The Comfortable Life

The state of being called comfort is my enemy. It is a warm blanket wrapped around me, lulling me to sleep. It is a cocoon that keeps me separated from the world and all the dangers and glories of reality.

It is known by many names: Procrastination, Leisure, Apathy. I love and loathe it at the same time. Comfort is a middle ground where you do the exact same things in the exact same way. You simply exist, taking each day as it comes and never looking forward unless forced to do so. And the most interesting thing of all, is that even stressful, hectic, unhappy living can become comfortable if you let it.

I have to force myself to be uncomfortable in order to accomplish anything. Even to write, or work on school I can’t be in my apartment. The temptations of the comfort objects and activities around me is too great. Applying for college, or a new job is a huge step outside my comfort zone. Becoming a professional is an intimidating prospect. Am I doing it right? What if I do something wrong? What if I don’t appear competent to others? I would much rather sit in my comfortable retail job and simply exist.

Some people are never comfortable, and I envy them. They are always seeking out new and exciting things or traveling to exotic places. But I think these same people hold the key to breaking out of the comfort zone of my life. Surrounding yourself with exciting people who are active, imaginative, and supportive can lift you out of the funk of a comfortable life and propel you in a new direction.

Are the people in your life enablers of your apathy? Do you surround yourself with those that support your endeavors or that mock those who try to make more of themselves? Put yourself in positions of discomfort. Make friends with those who challenge and inspire you. And most importantly, get off your butt and go do something!!

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The Inescapability of Judgement

To each their own. Let that be the motto of the age. Tolerance and acceptance are the catchwords of popular culture. I was born this way, baby! To judge another is considered a great sin in today’s world and yet it is an inescapable fact of life that our actions and reactions to others are based on judgments that we make about that person.

Is it bad to judge others? Is it wrong to fix an image of someone in your mind based on the way you perceive them? Both yes and no. If I may split hairs here, there is a difference between judging and passing judgment. Without judging we would be unable to make decisions. Judging happens whether we know it is or not. We instinctively know that we’d rather not be in a work group with this person. We know that we would not get along with these types of personalities. Judging informs us on our personal take on or interactions with others.

Passing judgement on the other hand, deals with someone’s overall quality as a human being. Engaging in this activity, we place ourselves in God’s position.

What is important is where and by what criteria our judgments take place. First impressions are made within seconds of meeting a person. Why does this occur? It certainly isn’t a conscious thought process where we weigh all the data available to us. This initial reaction to someone is based on observation, context, and our own inner assumptions and biases. Since this instinctual process is inescapable let us instead change its method of operation. Moved into the forefront of the mind, let us take our first impressions and reevaluate them based on facts, not assumptions. 

When you first meet someone, you don’t truly know anything about them. There are certain things that can be implied about their personality and circumstances, but these implications are speculative at best. Very few possess the mind or observational skills of Sherlock Holmes to be able to project these implications into concrete knowledge.  Our first criteria, therefore, is to judge based on actions not impressions. Watching whether someone’s actions match up with their words is one of the best ways to know that person’s character.

The second criteria is to determine the motives of those we interact with. We have all known people who complain for the sake of complaining, who seem rude or disinterested, or who seem changeable and strange. Before judging someone we should weigh actions and words in the context of their situations. Things like stress, a death in the family, or a distracted state of mind can color a person’s responses. We have all said things we regretted, or become emotional over a misunderstanding. Realize that this happens to others and you will being to develop a deeper understanding of those people. You will begin to see patterns of behavior, things that set people off. And after enough observation you should make your judgement.

The final thing to keep in mind when forming judgments is to recognize the differences that others possess. Recognition of the various interests, viewpoints, and personal quirks that others have is important to forming judgments about them. This may seem obvious, but how many times have we read flame wars on the internet, or been laughed at or looked down on for an opinion on a book or movie? Recognition and understanding of why these differences exist is an important step in the process of judgement. You don’t have to agree with, or even respect the differences that other people possess, but they should factor into the cognitive formulation of your opinion.

Judgement of others is not something we should pass off to stereotypes and first impressions. People are much more complex than that and have a wide variety of thoughts, actions, motives, ideals, and likes. Only by taking into account all of these aspects of a person’s life can we truly judge them. And even after the judgment is made, we should be open to reassessing it.

People judge each other. Its a cold, hard fact. It isn’t always fair and it isn’t always right. By making the process of judgment a conscious activity we can reduce stereotyping, see things from a wider perspective, and truly begin to understand other people. Which-in my opinion-is the first step in solving many of the problems that exist not only in our social lives, but in the whole world today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Culture Blindness

In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when Indiana and his companions are searching for one of the clues that will lead them to the holy grail they go to a library and look for symbols to help them on their journey. They find two of the symbols-Roman numerals- but are stumped when searching for the numeral ten (X). It is only when Indiana looks from a higher perspective that they see that they have been standing on a giant X the entire time.

I think it is that way in society as well. Mankind is constantly looking to grow and become better, but how can we be sure that our choices and the directions we decide to go in are correct? I heard the phrase “cultural growth” recently, and although I don’t remember the source it got me thinking. What defines growth? How can one be sure that a culture is headed in the right direction and the supposed growth is not the beginnings of a cancerous tumor?

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that culture or society should remain stagnant and unchanging. Without considering other ways of doing things and integrating new ideas a nation cannot survive, especially in the modern world with its free flow of information. It is simply interesting to note how cultural critics and progressive thinkers are so positive that the changes that they seek are correct.

History can shed some light on the impact of man’s choices upon his environment. Lessons of the past inform us of mistakes in theories and actions. Without historical examples to point to, how would we even know where we stand in regards to liberty, equality, enlightened thinking, and moral standards?

However even history fails in the end. Every situation is unique; every people instilled with a different set of values and expectations. Technology and what we know about the universe is changing every day. People are deluged with a flood of conflicting information without compass or guide to determine what is true or noble. In a certain sense we are more blind now than all our ancestors were. Despite the amazing advancement the human race has undergone in the past 200 years we still can’t look beyond the present with any certainty. No one can know for certain the long term effects of daily events, and unlike Indiana Jones we cannot simply get a “better view.”

I say this not to be pessimistic, but simply as an observation. Before we commit to a course of action we should think about the consequences to ourselves, loved ones, and our fellow human beings. As only the long, backward gaze of history, and ultimately the wisdom of God can show us the right or wrong of our decisions I think we owe it to both of them to be as responsible and as careful as we can.