Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Comfort: the enemy of success

On my last day in Stockholm I was talking to my art-director Andres on a terrace at the lake. While drinking a cappucino we talked about how some people live in some boring village and stay there all of their lives and never experience something new. "I can't understand what drives people to stay in such a place all of their lives", he said. I said: "I can...".

I can't imagine it, but I can understand and I told Andres about a piece made by a performance artist named Chris Burden. He's not a normal artist who makes paintings or sculptures. He confronts himself with experiences. For his performances he let someone shoot him in the arm or he crawls over a floor filled with broken glass. In one of his performances he put a bed in a museum and he stayed in it for 22 days. Somebody else fed him so he didn't have to leave his bed*.

Burden tells on the video that the first two days he hated staying in bed. But the most interesting part is that after a while he got really comfortable with his situation. Until he reached a point where he actually thought of staying in bed forever. He only got out after 22 days because he knew that someone would end his performance at some point anyway and then people around him would think he'd gone nuts.

This could be a metaphor for what happens on a bigger scale. People feel comfortable being surrounded by people that they know and living in the surrounding that they know. This is okay, but I see around me that a lot of people complain about their situation. They want more, but their relationship, possessions or surroundings are limiting them. If I ask some people why they don't just change the situation (apply for a new job, break up a bad relationship, go abroad) they come with all sorts of reasons why they shouldn't do that.

In the end it totally makes sense. It's a proven fact that your mind resists change. Your body produces stress-hormones when you even think of change. But when you actually do something different your body rewards you with dopamine and adrenaline. These work like natural drugs that give you the energy to fulfill your new challenge.

A society where everybody would constantly change, could never survive. We need people who stay in the same place and do the same job every day. That's how cities can exist. But if you want to stick out, you need to take risks. You constantly need to make decisions that turn your life upside down and constantly need to fight being satisfied. Dreams remain dreams, untill you step out of your comfortable bed.

* There's a compilation of Chris Burdens works, including the work 'bed piece' on the following link:


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