“Trading Comfort for Shelter”

Plenty of good reading this past week, but I want to highlight two excellent listens.

First up, the most thought-provoking podcast I’ve listened to in quite a while, an interview with English mythologist Martin Shaw by Emergence Magazine.

Among the many, many ideas still resonating with me from that conversation — about place, about which “temples” we’re serving in, about language and story — one that’s especially sticky right now is the idea of trading comfort for shelter.

Martin introduces the concept by talking about the kind of work we have to do to name and claim our place in the world, or be claimed by it. In his case, it was years in a yurt in his home place in the wild west of England, chopping wood for his own fire and living hard till he felt truly home. The experience nearly killed him, he said.

Surely each of us is invited to go on such a mythic quest at least once in our lives, in order to know the world and ourselves in it. But I couldn’t help thinking how we might all do well to trade some comfort for shelter — or, if you prefer, the many thousands of ways our culture is designed and organized so that we trade shelter for comfort.

We trade the shelter of comprehensive healthcare for the comfort of slightly lower taxes.

The shelter of privacy for the comfort of convenience.

The shelter of community and ownership and stewardship for the comfort of fast fashion (of all kinds).

The shelter of truth for the comfort of bias-confirming assertion.

And on and on and on.

Which begs the question: are those trades working for us? Might we wish to make different ones now? Which new tradeoffs should we make, and how might we begin?


And the other listen? Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s new album, Reunions, was released everywhere on Friday. It’s haunting and beautiful and real — well worth trading an hour of mindlessness for the shimmering shelter of great music that invites you to step inside, pitch your yurt, and stay awhile.