A friend of mine that was ordained last year happened to be passing through the area, so I invited him to join my family for dinner. He’s visited us before, and every time he does my kids and wife line up questions galore about Catholicism, what they hear in school, and other topics. After the kids went to bed, I asked Father what the latest challenge he’s had with things the Pope says.
Plenty of people like and don’t like Pope Francis, but similar to President Trump, I think he gets misquoted a lot. Anytime I have non-Catholic friends gleefully tell me they heard the Pope support homosexual unions, or abortion, or some other crazy thing, I normally do a bit of digging first before finding that they referenced a CNN article instead of actually reading source documentation.
This week our discussion went towards Laudato Si, the encyclical letter about taking care of the Earth. Father pointed out he gets lots of questions about why the Pope seems to hate air conditioning (section 55), but he feels it is misused. The bigger issue is not what electrical appliances we are using, but the fact that they teach us to never be uncomfortable.
Think about it. We live in a pretty comfortable life. We have climate controlled homes, climate controlled cars and climate controlled offices. Some people barely spend anytime outside, and sadly this includes many children. The problem is not that we have air conditioning, but that we are being conditioned to never be uncomfortable, which goes far beyond the temperature of our house.
Think about human relations. Disagreeing with people is uncomfortable. Arguing isn’t fun. Add a layer between you and the person via social media, and it’s easier to do. We’ve seen that with the explosion of social media, where so many people are avoiding human interaction, but will spend hours on Facebook. It’s simply more comfortable to interact with your friends on Facebook. If they get a bit uncomfortable, simply snooze them like an alarm clock for a few days, or just stop following their feed. No reason to be uncomfortable when you open the Facebook app!
What about marriage? Simply not feeling it anymore? Why not just leave? Increasingly I and others have seen people walk out of marriage because they just didn’t feel it. It’s shocking to watch someone married for 10 years say “I just don’t feel the love anymore” and scrap it all in an expensive divorce.
Religion is no different. Plenty of fallen-away Catholics tell me they just weren’t “feeling it” at Mass, or that they needed sermons that were more uplifting. Listening to a hard to hear sermon that challenges you to be better is apparently becoming too hard for most people.
The reverse of this is to be thrown into utterly uncomfortable circumstances. I got a taste of this at SERE school. I went from a nice air conditioned hotel room to running around in the desert, avoiding bugs, cactus and people with guns, all of which seemed to catch up to me faster than I could escape. I was scared about not having food. But at the end of it, I realized I was better for it. I had lost some weight and gained the ability to control my appetite, which has helped me maintain a healthy weight since then. Even better, I feel more confident walking into circumstances that others would say make them feel uncomfortable.
I’m not alone in this. Wim Hof, a self described extreme athlete, has used cold exposure to make his body and mind significantly resistant to the elements. If you want a good read, check out Scott Carney’s book What Doesn’t Kill Us, which follows the author using Wim Hof’s exposure methods to significantly improve his life.
We’re supposed to be uncomfortable in life. The discomfort drives us to be better and work through problems. We’re not perfect just as we are, and discomfort is there to remind us to always work on ourselves.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency. It definitely doesn’t represent the views of any air conditioner manufacturer either 🙂
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