Book Review: The Comfort Crisis by Michael Easter

The Comfort Crisis by Michael Easter was an interesting read.  It is a book about extremes and pushing yourself to the extreme.  While there were some ideas in the book that I found a little “out there”, there were other ideas that made a lot of sense.  

The premise of the book is that the things in life that we take advantage of to make our lives easier and more comfortable are causing many of the physical and mental problems that we are seeing more of in our society. Most of us do not work labor intensive jobs anymore so we are lacking in our physical abilities. We have too many ways to numb out, like comfort food, alcohol, smartphones and T.V. All these things have caused us to detach from things that truly make us happy like human connections, being in nature, effort, and perseverance.

The book starts as Easter is getting on a prop plane to take him to the Arctic regions of Alaska on a caribou hunt.  What we find out is that this is his misogi.  A misogi is an event that pushes a person to their farthest limits. There are 3 elements to the misogi.  The first is separation. A misogi requires you to leave society and go to the wilderness. The second element is transition. This is when you enter a challenge that is so great your mind is telling you to quit, and you must decide if it is safe to continue the challenge. The third element is incorporation. This is when you have completed the challenge and re-enter normal life.  The process that you go through is an exploration and expansion of your comfort zone. It is also something that you complete to compete against yourself, not something you do so that you can brag about it on social media.  The author’s misogi is the caribou hunt.  Along with 2 other people, he is left in the Artic wilderness with just the supplies that they can carry. They are there for a month, tracking and hunting caribou.  The reader gets the whole story of this trip throughout the book as Easter makes his points about the comfort crisis. 

The main points that Easter focuses on in the book are overuse of technology, overeating, and not being out in nature enough.  These three things have come up in many of the books that I have read this past year, but Easter has a little different take on how he approaches these subjects He interviews a lot of different people and again while I’m not buying into all the things that he puts out there, I did find his thoughts interesting. I have definitely been looking at my phone differently and trying not to mindlessly scroll social media or watch TV.  I also found his description of his caribou hunt fascinating.  Not something I’m ever planning on doing but I do love to camp so maybe I can start by spending a weekend in a tent by a river one of these days. 

It is interesting to realize that so many of the things that we have or do that make our lives easier can also be a cause of physical and mental problems if we let them.  We need to remember to take time to get outside, be active and disengage from technology. The idea of a misogi is a little extreme for me, but I do see the importance of pushing outside of our normal comfort zones and taking on a challenge.

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