The ironic beauty of discomfort

The ironic beauty of discomfort

Sande Ramage

3 March 2012

 

Instead of all the trouble in the world arriving with the morning newspaper, it's disturbingly online in seconds.  The other night was a case in point.  Occupy LSX protestors were being evicted from the forecourt of St Paul's Cathedral on my laptop.  'Good job', muttered an observer as the cameras rolled, 'all they do is hold up people going about their lawful business,' automatically assuming the protestors were a bunch of layabouts up to no good.
 
The scent of layabouts hung around the Salvation Army's 2012 State of the Nation Report released this week.  Not that the Sallies would speak about anyone that way or that many of us intentionally want to be disparaging.  But the idea that people at the bottom of the pile have only got themselves to blame has been swallowed whole, despite evidence to the contrary.  Now it subtly permeates our thinking and social policies.  That's unsettling.
 
Being continually presented with pain and protest makes us all squirm.  And discomfort is just not that popular.  What's more appealing is the acquisition of a lifestyle, devoid of the usual array of life problems, social injustices, difficult relatives and general unpleasantness.  
 
Luxury holiday packages have mushroomed to cater for disciples of the lifestyle.  At these temples of extravagance, ingeniously re-named retreats to avoid any hint of self-indulgence, your body can be pampered from top to toe and fed by therapeutic chefs (truly!).  All this while you're contemplating your best intentions and drawing strength from the universe before heading back to your lifestyle renewed in body and purpose.  If only it were that easy.
 
Lent offers none of that comfort; instead its getaway is a 40-day trek into the desert.  This is the interior, light years away from luxury living.  A barren environment where not much grows, where it's dry, windblown, fraught with extreme temperatures, hot by day and freezing by night.  Not much going for it except the idea that the spiritual journey may need the discomfort of waiting.  Waiting in a place that offers nothing but challenges.  There's an ironic sort of beauty there.
 
Sitting in the discomfort, a wise yoga teacher once wryly observed whilst I collapsed in a haphazard pile of limbs is where shift happens, where perspective broadens and a more compassionate way of seeing our world can emerge.    
 
The Salvation Army report may have disappeared from view and the protestors may be gone from the forecourt of St Paul's but as one placard said, you can't evict an idea.  This is the idea that a fair and just way of life ought to be available to all.   Not just the people who can afford to buy one.
 
Jesus, the disturbing character that trekked into the desert for a 40-day stint before leaving his unsettling mark on the world, might well have agreed.