Sunday, April 1, 2007

Comfort - Part Two

Once one starts rummaging around for things in the fridge one finds more than one expected. The same is true of heightened awareness of an issue, idea, pattern or a word: it starts cropping up with startling frequency.

So it was a discovery -- but not a surprise -- that the issue of 'comfort'(and discomfort), a topic OFD broached a couple of days ago here suddenly started appearing, one connected to a famous Danish filmmaker and the other to a University of Chicago Psychologist.

Escaping the clutches of comfort is what Susanne Bier seems intent on doing. "I have got this fear of becoming comfortable" she says, carefully pronouncing all four syllables and letting her face, her tone and her body language convey complete distaste.

It does not seem a purposeless focus or restlessness, rather she seems keenly aware that for her it represents losing a vital edge and clarity she brings to her works, among them Open hearts (2002) Brothers (2005) and After the Wedding (2007) the last having received an Oscar nomination.

The other context in which comfort came up is an academic study of the pursuit of happiness. Mihaly Csikszentmihaly in a great read Flow suggests the underlying function of a variety of pieces of cultural machinery - religion, philosophies, arts, rules of social classes, and comforts - help shield our minds from the tyranny of chaos and, as he puts it "help us believe that we are in control of what is happening and give reasons for being satisfied with out lot."

So there we have it. The pursuit of comfort is an illusion, a device to make us feel connected and secure in an uncertain world and fend of the ontological wolves of anxiety from the door.*

Post script
*This is a turn of phrase not an anthropomorphic reference.

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