The Designs of Humanity

Sometimes I think about who we are.

Comfortable

What things in your life make you feel comfortable? Take a moment to think about them. If you’re at all like me, you probably just envisioned a loaded turkey sandwich, your favorite after-a-long-day chair, and a fresh-ground French press steaming in your favorite mug—or at least something similar. Well, whatever it is, I hope you’re experiencing it right now, because it may be the last time you ever do so with a clear conscience.

No, I’m not going to lay a guilt trip on you about how other people are utterly without our luxuries, as true as that is. Instead, I’d like to share my latest epiphany: being comfortable is bad for you.

Aside from the worldly attachments we develop when visiting our “comfort caves”, being comfortable is detrimental in another way. When we feel comfortable, we close our eyes to growth.

By deciding that we’re comfortable with our own levels of competence in our respective fields (be they professional or inspired), we stunt ourselves of the drive to exceed our previous performances. For example, my previously mentioned comfort-vices keep me from discovering new types of sandwiches, gaining new perspective from other seats, and finding out how much I really would enjoy kumquat tea (?). While these things are fairly inconsequential, you can see where applying the same principle on a larger scale might reveal one of human-kind’s greatest weaknesses: the lack of drive to improve.

Now, what were those things that make you feel comfortable? Think about them.

Filed under: comfort, ease, growth, influence, learning, strength

Change

I think I’ve figured it out. What’s it, you ask? Change. People fear it, create it, adapt to it, and ironically enough, need it. Take for example a slow day. When nothing’s happening, we come down with this awfully dreadful condition we call boredom. Really, this is just our way of saying “change something” to the world around us. Or how about fearing change? We’ve just established that it’s something we need, so why do we often fear it so much? Well, studies will tell you that humans (like most other creatures) are creatures of habit—meaning that an astronomical percentage of what we do is done simply because we’ve done it before. This experienced feeling we have from repeating actions which have worked well for us in the past gives a sense of belonging. Belonging gives humans purpose. As I’m beginning to understand, the ability to change one’s self is the most amazing way in which humans use change. We adapt. I just learned today that Eskimos who eat raw fish almost always end up developing parasitic stomach worms. Like me, you might grimace at that and say “fix that,” but just wait. Studies have been done showing that, while simply cooking the fish (as if it’s really simple that far north) would keep the worms from showing up, it would also remove certain nutrients from the Eskimo diet that helps their immune systems handle the worms. These people have adapted to their environment, and without even trying. The next level of this type of change is seen when it becomes voluntary. By taking control of one’s life, he/she can become increasingly stable in increasingly unstable conditions. In certain religions, people who meditate for extended periods of time have learned through conscious practice how to lower their heart rate and need for oxygen to a point where they can be buried alive for several hours, be dug up, and remain in perfectly good health. If these people can discipline themselves into a state that defies even death, who’s to say that much of anything is beyond reach?
For the last several months I’ve been reading up on what makes a person wise. The best answer I’ve come up with for attempting to summarize this virtue is “the ability to understand and adapt to change.” There, now practice changing.

Filed under: belonging, change, comfort, conditioning, coping, creativity, decisions, eskimo, fear, fish, growth, independence, learning, strength, trauma, Uncategorized, worms

Mind-stripping

It is my latest epiphany that the only thing worth living for is giving. Allow me to exemplify this with a little tale.

One night I awoke from my slumber to a voice in the next room. I quickly remembered that my grandfather was sleeping in the next room for a few nights while recovering from medical difficulties. At first it was hard to make out what he was saying, but I soon realized that he was talking to no one but himself, even in his dreams. He became more audible as he continued, mumbling phrases like “music was my life… I used to be so great at it. And now I can’t even play my instruments.” He continued on, his mind dealing with other things he’s lost with his age. “I used to play tennis every day, and now I can barely hold a racket.” I was aghast with the thought that someday I too will be in his position.

What will I say in my sleep? What things will my subconscious take upon itself to unload from my mind as I waste away in my sleep?

Then it hit me. The only things that my subconscious will never have to handle in such a way are those things which I’ve given away. What things in life are so important that we really need to attend to more than giving? After all, we’ll all grow old, and all our joys will be stripped from us… save for one—observing the fruits of our efforts in generosity.

Filed under: change, comfort, decisions, dream, friendship, generosity, helping, importance, interaction, loneliness, losing, loss, priorities, sleep, Uncategorized

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