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comfort? // an elaboration - Lograh

Friday, 11.Apr.2008

8:46 - comfort? // an elaboration

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So yeah, some seem to have taken issue with my previous entry. This is good. Disagreement is fine and healthy, and I welcome all who would take issue with anything I say. Every dissenting view I am exposed to is, after all, another opportunity for me to further my own understanding. I would, however, like to ensure that if you are going to say you disagree with me then you at least are disagreeing with what I am talking about and not with a misunderstanding about what I am talking about. One drawback of SMS is that it does not leave much room for someone like myself who can tend somewhat to the more verbose end of things.

So then, in the interest of furthering the discussion (and since I originally texted with intent to elaborate anyhow), some more details on the topic.

First off, I'd like to clarify what I was talking about when I mentioned being comfortable. The comfort I'm talking about is not a simple issue of having a pebble in your sock or not. Discomfort borne of basic physical pain is not the issue at hand here. I'm more concerned, right now, with the more philosophical idea of comfort. The comfort people are talking about when they ask "Are you comfortable with your life right now" or "Would you say you lead a comfortable lifestyle". It's not a question of are you seated comfortably, free of major physical pains and properly balanced, but more a question of the situations in your life right now and your relation to them.

Further, when I mentioned defining terms I wasn't talking of what you might find in the OED or Webster's. I was referring more to the "requisites" idea of "definition". Such as having a degree requires that you have gone through some sort of course of study. Sure, the OED style definition of having a degree is just that you possess a specific piece of paper that is called a degree, but there is also the idea that the definition of having a degree is having done something to get it. That is "what it means" to have a degree, beyond just the literal definition.

Thus, when I said that to be comfortable can require redefining being comfortable, I wasn't calling for a protest at the OED headquarters so that we won't have to worry about a pebble in our shoe making us uncomfortable any longer (though perhaps it would make as good an excuse to visit England as any, I suppose, and could be fun). I was instead pointing to the idea that there are some situations in life where you can be quite uncomfortable and it can be more helpful to investigate why this is and what it means for you to be uncomfortable with your life than to attempt to somehow remedy the discomfort based on the previous thoughts and beliefs you have held which made you uncomfortable in the first place.

This more verbose way of putting it would most certainly not fit in an SMS message. :)

An example, perhaps, can be illustrative.

Some people think that a comfortable lifestyle requires lots of things. At one point in my life I felt having a decent music collection (and reasonable equipment to listen to it with) was a requirement for a comfortable lifestyle. And to be honest, it did give some comfort. It was nice to have keen music to listen to while I'm walking around, or taking pictures, or whatever else I was doing. I had a nice large iPod filled with many different styles so that whatever mood I was in there was a great soundtrack to go along with it. This was all well and good, but in spite of this I would sometimes find myself quite uncomfortable. Not just with life, but with my music collection. So I would go get more music, different types of music, different groups of the same type, minor variations on a theme, whatever I could. And it worked, for a little while, to hide the underlying discomfort. But in the back of my head there was still this knowledge that something was not quite lining up right. It wasn't until recently, when I questioned the very assumption that music was part of comfort, that I realized this. I had previously placed music in the requirements for a comfortable lifestyle, and it was this itself which led to my discomfort. Now I have changed that. Music plays no part in my idea of what comfort is, what it means to have a comfortable lifestyle, and thus I find I am able to be comfortable without music at all. I spend days, weeks, even months without music and I don't feel a need to put anything on to change that. Previously I would be compelled to have music playing all the time, and was looking at ways to get music in to more and more parts of my life. That's not comfort, that's compulsion. Similarly, though, it is worth noting that if I were constantly fighting to not have any music in my life then that too would be a compulsion, just of a different sort. I can listen to music, if it happens to be playing or if I hear about a new band and am interested to see what all the fuss is. I still am able to appreciate music. I still have some music and will put it on every now and then, but it doesn't really hook me like it used to. That fundamental requirement, that part of the definition of "comfort" which music played, is gone.

Thus I have, to that minor extent, redefined what comfort means to me. And as a result of the changing of my personal definition of comfort, I find I am now more able to be truly comfortable. This does not mean I am free of physical pains. This does not mean I am not frustrated or upset by some actions I see from those around me or myself. But these are different issues.

Comments:

From:dotarvi
Date:16:34 11.Apr.2008 (UTC)
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I didn't read the comments on your previous post, and I probably will for entertainment, but what you just described above it exactly what I imagined you meant. So... I guess I just want to say that if I understood, then I'm probably not the only one.

Oh, and well said.
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From:lograh
Date:16:41 11.Apr.2008 (UTC)
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thank you, it took some real editing to try to arrange the words for this entry. I still think I could have done better.

I figured there were some who understood, and there was one comment that hinted at understanding, but there were two that seemed to miss the point slightly.

And as I said, I had planned to elaborate anyhow; I just didn't feel like posting such a lengthy entry so late at night so I dropped a little SMS to remind myself to do it this morning. :)
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From:eazycheeze
Date:18:01 11.Apr.2008 (UTC)
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Still, I dont see this as redefining a "term" as you called it in your previous post. I think the way it was worded, it came across wrong to me.
This explanation sounds more like redefining aspects of yourself rather than your notions of what a word means to you. Which I suppose could be viewed as the same idea... But I read your previous post as an example of what I've seen many times before in previous friends of mine... They're unhappy, so they tell themselves that what they have is what they want. And so that becomes the truth for them. Bliss through ignoring the truth and creating their own truth. Redefining.

Also, my comment was not meant to be taken literally. It was typed with a somewhat tongue in cheek outlook, hoping to spark a discussion and possibly an elaboration of the very short and simple post.
Which it seems to have done. :)
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From:lograh
Date:22:22 11.Apr.2008 (UTC)
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yeah, I'm not so big on ignoring the truth these days. Quite the opposite, one could say; I'm spending a lot of time trying to clearly identify was really is going on.

No worries about misinterpreting. As I said, it can be hard to fit some ideas in the space of an SMS message. And I had planned on posting this anyway, just didn't want to do it last night. :)
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From:boiwondering
Date:20:10 11.Apr.2008 (UTC)
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Am I being clueless, or did I miss the bit where this doesn't make complete sense to some people? We all have our own definitions for words and concepts, and we're all constantly refining (or outright redefining) those definitions. The example I always use is this: when I type or say the word "apple," the image and emotional content which rises in your mind is not in any way the same as what's in my mind. Your apple is not my apple, cannot be my apple. We mean completely different things... but they're alike enough that, if I ask if you'd like to have an apple, you can answer the question you're hearing, which is close enough to the question I'm asking that you'll get an apple if you want one. I think.

That we're able to communicate effectively at all is, I think, a function of language (and the minds using it) being flexible enough to accommodate differences in experience, and even in definition, as long as there's some shared frame of reference with which to measure against and adjust for error.

Also, thank you for sharing. ^_^
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From:lograh
Date:22:15 11.Apr.2008 (UTC)
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You're very welcome. I'm trying to use this LJ as a place for putting stuff I'm thinking on. This of course being just an offshoot of my general shift to trying to live a more thoughtful life.

We'll see how long this phase lasts. :)

I've often had the same amazement as you mention at the fact that we can manage to communicate at all. Language is such an amazing thing sometimes. What really gets me is when I am talking to a colourblind person I know, and we're talking about something and mention what shade it is and he can identify it properly, but I *know* that's the shade he has trouble with. He's just saying it's some shade of red because he knows that when he sees something that looks like that shade of gray to him, it's really red and his eyes just don't register that. So what we are referring to as "red" he's actually seeing as a certain off-gray. Blows my mind sometimes.
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From:mamarhi
Date:4:51 12.Apr.2008 (UTC)
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I wholeheartedly agreed with your first post, just didn't comment.

The problem with the English language, or perhaps language in general, is all the nuances of word meaning.

What I was reminded of with your first post is how our idea of comfort can change throughout our lives. What I see as living a comfortable life now is not necessarily what it meant to me 10 or 20 years ago. The meaning has changed. And in a moment of discomfort, I can sometimes find comfort by looking at things differently. Perspective affects my feelings of comfort.
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