Sunday, January 15, 2012

Comfort Stations

Your idea of comfort has evolved over the years from its location in the middle, and thus on firm footing, to the edge, where there are potentials for erosion, landslide, and miscalculation of the boundary.  Firm footing and secure placement have long since vanished in your estimation; they are not guarantees of safety, stability, or protection.

At onetime, comfort may have meant the presence of these things to you as a set of prerequisites.  Now, these qualities suggest the drowsy snore of complacency.  You are neither fond of nor comfortable with the state of complacency. Which does for you the opposite of what its definitions suggests as its byproduct.  You’ve had experience with you as a complacent sort.  In that state, it is a rarity for you to get any writing or thinking or serious conversation.  Worse, nothing seems funny when you are complacent.  Things being funny suggest to you that reality has not lost its edge, however random it may be as a force.

Funny things are simultaneously things at the edge of some boundary and suggestive of some disconnect between the way Reality is spooling out and the way this spooling out is interpreted by varying interest groups, even interest groups whose goals and philosophy coincide with your own.  Any comfort from being amidst a number of like minds becomes as tiring as being cast in the midst of dissidents whose extremism and self-glorification become causes of alarm.

Alarm, allowed to go on for too long before being coped with in some way, becomes funny because of the way hysteria closes ranks about its host, wanting to protect it from those who may have practical solutions to the problem at hand.

Sometimes, when the heavens are raining with too much deliberation for you to be able to enjoy walking in it the downpour, you find a measure of comfort and reassurance in the act of trying to make lists of funny things going on about you.  In particular, you look for traces of funny things in your own behavior or lack thereof.

Such exercises pretty well define your approach to constructing story situations.  When you are editing someone’s fiction, you take similar bold steps, asking questions and making suggestions that lead the client or student to considering things off limits, in other words, unthinkable things.  This is not exposed cynicism.  The unthinkable come to pass is the cornerstone of story.  In similar fashion, our preparation in real life for the worst outcome of our fondest dreams has a sobering effect on our behavior directed toward others and certainly our behavior toward our self.

At various times in your life, you can see how focused you were about bringing more comfort into focus.  Of course you were uncomfortable at the time, producing the motivation to work toward a goal of some stability and a greater sense of security.  You could say that you’ve been stable and you’ve been secure, but neither of these things produced anything but boredom.

There are those who complain that they are too old, possibly too frightened, or even too insecure to put much faith in risk.  Too old, too frightened, and too insecure individuals are not going to put risk at any distance by ignoring risk.  The true unthinkable come to pass is not taking enough risk to keep boredom and purposelessness at bay.  Sitting or standing close to the edge is a start.  Taking daily strolls about the edge is keeping the awareness of risk where it belongs.  You swat at comfort instead of flies.

Come in, someone says, and make yourself comfortable.

Thank you, you respond.  But no, thank you.

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