Ideal States of Comfort


I was reading Ulla Maaria’s recent column “Renting is the New Buying” where she referredĀ  to a survey she had made among students about what ‘luxury’ meant to them. The results helped to reinforce her larger point regarding assumptions we make about what constitutes well-being,

“Instead of associating luxury with money or any imaginable form of wasteful consumption, the majority of the respondents connected luxury with a lifestyle rich with time, space and love.”

I was reminded of a similar experiment I conducted with students as well as a broad range of ordinary people about ideal states of comfort when I taught a course at California College of the Arts called, ‘Comfort: Origins and Consequences’. I asked people to describe an ideal state of comfort and then to list the impediments as well as the motivators to seeking such a state. In analyzing the results I discovered that “providing for basic needs causes anxiety and leads to a need for retreat, i.e. comfort.” Somehow, for most people ‘comfort’ is not implicit in the provision for basic needs.

Looking more closely, I noticed that there seemed to be an inversion of the ‘sensory hierarchy’ in seeking comfort (inverted from the day to day ‘sensory hierarchy’).

Navigating the world day to day, people tend to use their senses in this order: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch.

When in retreat, seeking ‘comfort’, people tend to use their senses in this order: touch, taste, smell, sound, sight.

I’d love to hear thoughts about Ideal States of Comfort.

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