Trapped in Your Home & Mind — Kahlil Gibran on the Dangers of Comfort (Day 29 of 40 Days of Listening)
And tell me, people of Orphalese, what have you in these houses? And what is it you guard with fastened doors?
Have you peace, the quiet urge that reveals your power?
Have you remembrances, the glimmering arches that span the summits of the mind?
Have you beauty, that leads the heart from things fashioned of wood and stone to the holy mountain?
Tell me, have you these in your houses?
Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master?
Ay, and it becomes a tamer, and with hook and scourge makes puppets of your larger desires.
Though its hands are silken, its heart is of iron.
It lulls you to sleep only to stand by your bed and jeer at the dignity of the flesh.
It makes mock of your sound senses, and lays them in thistledown like fragile vessels.
Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.
But you, children of space, you restless in rest, you shall not be trapped nor tamed.
Your house shall be not an anchor but a mast.
It shall not be a glistening film that covers a wound, but an eyelid that guards the eye.
You shall not fold your wings that you may pass through doors, nor bend your heads that they strike not against a ceiling, nor fear to breathe lest walls should crack and fall down.
You shall not dwell in tombs made by the dead for the living.
And though of magnificence and splendor, your house shall not hold your secret nor shelter your longing.
For that which is boundless in you abides in the mansion of the sky, whose door is the morning mist, and whose windows are the songs and the silences of night.
— An excerpt from “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran (Lebanese American writer, 1883–1931)
How are you doing? Are you feeling trapped? Is your home (if you live in one) an anchor, not a mast?
Gibran’s warning of too much comfort speaks loudly during this time of lock down. We’re out of routine and spending more time in the same space. And we’re not just trapped in homes. We’re trapped in our minds — in our bodies. Many of us are experiencing increased anxiety levels. The temptation of seeking “comfort” may quickly end up pulling our strings.
Unchecked, too much comfort — numbing, escaping, and, in a different but similar way, controlling — becomes our master. They lull us into the sleep of addictive and codependent loops. Avoidance and overcompensating. It’s a downward spiral that we can ride all the way to resentment-filled death beds, or at least to an awful few months of lock down…
But there is a way to break free. There’s way to spread our wings and fly out of the open ceiling. It’s by learning how to live through the discomfort. It’s by — in a measured way and with the support of community — allowing ourselves to courageously “feel the feels” and to do the internal work of healing.
Comfort is not bad in and of itself. It’s when the “lust for comfort” becomes master. As we continue to adjust to life in lock down, and as traumas, fears and tensions make their presence known in our bodies and homes, let us practice care and discernment in how we’re living our day to day. Let’s be intentional about being comforted but not too comfortable.
Let’s pay attention to our bodies — to what we’re physically experiencing inside. With curiosity and care, let us gently breathe compassionate breaths when we are caught up in turmoil. Our breath may help us realize the walls aren’t as tight as we are making them out to be…
Let’s support one another in establishing new, simple and healthy daily routines. Let’s practice restraint, saying no to “too much” comfort (e.g., mindfully attending to & limiting food/screen/media/chemical* consumption). Routine and restraint are not the film covering a wound. They’re what allow us to hold our gaze upon the freedom into which we’re moving.
And, through it all, let’s turn to each other and to a power greater than ourselves for listening, care and strength. We can’t do this alone, and we don’t have to.
This truly is the work of transformation. It’s the necessary work of now if we are to construct “mansions in the sky” (compassionate and creative earth-community) from the “tombs made by the dead for the living” (fear-driven systems of extraction and exploitation).
Stay awake, do not be lulled to sleep.
Healing and possibility await.
It’s time to hoist the anchor and set sail.
*Just a word to friends in recovery from various addictions and codependencies. Now is not a time to isolate, nor a time to rely solely on yourself to manage. And it’s certainly not a time to use or engage in other behaviors you’re in recovery from. If you’re working a program, keep working it. There are a number of recovery groups who are hosting online meetings. Now is a time to connect and stay connected. Together, we get to keep the monster of “too much comfort” at bay.