“I dread winter because it is the season of comfort.” – Jean Nicholas Arthur Rimbaud
When I first read A Season in Hell, this final poem, and this line in particular, confused me. I had to give an interpretation of it, in French, no less. And at the time, this line stumped me. I had no idea what to make of it.
But I think now I understand.
I’ve been talking with a few different people lately about the idea of being comfortable.
Unfortunately – I’m sure I’ll be very unpopular for saying this – I think comfort and growth are antithetical.
There’s a quote that’s been floating around on Facebook recently that goes something like this: a comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing grows there.
Now I’m not advocating the return of hair shirts or anything like that. There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable in this life, per se.
The problem, I think, is when we make being comfortable our highest value: when we’re afraid to be uncomfortable. Or when we avoid it at all costs.
A little discomfort is a good thing. It means you’re trying things that are outside the circle of your comfort zone.
A comfort zone is kind of like a rubber band. You can keep stretching it, and eventually it gets bigger. (On the other hand, if you don’t stretch it at all, it seems to contract.)
If you feel a little uncomfortable it means you’re growing.
Now, of course, it’s a matter of degree. Try doing things that are miles outside your comfort zone, and you’ll be in a world of distress that will provoke massive internal paralysis and resistance (otherwise known as cognitive dissonance).
Stretch the rubber band too far and it breaks or snaps back – ouch.
But keep pushing the boundaries. Little by little. It’s just one way to keep life interesting, and fun, and you never know what you might learn.