Our Comfy-Boxed Lives

Wednesday morning, June 20th, was a beautiful morning. According to my car’s thermometer, the temperature outside was 66 degrees and climbing, and the was sun was shining, broadcasting it’s infrared rays down upon Earth making it a comfortable drive with the windows down.

Or at least I thought it was comfortable enough. Stopped in road construction traffic, I panned the scene and witnessed car after car with their windows up, the driver alone in their vehicle. I can hear air conditioning and fans running, and couldn’t help but wonder why these cars need to run air conditioning on a morning like this. “The air doesn’t need conditioning,” I told myself.

Of course, there could be many reasons why the A/C is on in the car (temperature tolerances vary greatly, wind noise, maybe even safety), but in a lot of ways it feels like cars and trucks are just comfort boxes that we temporarily move ourselves into from our other comfort boxes, namely buildings. Our lives seem to be moving from box to box, and maybe in the end, some of the people close to us might bury us in a box (encased in a cement box).

The crazy thing is, or crazy to me, is that this is all for comfort, which sometimes is masked as “safety”. Something feels wrong to me about always being in a state of comfort, about always needing the air conditioned, the noise silenced, the belly full of food, and maybe a lot more things that Americans (especially, and especially in Boise, Idaho) take for granted. It almost feels like there’s this narrative that we’ve been raised in and told ourselves that you need that rather large home on that large lot that is a long distance away, which is for safety, security, and comfort of course.

Our economics also reinforce this in a constant feedback loop (much like my gripe about pseudo-agriculture). For the thousands of years that humanity has existed on this planet and evolved into creating and using technology, it’s arguably been the last 75 to 100 years that we’ve started to buy into this resource-intensive model of boxed comfort. Houses used to be designed in America to take advantage of the climate and the sun in order to maybe find a better point of equilibrium with the environment in terms of climate control; e.g., homes were designed for better wind flow. Today, houses are designed for energy efficiency because we expend a ton of energy into our A/C and heating systems in the name of comfort.

I could go on about this, and I’m probably wrong or mistaken in some parts, but in the end, what I really want to get at here is that it feels like to me that comfort has been mistaken for safety, and one of the effects of this is disconnection from others, from the environment, and just in-general the world around us. We live in a comfort box, we transport ourselves in a comfort box, we eat sometimes from comfort boxes, we get our information now and we even communicate more and more solely from comfort boxes (phones and computers).

At some point, this has to have an effect on us as human beings, and probably most likely human beings in the United States where perhaps we take comfort, safety, and individualism to perhaps an excessive level at the cost of our humanity and connection with the environment around us.  When those environments change (weather, traffic, people, etc.), we’re so used to a level of comfort that perhaps our bodies react wildly, maybe even inducing stress, raising cortisol and whatever other hormones are out there.

There really is a snowball/butterfly effect here that we could go down, but in the end, it seems like excessive comfort seeking and living makes us more vulnerable, less robust, to all of life.

Maybe.

Moving On from the Pseudo-Agriculture Life

It was a beautiful Saturday morning. Sixty-one degrees, mostly sunny — a beautiful day to go out for a bike ride. Then I looked outside my kitchen into my backyard.

It was a disaster.

What could be seen was a half-assed attempt at fixing lawn sprinklers: a trench dug out of an eighth of the distance, another trench covered back up after realizing it was completely pointless to have dug these out.

Then there was the spray-painted lines of borders for the landscaping, now engulfed by overgrown grass archipelagos throughout the yard, dotted with a weed here and there, and of course dusted with some sort of white, cloudy mildew in the shaded areas.

And then the half-assed garden from the previous owners, which was actually just a piece of yard that had its sod removed, but the lawn sprinklers kept in-place.

All of this work to do, and then I said ‘fuck it’ and took my family for a bike ride to a coffeeshop for some breakfast. While there, the wife and I found ourselves talking about the yard, talking about all the work to be done, and then we realized we didn’t want to be doing it.

Hours later, as I’m begrudgingly mowing my yard, I realize, “Why the hell am I doing this? Why am I so engulfed by this idea of maintaining a yard, creating landscaping, painting a house, fixing sprinklers?” I continued down this spiral of ideas as I was on my hands and knees pulling out weeds lest my neighbor complain about dandelions flowering and ejaculating white seeds into her yard.

The reason for it all: appearance. The battle against entropy, the installation and maintenance of order onto a piece of land, and while mainly for appearance, it’s also because to ignore now is to be consumed by it later as the machete comes out and even harder work has to be performed.

The real thing about it all: it’s bullshit. I don’t really care to be spending my time doing any of this. With what little time we exist on this rock spinning and orbiting and giant fireball, why do I spend my time and the commodity I’ve exchanged for time and skill (money) on things that give me little satisfaction?

Why do I continue to contribute to an economy, to a strange pseudo-agrarian and/or pseudo-agriculture life in which I have to constantly spend money and time on fixing? For autonomy? Freedom? Self-direction? It doesn’t sound like I’m achieving any of those things but instead are chained to them.

It just seems like I’ve bought into this idea of home ownership and suburbia (or old suburbia, in my case) without thinking about all the quirks that come with it. The more you have, the more you have to maintain, the more you have to spend money and time, the more risk you have something to go wrong.

The costs are high with home ownership.