Taylor: The dangers of getting too comfortable

Unlike trout, we can consider the culture we live in with a critical eye.

Sometimes a sermon stops me in my tracks.

For a regular church-goer, church can feel very comfortable. Regular routines unfold as I watch. Familiar music wraps me like a security blanket. Smiles greet me. Words wash over me like warm waves on a seashore.

And then I hear the minister’s voice saying, “Maybe we are a little too comfortable here in church.”

Whoa…!

He wasn’t talking about physical comfort, of course. He wasn’t suggesting we give up our upholstered chairs and go back to sitting on stiff wooden pews. Or that we turn off the heating system and shiver through the coming winter. Or even that we should feel uneasy among the other worshippers.

No, what we’ve grown “too comfortable” with is the culture that our church lives in.

We tend not to be aware of that culture. The same way the fish probably aren’t aware of the medium they swim in. I doubt if trout have philosophical epiphanies about water.

But unlike trout, we can consider the culture we live in with a critical eye.

Don’t get me wrong—I much prefer this culture to most of the alternatives. I don’t want to live where a week in hospital can wipe out my savings. Nor do I want to live where there are no hospitals at all. I don’t want to live where a ruthless dictator keeps any kind of dissent under his thumb, nor where equally ruthless ideologues turn government into anarchy.

Still, it’s not perfect. As Winston Churchill once described democracy: “the worst form of government, except for all those other forms…”

John Kenneth Galbraith popularized the term “conventional wisdom,” in his book The Affluent Society, back in 1958. He used it to refer to commonly accepted notions that are rarely scrutinized for their accuracy.

In our culture, conventional wisdom uncritically endorses competition. Also economic growth, lines of command, having power, and climbing the ladder.

I went through most of my life convinced that if someone offered me a promotion, I had to take it. Even if I wasn’t suited for the job. The whole point of working was to move onward and upward, wasn’t it?

I went through most of my life believing that I should eat everything put on my plate. It never occurred to me that I could ask for smaller helpings.

I went through most of my life believing that winning mattered. I told myself I wasn’t competitive, but who wants to be a loser? Whether in a game or an argument, I wanted to come out on top.

But maybe losing matters just as much as winning. Only when I realize I made a mistake, in hindsight, can I re-examine what I might have done and learn from it.

Perhaps life is a constant succession of course corrections.

Conventional wisdom always contains some truth. That makes it comfortable. Which, as economist Galbraith noted, enhances its ability to resist any serious consideration of alternatives.

Whenever we treat our culture’s conventional wisdom as holy writ, we should feel uncomfortable.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Armstrong’s Jesse Crowe, shown at the home of golf, St. Andrew’s in Scotland, has been named the Royal York Golf Course’s director of golf operations. (Facebook photo)
Armstrong golf pro soars to home course position

Jesse Crowe becomes director of golf operations at Royal York Golf Course

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
30 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases to 7,271 since testing began

Interior Health officially declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Creekside Landing in Vernon on Jan. 3, which was followed by the first death from the virus 10 days later. (Kaigo photo)
Despite additional death, COVID outbreak over at Vernon care home

Creekside Landing cleared of coronavirus, despite additional loss in last day

Two North Okanagan-Shuswap rural communities, including Lumby, will receive B.C. government grants to support new jobs and economic opportunities to help them recover from the impacts of COVID-19. (Black Press file photo)
North Okanagan-Shuswap communities collect government grants

Lumby and Blind Bay to benefit to help recover from economic impact of COVID-19

Accelerate Okanagan has announced the six finalists for the 2021 OKGN Angel Summit. The remaining entrepreneurs will compete for a chance to receive a $145,000 investment in their business. (Eryca Stirling photo)
Finalists named for Okanagan entrepreneur summit

Accelerate Okanagan has named the final six competing entrepreneurs in the OKGN Angel Summit

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Ranchero Deep Creek firefighters respond to a blaze involving two adjacent structures at a property off of Deep Creek Road on Sunday, Feb. 21. The buildings were believed to have been used as part of a cannabis growing operation, and RCMP are investigating. (Sean Coubrough/CSRD photo)
Ranchero Deep Creek firefighters respond to a blaze involving two adjacent structures at a property off of Deep Creek Road on Sunday, Feb. 21. The buildings were believed to have been used as part of a cannabis growing operation, and RCMP are investigating. (Sean Coubrough/CSRD photo)
Shuswap firefighters responding to structure blaze find cannabis grow operation

RCMP investigating, attempting to track down owner of property

(Stock photo)
EDITORIAL: The freedom to read

Books have been challenged many times in the past

Most Read