with no padding, no insulation against setback, much less disaster, is hard. Every day. To face only challenges and seldom know respite is emotionally exhausting. To fight against people who have too much and don’t understand what their comfort means, or what it means not to have that, is relentless.

Those with the most, and with the greatest sense of entitlement are also those with the most power, and they tend to reinforce the status quo – not always consciously. If everything supports your comfort and ease, it must be really tempting to see that as the natural order of things, and to see those who have less as less deserving, even if you never consciously think in those terms. It’s not comfortable asking how your comfort relates to the discomfort of others. When you have the power to maintain your comfort at someone else’s expense, it’s very easy not to look at how that works.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

8 responses to “Seeking comfort

  • Jessica Triepel

    Why do people so often assume that to be white means to have a privileged life? Ever been to the rural South? Or even out west in the small towns? These communities suffer from lack of jobs, drugs, and also their fair share of crime. The big difference is only that they don’t typically have gang culture, but I don’t see how one can attribute gang culture to white people. Also, racism goes both ways, and I grew up with it. Being white in a community that was basically half and half… Yeah, sorry, but most of the white folk weren’t racist, despite being in the South. It’s not that I disliked the black kids from my highschool, but I was tolerated better than a lot of the other white kids. Probably just because I don’t fit into any box. My point though, is just that in this day and age, we have only ourselves to blame for our actions and choices. What happened a hundred years ago is past, and time to move on from all the blame game crap and take personal responsibility, whether one is white, black, gay, straight or whatever. The more we blame those we deem different from ourselves, the deeper we drive that wedge that keeps good people fighting against each other. Oh, and for the record, lest someone call white privilege, I’ve been poor my entire adult life. I get by because I don’t need much, but I’ve damn near been homeless on more than one occasion, and in those worst scenarios, I wasn’t even able to get help. Not even for food. I lived off ramen noodles for a year, because it was all I could afford.

    • Nimue Brown

      My experience is of living in the UK, and while I try my best to think as broadly as I can, I don’t have a detailed knowledge of everywhere else in the world. Like you, I have plenty of first hand experience of being white and poor. But I’ve never had to deal with racism. I’ve never had my skin colour impact on how people judge me.

      • Jessica Triepel

        Well, consider yourself lucky on the racism issue. I’ve experienced it. Thing about racism and prejudice, is it really doesn’t matter which race or group is the majority. Whatever the majority happens to be, that segment of the population tends to dictate the group think dynamic. Even in places where it is technically all one race, creed or cultural background become the factors upon which other groups are segregated. It’s a human problem, as opposed to a race problem. Right now everyone is still focused on the old white colonialism. And yes, a lot of evil was done under that paradigm. But even now that is shifting. Europe and America are losing their grip as other nations rise up as economic powers. China, for example. When these white dominated countries lose their power, and rot from within, just like Rome, the old powers will fade, new ones will take their place and the cycle of racism and prejudice will begin anew with a new victim. Judging from the patterns I see developing not only in the States, but also here in Europe, my guess is whites will be the next to suffer under racism. It will take a long time, yet, particularly in Europe, and maybe won’t become prevalent in our lifetime, but eventually it will happen. All throughout human history we see this despicable pattern of master and slave, of genocide and abuse. You know the saying an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind? That’s what this all feels like to me. We need to quit playing these roles of guilty and victim, and just talk to each other, hear each other and open our hearts to one another. Our differences are the things that make our world beautiful, and it’s time we all embrace that. And in the end it really just all comes down to the Uber rich who hold all the power against all the rest of the world’s population who are just pawns on a chessboard. The moment we all quit buying into their imperialist bull shit is the moment we all start to take back our own personal sovereignty.
        By the way, sorry if it feels like I’m criticizing you. That’s not my intention at all. You seem like a very genuine person, and I like reading your blog. So my apologies if I cause offense.

      • Nimue Brown

        Here I disagree entirely. if you are part of the dominant culture, the odds are that authority figures you encounter will also be part of the dominant culture. racism can exist between any group of people, yes, but it functions differently when one group has the backup of the state as a whole. the group who can be threatened with deportation for example, does not have the same power.

      • Jessica Triepel

        Maybe you misunderstood me. That’s partly what I meant. It’s not just Western nations where this stuff happens, is my point. It’s not just the white dominant countries where stuff like this happens. It happens all over the world. But we are all still pawns. Ok, you make the point of what impacts there are when you’re part of the dominant culture encountering authority figures. Ok, that’s also true, but why? It’s like a trickle down effect. I see it as a sneaky form of manipulation. You know the idea of the people policing themselves? That’s kinda what happens. Take upper middle class suburban whites in the States, for example. They’ve got their heads so far up that corporate arse. It’s all just a stupid facade. Using stuff to make themselves feels important. Trying to force conformity on their neighbours and victimising anyone who doesn’t fit in the box. Because they’re afraid. Ultimately, that’s what it all comes down to. Fear. What will happen if they cast aside the illusions and face reality? For a little perspective. I grew up rich. Not because of any perceived privilege, but because my dad worked his ass off right alongside the Mexicans and blacks down South in greenhouses, and he pinched every penny he could get until he had enough to put down on a piece of land. His blue collar working class parents loaned him what little they could spare from a lifetime of physical labor. Then he kept on working in greenhouses while building up his own until it finally started to pay off. The only advantage he had was that he got in the business when buying land was cheap. My generation is pretty screwed compared to his. But here’s my perspective growing up with money. Fear of poverty and judgement of those my dad viewed as his betters were the motivating factors being his choices. I worked in the greenhouses with the minimum wage Mexican and black employees, and I noticed things. Like how they worked as hard as my dad and had so little to show for it. So, one day, I asked them why they get paid so much less than the boss. I was only in elementary school then, but it felt wrong to me. Well, my grandmother taught me better than that. She wasn’t rich, but she was generous and always helped people whenever she could. So, it had a big impact on my own life choices. I’ve had to work my butt off for everything I’ve got, and that’s never been much. But having been on both sides of the fence, I’ve seen what drives these so-called privileged people. It’s all fear and lust. But that doesn’t mean they’re happy when they get it. These people with money are often bitter, miserable, and empty. They’ve got to buy this illusion of being happy and better than the poor. They’re the perfect pawns, because they are the ones who will exploit others more of that monopoly money and a few extra trinkets. I’ve got no sympathy for the rich complaining about how much raising the minimum wage is hurting them. If they can afford to spend, spend, spend on self indulgence, they can afford to make a few small sacrifices so their employees can have a reasonably decent quality of life.
        Umm, I think I’m going off on a tangent now. Sorry. I’ll stop! Haha!

  • Notes from the Journey

    This was awesome, Nimue! Hope you don’t mind if I share it!

  • Seeking discomfort | Druid Life

    […] to do is wilfully challenge the ways in which you are comfortable. Yesterday’s blog – Seeking comfort brought up a comment about white poverty in the southern states of America, “Why do people so […]

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