Comfort Zones

I’ve recently begun to think about what the word, comfortable, really means. Often times the word is associated with the word safe, but really the situation is only safe because it is familiar, so the only thing we’re really safe from is trying something new. This begs the question, is that real safety?

If living a comfortable life means living a life where we never pass over the lines of familiarity into the great unknown, can what we’re doing still be called living? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines life as, “the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual.” Now in some ways, this could be interpreted as the physical action of breathing in and out and all the other technical bodily functions that keep us alive. I believe, though, that  there is some significance in the word experience that goes past the basic definition of living.

I’m going to focus for just a little bit on the part that says, “physical and mental experiences.” Living life means that we  don’t just taste and see, which fall under the categories of physical and mental experiences, but that we taste things that are new and exciting and we see things that amaze and humble us.

The beauty of the senses are sometimes so completely underrated and so often taken for granted. Our ability to smell, hear, see, taste, and touch are beautiful gifts given to us by God to enjoy the world He has made. He could have not given us eyes to see the sun rise and fall. He could have created us without ears to hear the birds singing their beautiful songs. He could have not given us taste buds to enjoy every delicious part of our food. He could have not made us with the ability to smell the beautiful scent of a flower in bloom. He could have made us without the ability to feel the comfort of a loved-one’s embrace. None of these are needs. The senses are not involved in the basic systems in our body that keep us alive, granted they do make life easier, but mostly they make life rich. So if we posses all of these gifts that are a part of our everyday life but do not technically contribute to the functions of living, then that means there has to be so much more to life.

Now I know I have now gone on this long tangent with senses, but trust me I am going somewhere with this.

So you know when we hear or smell something and immediately recognize it, or do not. Well if it’s the latter then we begin to wonder what we heard or smelled; we become curious. This goes back to a completely normal human instinct to wonder about the world around us. We are already instinctively wondering about the world and searching to learn more, the next step would be immersing ourselves in that curiosity. Traveling to a new place, surrounding ourselves with different people, tasting bizarre foods would all be wonderful ways to attain new knowledge and let the curiosity lead us.

Have you ever been way way outside your comfort zone or experienced what is often called, culture shock? It is in this moment when all of your senses seem like they’re going on overdrive. You don’t recognize anything you see, or hear, or even smell. I would argue though, that this is a wonderful way to live life. In those moments we are completely out of our comfortzones, because none of our senses can grasp anything familiar. In this situation, if curiosity were given the opportunity to take the lead, some much new and exciting knowledge could be gained.

If we remain in our nice little, comfortable bubble, we will miss the world around us. I wish to live full of unfamiliarity and through this learn the many secrets the world has to offer, and I wish this for you too.

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Into the Wild

When first introduced to the character Alex, or Chris McCandless, I have to admit he really annoyed me. By doing things like, cutting off contact with his parents to intentionally hurt them and getting offended when his parent offered to buy him a new car and put him through law school, he came off as a rich kid who had no appreciation for all that he had. As the story progressed though, and I was taken deeper into his character and life, I began to see the world through Alex’s eyes. The frustration and annoyance that I felt before soon turned into understanding, although there are some things that he did that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to understand. Ultimately though, Alex was a young man trying to grasp the world around him and find his place in it. I feel that this is something we all go through, Alex just went about it a very different way. This being said, I believe that Jon Krakauer’s intended audience when decided to write and publish Alex’s story, was everyone. I believe everyone, on some level, carries with them an innate curiosity about the world around them. Alex took this curiosity to new and rarely explored places and ideas. By looking at Alex’s adventures across the country and into the wilderness, and examining his logic behind his decisions, we are able to relate to his ideas, if not his actions, and are drawn to Alex’s story in a unique way. Krakauer’s portrayal of Alex as the average, albeit brilliant and talented kid, he is able to pull in people who also have at some point desired to be independent and to learn about and know the world around him. These desires cover a vast majority of people and thus the book reaches it’s intended vast audience.

Now a question that I continued to think back upon while reading Into the Wild, was whether or not Alex McCandless would even have wanted a book written about him. From what the book says and what all the people who knew him say, he seemed to be a very private person. He would rarely tell those whom he met on the road his real name, and he rarely let people know what he was thinking. Alex seemed like a very private person and I’m not sure he’d want his life’s story out for the world to see. On the other hand though, he seemed to encourage others to do as he had done and escape society and go into nature. There was an elderly man that Alex met on his journey, named Ronald A. Franz, and to whom Alex grew quite close. Franz also felt a connection to Alex, and when Alex left, he told Franz to leave his home and everything that tied him down and to go out and live in the wilderness. Surprisingly enough, Franz did this. So I believe on some level Alex would have wanted to encourage other to escape into nature. Even after finishing the book I really don’t have an answer. I think it’s a question that only Alex himself could answer.

An Intentional Life

I’ve always wanted to live on my own, at least for a little while. I want to travel the world. I want to see all of the wonderful places that I have only read or heard about. If I were completely free to go live the life I wanted, I would leave. I would burn all of my school work, fill my bag with the basic necessities and leave mid semester.

Even now, I feel the pull to go and see the world. I want to meet people and experience so many different cultures that they mix around in my brain till they muddle into one giant memory. That’s how I want to see the world.

Sadly though, we live in a world of countries divided by borders. There is the hassle of visas, passports, identification, and everything else that makes traveling difficult. On top of all this there is that ever present, thorn in the side, and major hindrance to travel: money. Why does travel have to be so expensive? Plus there is absolutely no way my parents would let me quit school, pack my bags, and leave. I’m actually quite sure they’d take me to get my head checked out!

The more I think about it though, the more I realize all of these obstacles may not be a bad thing. If people were always able to do what they wanted to do, they might never do what they needed to do. If I were able to do whatever I wanted, I probably wouldn’t finish my education. By being kept from doing what I want, I am forced to do what I need to do, which is getting an education. Sometimes we’re kept places, not necessarily because we want to be there, but because at that time or in that moment, it is somewhere we need to be. If life were all about following whims, I have a feeling it would get rather chaotic.

Research

I’ve never enjoyed research, because what typically follows is some sort of paper. I love learning about people and the world around me though. I will spend hours online looking up various topics trying to find out everything I can. This has never really seemed like research to me, because I normally associate research with collecting facts for some sort of purpose, like a paper, but in several ways it is.  I would argue though, that the type of research I do alone for general knowledge is not the type of research that would be good for an education purpose, or to try and inform others on that topic. This kind of research is effective for obtaining general knowledge on a topic, but not for trying to educate others on a topic. There has to be legitimate sources to back up arguments and information shared to educate the public, because you are presenting that information as facts. If statements are made from a source that is a journal or blog, the information in those sources could be opinion based rather than factual based. It is the obligation of someone, when passing along information, to find out whether or not that information is factual.

The credibility of sources is super important. Information that is passed on now a days has been often times distorted due to people just not being careful with where information is coming from. With the availability of the internet, now pretty much anyone can write down and share their thoughts on any topic. This has made trying to find reliable and truth based sources like trying to find a needle in a haystack. As a result of the growing difficulty in finding reliable sources, it has become even more important to make sure that information that we are passing along is truthful. If not, we just become part of the cycle of false information and confusion.