In pursuit of the uncomfortable

Sofia Ordoñez a senior English major. She is the Arts & Entertainment Editor for the Newswire from Cincinnati

There is something to be said about the familiar comforts of life. 

In a world that ravages and enervates us, that makes us suffer the hurriedness of living and that sweeps us in its whirlwind in a way that does not facilitate rest, the creature comforts of home can seem like a welcome respite. 

Certainly, images of warm hearths, hearty meals and vibrant conversation in our minds give us the caesuras in our lives for which we often seek and hope. 

It is in these moments that we can feel more grounded and connected to each other, vulnerable, introspective and joyful. Yet remaining in this realm of comfort for too long is not conducive to the growth of ourselves as human beings and keeps us from experiencing jouissance.

Jouissance is a concept that comes from the French word for “enjoyment.” For me, it is the fulfillment of being that we can achieve in ourselves by creating works of art, connecting with other people and immersing ourselves in the flux of life, courageously unafraid. It is the unfurling of our souls, as if we were flowers. It is the fullest expression of being that enriches and enlivens us by allowing us to turn our gaze inward and cultivate our “selves” with all that nurtures and nourishes human life: art, music, conversation, love, friendship and poetry. 

To bring ourselves into this fullest expression of being, we must leave the creature comforts of home behind. We cannot be entrenched in “the comfortable” if we want the most vibrant experience of life.

What is warm and pleasurable is absolutely lovely, for some time, yet we become complacent if this mode of existence becomes the way in which we define our lives.

Franz Kafka, a German-speaking Czech writer once wrote that we should “read only the kind of books that wound or stab us (…because) A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” This is absolutely true. What is more, we should transpose that idea to our lives. Instead of dwelling in the safety of “the comfortable,” we should embrace the aspect of “the uncomfortable,” the uncertain, the exquisite dimension of living that astonishes us with its intensity beyond our normalcy. 

Pursuing “the uncomfortable” is no easy task. It opens us up to the vulnerability of living without certainty, without the need to be “right” and to feeling the diminishment of our wills.

In embracing “the uncomfortable,” we may feel disquieted and afraid. “The uncomfortable,” however, is the crucible out of which all the greatest moments of our lives can be born, from aesthetic creations to the kindling of friendships to the transfigurations of our ordinary lives into sacred rituals of being. 

Embracing “the uncomfortable” is less a sequence of actions and more a mindset. It is to allow yourself to tolerate hesitancy and unfamiliarity in a way that brings forth the possibilities of living that lie only beneath the surface. Most of all, it is to engage in the world with dynamism and an open mind that cultivates jouissance.

The difficulty of this pursuit is unparalleled. It is so easy to remain manacled to the same patterns of being and living. The uncertainty and vulnerability of “the uncomfortable” is terrifying. What is more terrifying, however, is the thought that your “self” might never experience the joy of feeling so fulfilled, connected, grateful and integrated, that it might never feel the utter enjoyment of living for its own sake, or worse, that it might fall into the chasm of lassitude, of ennui. 

Jouissance is the most powerful feeling we can experience– for what could compare to feeling dazzlingly and infinitely authentic, as if the energy of being itself was flowing through your veins?

Existence enraptured can only come from embracing the terra incognita of life, the feeling of being uncomfortable, the brilliance and resplendence of possibility.