The pursuit of comfort

Subjectivity is an inescapable aspect of our human condition. By nature, we are confined to a subjective view of reality. Higher objectivity is possible, but it depends on a learning process that demands an expansion and integration of knowledge.

We are going to sustain that our world view is not only inherently subjective, but human nature is such that we commonly avoid -and sometimes even reject- objectivity, while we actively pursuit subjective world views that suits our needs.

By nature, we are both lazy and tend to seek comfort. By laziness we don’t mean the unwillingness to work (which is a particular manifestation of its most general sense), but the tendency to minimise effort and maximise rewards. Laziness is not so much a weakness of character but a natural predisposition. It makes biological sense to be lazy. A behaviour that minimises effort and maximise rewards is a behaviour that maximises energy efficiency. The opposite would mean a behaviour that uses energy unproductively; and energy, during evolution, has always represented a scarce resource. It also makes biological sense to seek comfort. The pursuit of comfort comes from the pain and pleasure principle; which is a primitive, but an effective mechanism of self-preservation.

Because we are naturally lazy, we are normally passive about objectivity. Objectivity depends on a learning process that demands effort, time and energy, and it is in our nature to minimize effort. So we tend to search for objectivity only when we need it or when it represent a practical benefit.

Now, not only we are passive about pursuing objectivity because we are lazy, but because we tend to seek comfort, we are active on avoiding it. And there are many examples on how we commonly do this: religion, drug consumption, taking holidays, entertainment, etc.

Religion for example, is comforting in many ways: it make us feel less alone in the world, it offer meaning to life, it offer consolation in death, it offers a world that is essentially fair, it offers redemption from pain and suffering and bliss on their truths, and fundamentally, following a religion is comforting for being a way of forming part of society and satisfying the basic need of belonging.
Religious world views are not objective, but they are mane made world view that adjust to our needs and that make us feel better about ourselves, the world and our place in the world. About 86% of the world population follows a religion in one form or the other. This shows how it primes in man the need of feeling good over the need of objectivity.

Religion is not the only way we seek comforting worldviews. Modernity is characterised by a high acceptance of scientific truth, by a decline on religion and by growing materialistic, individualistic and hedonistic values; all of which results in a general spiritual emptiness. Science might explain the world, but doesn’t fulfil our spiritual needs. So people are looking for alternative ways to find comfort in life, like motivational techniques, positive psychology, self-help, orientalism, etc. Another emerging trend, that combines many of the latter elements, are new and alternative metaphysics. Some of these metaphysics, in order to gain acceptance, make false claims of being based on science. And another thing they offer is peace of mind through alternative ways of seeing the world. The idea that by knowing the truth we can avoid the pain from modern life is another example of how we construct worldviews to fit our needs. Reality is objective and neutral and is not comforting in itself.

Drugs is another example of how we actively seek to escape from reality rather than gaining objectivity in it. Drug consumption occurs in the whole spectrum of social classes, from the wealthy to the poor and destitute. It is a practise that can be traced since the beginning of time and in all types of societies, from civilised to non-civilised. It is in human nature to seek comfort and pleasure, and drugs is one way that humans found of doing it. The effect of drugs is to chemically alter the state of consciousness. And we deliberately pursuit this for several reasons: as recreation, as part of spiritual rituals, as relaxation or as an escape from the pain and suffering of reality. Objective reality doesn’t offer comfort (on the contrary, in many cases it can be painful) neither is spiritually fulfilling. To deliberately alter our state of mind through drugs is another example of how we actively pursuit comfort and we actively escape from objectivity.

Another example of how we actively search to escape from reality is entertainment. Entertainment is pursuit for many reasons: to escape from boredom or just as a distraction. But one of the reasons we look for entertainment is to momentarily escape from the burdens of daily life. We find entertainment in many forms: sports, music, literature, theatre, spectacles or movies. And how important is for us to escape from reality is reflected on the demand for entertainment. And the demand for entertainment is reflected on the high income of footballers, actors, pop stars, novelists, etc. We seem to have an insatiable demand for entertainment. Entertainment and escaping from reality is valued much higher than objectivity.

Holidays is another example of how we actively seek to escape from reality. Holidays is a time to relax and distract the mind. Nobody goes on holidays to the library or joins a course to learn something new.  Holidays is also a time to enjoy and leave behind the compromises, responsibilities and burdens of our daily life. Going away on holidays for example is the best way of doing this and escaping from our daily life. So holidays is not only a time to rest and enjoy, but it is also time when temporarily escape from the reality we live in into a more pleasant one. Holidays is another example of how we actively pursue escaping to a more pleasant reality. Tourism is an industry of enormous size and importance. And its size is a measure of how highly we value escaping from our reality. If we consider how much resources and energy we invest on holidays and weekends, we soon realise the importance we give to escape from our reality and seek comfort from it.

In general, we invest much more time, energy and resources on entertainment, holidays, drugs or comforting metaphysics to escape or avoid reality than on gaining objectivity on it. Reality is often painful, and by nature we tend to seek comfort from pain. In order to do this we sometimes escape from reality or we adjust our world views into more comfortable ones. So not only we tend to be passive on gaining objectivity on Nature, but we are actually active on either escaping from reality or adjusting our subjective views into more comforting ones.


One Response to “The pursuit of comfort”

  1. Human subjectivity « Natural Philosophy Says:

    […] subjectivity The unreality of the supernatural The pursuit of comfort The -natural- […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: