JULY 1st, 2023 | JOHN MILLER

Addicted To Distraction in a COmfort Crisis: A Book Review

This is a review of the book by Michael Easter.
For the first few million years of human existence, we were hunter-gathers. Life was fraught with danger, disease, cold, hunger, suffering and death. We struggled to the top of the food chain and used our intellect to innovate solutions to the brutality of life. Eventually, farming was invented and the industrial revolution occurred, and we have now reached a period of development in which our every creature comfort can be addressed with cheap and easy solutions.
Life for most of the world has gotten so good that problems of decadence and sloth are increasingly common. Obesity and diabetes are rapidly growing problems. Sedentary lifestyles are leading to health issues of all sorts. Listlessness and depression are growing. Mental illness is becoming ubiquitous. Addiction to distraction is a common complaint. Entitlement, lack of gratitude, laziness… the 21st century is fraught with first world problems.
The Comfort Crisis is a book written by Michael Easter and addresses these issues explicitly and firsthand.
The book is really two types of books smashed together. The first type is an autobiographical first person “man against nature” book in which he details his exploits during a hunting expedition in Alaska. His rugged adventure in the wilderness is a counterpoint to today’s heavily civilized comfortable world. He pushes himself to extremes in pursuit of shedding his own comfort crisis and connecting with the roots of human experience.

 Jim Posewitz, biologist, ethicist, and hunter, wrote in 'Beyond Fair Chase: The Ethic and Tradition of Hunting', “Hunting is one of   the last ways we have to exercise our passion to belong to the earth, to be part of the natural world, to participate in the   ecological drama, and to nurture the ember of wilderness within ourselves.” I understand the sentiment, but it also comes with a  heavy and burdensome emotional buy-in. I’m no longer a tourist here. I’m a participant. – page 206 of The Comfort Crisis

This book is also a non-fiction, more scholarly account of the comfort situation we find ourselves in today. He interviews some truly fascinating experts on issues around diet and lifestyles and how we got here and where we’re going. Some myths are busted in the process and lots of interesting insights are to be found…ranging from debates about processed foods to the way in which the environment of Iceland changed the genetic structure of the Danish/Irish that arrived there 1000 years ago.
The main point of the book, however, is obvious to intentionally minded, 21st century people…we’re getting soft. Life since forever was brutally hard, and we rose to meet the challenges. It allowed us to become the winners of the world, but in the process our rewards have corrupted us.
We instinctively know this, especially men, and men are the target audience for the book. Will they read it? Like many interventions in the modern world, the people who need to read it the most, probably won’t read it at all, but there is a lot of good and actionable information throughout the book that will offer men who seek self-improvement some ideas and options. (The cold shower to activate shock proteins for an immune booster can take a hike though. Living in Canada is enough cold shock for me, I’ll take a scalding, steamy shower until my bones are boiling thank you very much.)
Sometimes the book seems to lionize discomfort in pursuit of strength or grit or health and this can veer into fetish or obsession. One example is the guy who carries a heavy kettle bell with him everywhere he goes in order to add obstacle and struggle to his life. Come on man, carrying around a kettle ball everywhere? That’s lame and dumb.
Rather than sabotage modern efficiency or engineering obstacle problems, why not get a bigger life with more challenges and more struggle in specific pursuit of excellence? This is exactly what the author does with the grueling Alaskan hunting expedition.
It’s admirable that our ancestors were hardcore and that they fought to survive and procreate, but everyone of them would’ve traded their lifestyles for the life we now live if given the opportunity. Their striving and surviving is what led, step-by-step, to the world we now inhabit. It’s our duty to strive and survive in order to keep pushing things forward from here and keeping comfort in its proper place is a requirement for doing so. Intentionality, ambition, and gratitude is as big a lesson as suffering.

I was affected by my past year digging into what we’ve lost with modern comforts. Most obviously, I felt more aware. At a skin-deep level, this showed itself as a newfound appreciation for the incredible comforts of our modern world. My first week back I’d break out into an idiotic grin every time I turned on a faucet or drove a car or ate food that wasn’t reconstituted sludge cooked and served in a plastic bag.
But on a deeper level I felt an awareness of time, how little of it we have, and what that can tell us about how we should use it. Marcus Elliott told me that a critical benefit of misogi (forest bathing) is what he called “creating impressions in your scrapbook.”
“If you’re seeing and doing all the same things over and over, your scrapbook looks pretty empty when you take inventory of your life,” he said. “So, we need to do more novel things to start creating more impressions in our scrapbooks, so we don’t feel like the years are flying by. I mean, you remember every single detail of novel, meaningful experiences. You have no chance to forget them the rest of your life.” – page 280, The Comfort Crisis

The Comfort Crisis has a lot to offer. I especially enjoyed the format. Just as the reader begins to tap out from information overload regarding something like sports medicine, we’re launched back into the first-person pursuit of caribou herds across the tundra. There is a lot of variety on offer and insights from world class experts. It’s written in a very accessible manner, and it inspires better living and ambitious pursuits in the reader. Something we here in modernity desperately require.
Highly recommended.
JULY 2023



The Word "WOman" Is Next

A hypothetical discussion is being had among some fringe activists and academics about erasing the word. 

JUNE 2023


MAY 2023


APRIL 2023