The battle between our need for challenge and love of comfort can make us quite foolish.
Here in the Western world, and especially America, we are so comfortable that we have to invent challenges for ourselves.
Students do it by sloughing education so later they can play the find-the-job-satisfaction-with-mediocre-skills game. Mike Anderson’s basketball teams do it by trying to win without rebounding — very quixotic. The federal government likes to supply our enemies with technology, weapons and training in order to have someone to play with.
Children are so spoiled that they have to play video games just to satisfy that innate need to be frustrated. Sure the little soldiers only have virtual problems, but let’s see you solve all your “real” problems in your underwear, using only two thumbs.
My favorite is how people will circle the parking lot at athletic clubs to find the closest spot. I love the irony.
If there are intelligent beings in the universe, the thing I hope they never see is a room full of people on wheel-less bicycles all riding as hard as they can in the same direction, toward a glass wall, while following a woman who is yelling, “Come on, guys! You can do it! You’re almost there! Just a little more!” They will make us slaves, for sure.
To my knowledge, we are the only people to ever make our lives worse just for fun. Camping is a great example. Others would sacrifice comfort as a temporary means for a better end, like conquest or freedom or even wealth. We just say, “Oh, this is so boring! The air-conditioning never stops! That refrigerator is so cluttered, and it always hums! Sweetie, let’s get rid of our food, shelter and 10,000 years of progress and see if we aren’t happier.”
But, like all these other attempts at pseudo-strife, camping fails to satisfy. I understand the motive — we want to get back to simplicity, but that’s not what happens.
A young male, for example, instinctively feels that this mushy life is wrong. The cubicle starts to feel like a hamster wheel, and a fenced yard like a cage. At first, camping requires two cans of beans, three fishing hooks, a Swiss Army knife and matches (because a male has a primal lust for burning things.) These items are all a man needs to go camping.
However, once a man gets older, he starts bringing more stuff with him, namely a woman. The woman then has to bring her stuff, namely the house. At first, he mumbles about his preference for “roughing it,” but then, as is the way of most men, he succumbs to womanly persuasion. She gets him hooked on campfire bacon, which requires coolers with ice that are heavy and, thus, tether the hike to within a few hundred feet of a parking space. Then she brings an artificial light source, which draws bugs, thus, requiring bug spray and candles and a tent that needs a flat, smooth surface, all but mandating a public campground.
His weakness is progressive. He starts to prefer antiseptic soap and lawn chairs and even a site near an outhouse. In just a few short years, this mustang finds himself chiding the children, “Who ate all the fudge stripe cookies? And who left the door zipper open? Now we have a bug in here!”
And then, ultimately, after packing and unpacking the entire house over and over into a van or truck for years, he loses grasp on reality and necessity, buys an RV and then dies.
Yes, I realize I digressed and may have also revealed some personal frustrations, but the point is that these silly games we play trying to challenge ourselves are futile. We gravitate back into our comfort like it’s a memory-foam mattress, because a memory foam mattress is the antithesis of a box of chocolates — you always know what you’re gonna get, and it’s wonderful.
We have warring instincts: One is to find conflict; the other is to destroy it. This is why women fall in love with jerks, hoping to break them. This is why we eat coconuts – how much clearer does God need to be than to put nasty food inside a rock-like shell 40 feet off the ground? Consider swimming and skiing and other sports where the only objective is to get as close to death as possible and then escape it faster than everyone else.
I think our cushiness will be our downfall. What we think is bravery or conquest may look more like stupidity and weakness to others. I can only imagine those same aliens watching us: “This is going to be easier than we thought, Commander. I saw an earthling walk out into the woods for less than a mile, pull a round tool that pointed toward the magnetic pole, and then he went right back to where he started. He didn’t even make it an hour.”
“Yes, I’m excited as well, Chinon. I saw one purposely drink something that made him lose his hearing, stumble and accidentally urinate on the same tree four times when the bathroom was only 200 feet away.”
“Yes. And he seemed to be the leader.”
“So, when are we going to invade?”
“I don’t think we need to. I think if we keep their homes' temperature controlled and their entertainment box on, they’ll never do anything.”
“No one is that dumb, sir.”
“Chinon, I saw a lady run out of her house this morning like she was scared, run all over the neighborhood and got so tired she came back to the house she was running from. And one of our scouts said she does the same thing three times a week.”
“I’m so confused — Oh, no! Maybe it’s contagious!”
Brad Clemons is a Columbia resident who studies human devolution.