An Essay on Being Uncomfortable

An essay on why being uncomfortable is good for building character

I live in the Northeastern part of the United States. We have Winter Nor’easters, ‘muggy’ Summers, but awesome Spring and Autumn weather. The weather changes a lot but I love the change of seasons. I like Spring and Autumn the best. Winter is ok, I get sad because of the low amount of daylight, and I swelter in Summer.

I’m uncomfortable.

Swelter, melt, cook. It’s not because I’m always feeling hot but because we have no working air conditioning in the house. Our AC broke a year ago. We looked into getting it fixed but found out that the compressor units had leaks and needed freon to work. Unfortunately for us, freon is no longer available so we’d need to switch out both compressors. That means the air handlers in the attic need replacement too. All this comes with a hefty price tag to replace so we ‘sucked it up’ and dealt with sweltering sleeping nights.

Being uncomfortable is to be human.

Sleeping in the middle of the heatwave is terrible, uncomfortable at best. I toss and turn and sleep in my underwear. I move from my upstairs bedroom to the downstairs couch where the fan is on and continue to toss and turn all night. Morning comes fast and I’m left groggy and sweaty.

I’m uncomfortable.

As I lay in a semi-state of sleep I start to think about how wonderful it is to be uncomfortable. I also wonder if I’m crazy because I’m yearning for a cool room to fall asleep in. Why is being uncomfortable something wonderful?

I console myself with the fact that I’m ‘building character.’

Being uncomfortable is to be human. It is because of this that the human race as moved forward into a safe and comfortable existence. We’ve built so many creature comforts that a whole generation of humans don’t know what it’s like to sweat. New houses come equipped with central air and I even remember a time when AC was an option in cars, now it’s the default.

All this comfort comes with a price. Yes, there is a cost to pay for this luxury but what is it? What’s the true price? Central air conditioning uses electricity that’s often generated from fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels warms our climate creating a negative feedback loop, forcing us to cool our homes. We drive more in our cars with the AC on, thereby burning more gasoline and generating more emissions. The effects of our desire for comfort is killing us and the Earth.

More damaging to our physical nature is the insidious attack of our mental stability.

Granted, I’m not against our creature comforts. They do have a positive effect on the elderly and infirm for without them their life might be shorter. Yet, it might be good to be uncomfortable at times. It helps us reconnect with what our ancestors had to endure.

Being uncomfortable teaches us patience, a great trait that’s lost in a world of instant gratification. It teaches to be novel, innovative, and thrifty — three great character traits. Our generation is the most educated but most insulated from these uncomfortable experiences. It’s affecting our very core of who we are. We can’t adjust when faced with uncomfortable situations.

More damaging to our physical nature is the insidious attack of our mental stability. We live in a world of Instagram personalities and crafted perfect lives. We have a fear of missing out (FOMO) and click ‘likes’ to give ourselves a dopamine rush. I am guilty of it too, it can be a very seductive siren call.

While we all fall prey to it at one time or another, there is a hidden price to pay for it all. We suffer from self-doubt, self-confidence, and mental stability issues. It’s so bad that we’re losing the ability to determine what is fact from fiction. Our mental stability is under serious attack, and our defenses are weakening.

To be uncomfortable lets us cut through the bullshit that so many people cover themselves in every day.

What to do? We’ve spent two decades in the ‘thick’ of the Internet creating this monster, how do we kill it? This monster won’t die easily because it makes money for the companies, but must do it ourselves. We must save ourselves and it starts with an uncomfortable decision.

First, I propose exchanging personalities for people of character. Ask yourself, do those Instagram celebrities you follow exhibit a strong code of ethics or moral fiber? If not, cut them loose. Do your Facebook friends lift you up and work to build a better world, inclusive to all? Keep them.

The problem is that we focus too much on a person’s personality traits that we forget to see what makes them real. If you strip away the money, their awesome life, or how beautiful they are, are they pieces of shit?

Make the uncomfortable choice to cut out the bad and keep the good. Start small and start today. Don’t become comfortable with bad personalities and bad character traits. Become uncomfortable with the culture and lives we are create with every ‘like’ or tweet. We must kill this monster and get in touch with our core values and beliefs. To be uncomfortable lets us cut through the bullshit that so many people cover themselves in every day. It forces us to discern what is important and what is not, especially if you’re lying in your pool of sweat on a hot night.


Originally published at https://thomasott.io on July 31, 2020.

Do we deserve the Earth?

Do we deserve the Earth? Why do we continue to kill it?

I was away on Holiday for a week down to the NJ Shore with my family. We rode bicycles, ate some good seafood, and spent quality time enjoying the Sandy Hook seashore. We saw a pod of dolphins, many different bird species, and different types of plants and trees. The weather was variable but it was great to get away and listen to the roaring surf and enjoy Nature.

Covid19 shut down a lot of the amenities at the beach. The visitor center and concession stands were closed but the showers and bathrooms were open. For the most part, everyone was social distancing and wearing masks if they couldn’t stay 6 feet apart. The beaches weren’t packed but they were busy and it brought with it all the usual annoyances of the masses of humanity, most notable and irritable of all: garbage!

Garbage In, Some of it Out

The majority of the beach goers did take out their garbage but there were a few that didn’t. The very first day we saw plastic bottles, wrappers, bags just left at the beach. The next day my wife took a plastic bag we used to carry food in to just pick up the garbage around our immediate area. In less than 5 minutes the bag was filled to the top.

I was furious when I saw this, and I remain furious to this day. We ended up taking the garbage home and disposing of it properly.

We Don’t Deserve the Earth

We don’t. We’re like a bunch of teenagers wrecking our rooms and sleeping in our filth until we wake up one day and realize it’s too late. We missed the bus or the house is burning down and we can’t get out. That’s exactly what’s happening here, we’re ‘shitting where we eat’ and living in a burning house. Yet, the majority of the world’s population doesn’t care. If you’re poor you’re too busy looking for food to eat and clean water to drink. If you’re in the wealthier group, you’re hoping to afford that new iPhone or busy watching American Idol. The majority of people that are not connected to the land don’t care about the environment, they just think it will go on forever as it is.

Here’s the rub, the Earth will continue to exist until the Sun swells up and consumes it, some 5 billion years from now. Whether we humans and the abundance of life will survive until then is a big question mark. We’re already witnessing an unstable climate and the collapse of insect populations. A massive ‘man-made’ extinction is underway and it’s utterly sad. It makes me angry. I know that we humans, including me, have an effect on the planet. We do make a footprint, but does it have to be so heavy?

Ed Abbey

I’ve been listening to ‘A Desert Solitaire’ by Edward Abbey lately. I read the book many years ago and it left an indelible mark on me. It was one of the reasons why I love the desert and spent many years in New Mexico. I’m listening to the audiobook as I do my daily walks and I’m reminded by some of the more controversial views ‘Cactus Ed’ had concerning population control and immigration.

While I’m in disagreement with his stance on limiting immigration, I do agree that population control is a good idea. Slowing the growth of 7 billion people to the point that the growth rate is below 1% would be a win in my book. Several European countries are now in a negative growth rate like in Germany and Portugal. The real controversial point is how you go about controlling the growth of the population!

Historically wars, pandemics, religion, and famine have killed millions if not billions throughout human history. I’m not advocating for any of these methods but rather for a simpler one, education.

Education is the key

Access to education for men, women, boys, and girls is what will stop us from being ‘viral’ baby-makers. We must especially educate women and girls in developing countries so that families can properly be planned. Yes, unexpected pregnancies will still happen but hopefully, we transition to a 3 or 4 person family nucleus instead of 6, 7, or 10. Having two children keeps the population the same, and having 1 child starts to reduce it. Education and family planning are perhaps the most humane way of dealing with our footprint on this planet. The added benefit is a reduction in consumption and a reevaluation of this ‘perma-growth’ concept as we transition to a more sustainable way of living.

End Notes

We need to reduce our consumption of resources. The simplest way to do that is if they’re less of us and the way to get there is through education. Granted having fewer people will make Wall Street go crazy because there won’t be more of us to buy stuff, but a transition to a sustainable way of living is critical to our survival of ALL living things.

Us included.