Jessica Williams, jazz pianist, composer

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Discomfort is highly under-rated

This article is dedicated to Buzz Conway, trumpet player extraordinaire. A genius at sound painting. A master of modern jazz. A truly unique, strong, and courageous man who walks his dreams towards reality. He made me promise to face my fear. This in itself proves his strength.

dentists blow

Bad example of discomfort, because it's really way past discomfort, and more often bordering on sadism. But the picture is funny. And just THINK! You will be able to eat a steak. A big fat hamburger (organic beef, of course.) You will be able to bite an armed intruder and you will have the energy to then kick him in the twig and berries even though you are just a little old lady. You will be invincible because you will be a strong young lady after the infections leave your body and soul. You won't have that heart attack you were heading for. Cold water will not make your teeth zing. Huge hoagies and sub sandwiches are back to stay. You'll gain 20 pounds in all the right places and look great! Your hearing will improve. Your eyesight will be twice as strong. Your hair will thicken. You'll be a better person. This is not a commercial. This is me convincing myself that I will not die in the dentist's office . . . and NOW you are ready to start life again. Be who you want to be! And this, we call the motivation for jumping into the void and believing that we will fly . . . which is a pretty reliable cure-all, one way or the other. But you still have to admit: most dentists have funny names and it really does blow to go to them for big stuff unless you're a greedy billionaire, and then, you're most probably brain-dead anyway.

Discomfort is highly under-rated.

That's the verdict of this woman's experience.

Everyone wants to be comfortable, granted. It's nice to have that cookie, that bottle of soda, that can of beer, that Rolls Royce. Nice to sit in your easy chair while Martha makes your supper and Doris does your laundry and Roger, the gardener, does the lawn. His wife Daisy plants flowers, daisies mainly. You just sit back and be com-for-table.

No effort. Whether you're a billionaire or you're living in a trailer, it all comes down to one thing: comfort.

Well, I'm a spoil-sport because I bring the following JJW headline news:

Comfort is highly over-rated. You can sit and sit and sit. And guess what? Either nothing good will happen or nothing bad will happen. You've meekly surrendered to a higher power, which is known in scientific circles as entropy. Things go to pot. Disorganization reigns. You throw your cigar ashes on the floor. Your effluvium reeks. But still you sit.

Medically speaking, entropy equals atrophy. Your muscles get weak. Brain gets foggy. Easily bored. Given to moods. Spells of crying. But you keep sitting.

You complain about the news depressing you yet you keep the TV going 24/7.

When you look at the work and the world that's ahead of you, and the snares of "fate" and bureaucracy and just plain human stupidity, you just want to cash in the chips. We all feel that way sometimes.

I think we need something to keep us going. Something to make us get up and straighten our spines and breathe deeply and say, "Okay. Things are bad. Matter of fact, they can't get much worse. Something must be done."

And you sit and you think. And slowly you look at something that has been sitting there under your nose for years.

You finally get that the astronauts are not comfortable, not by a long-shot. The guys and gals are in these bulky white suits and they have to evacuate and flush, while they are cramped for elbow-room and woozy from lack of sleep and all they get to eat is NASA stew, protein bars, and veggie shakes. Squeeze-tubes and vita-cubes. And water.

No oatmeals with raisins, honey, milk, and butter.

Then they get to the space-station and they're floating around in zero-G and it's not good for their hearts and bodies and minds. Man did not evolve in space. Man is used to 1-G. And day and night, up and down.

Fun? Space is not fun. It does not care. It simply IS. It is there, and we wish to know what it contains. This makes us very different from all other earth animals.

Why do we do it?

It's a drive, a desire. You aspire to a dream. Then you make it real by taking risk after risk, using your mind and your muscle and your rabbit's foot. You pray, and you work until you drop, then you get up and do it again.

To make the dream a molecular reality, you must work. You must drag yourself up every morning, make the bed, brush your teeth . . . blah . . comb your hair . . . oy . . . eat something that's good for you because you now know that your body is your vehicle.

You put two and four together and get eight but you quickly re-calculate. "This is NOT going to be fun," you grumble or mumble to yourself. But soon you're inside of it up to your eyeballs. You're almost sinking! You're in deep doo. And guess what? You're happy! Amused, fascinated, horrified, bedazzled, confused . . . you might even go into shock, but you are, in a fitful, wonky sort of way, happy!

Gone nuts? No. You are experiencing the value of discomfort. You are moving again and the universe will now start to "cut you breaks". Things happen. Joe talks to Sue, because you told Joe, and Sue has part of the answer to all of your problems. Not the whole answer, but it's a first step.

The first step is eventually taken! Now your voyage is started.

The second and third steps are fine, too. Starting to feel like you might make it, might survive.

Then it happens. The whole bottom falls out. The crops die. The roof collapses. The bills roll in. The whole shebang is melting like ice cream on a summer afternoon in Las Vegas.

Welcome to the universe. It is a cold and chaotic place. It demands courage.

And now you REALLY have a big choice to make.

Door #1: Get comfortable. Get that beer or that 3-pound cheesecake, turn on the TV, and sit and stew. If you can't get comfortable, there are other dark and unseemly ways to deal with misery.*

Door #2: you get up, take a shower, sleep a long time, and then realize that worse things have happened to other people and yet they survived. You heard about a guy somewhere who had to saw off his arm with a pen-knife to get free from a deep crevice he'd fallen into while exploring the desert, alone. Ick? Yes. But also wow! You also read about the Holocaust, that little party that Hitler and the Nazis cooked up to reward the Jews for their intransigent spirit and good hair.

Why didn't we just give up? Some did. They died. Some didn't. They lived.

And they were not at all comfortable, either! It was much worse than going to the dentist. The "food" stunk, the "clothes" were not fashionable, and the haircuts . . . and, by the way, my mother's relatives survived those camps so I have that weird Mel Brooks kind of gallows-style humor built right in from birth.

Good astronaut material.

Also, as a real Jewish Princess, I can say that this dentist thing is starting to look really fun.

Matters of degree are always decisive factors. The intensity and deadliness of situations varies widely. There are eight or nine billion people here, each living in their own universe with their own problems. Many die every day. Those of us who have food and water and shelter are amazingly rich. Yet so few of us are truly happy.

The human spirit is not built to be happy all the time, comfortable all the time, or even present all the time. It's built to survive, built strong to last, built to lay immobile for a time before it shifts gears and moves again.

Steps. I take one step. Then another. Then another. Before I know it, I've traveled miles. Light years. My future is now my present. I look back and say, "Well, that was one heck of a ride."

Now you can "plan" your future. There will be more rides, some even scarier!

That's when the fun really starts!

 

* I fully realize that some folks cannot climb the ladder. Lots of people show their courage in other ways. Dying well is just one way. Living with problems that can't be fixed must demand incredible courage which I can only feel admiration and respect. I pray that whoever reads this is in reasonably good health and can make at least some of the moves in the UP direction. But many, through no fault of their own, just CAN NOT DO IT because the problems are just too big. The truth is that I might be one of those folks that fall. It can happen to anyone. I will just write, play, think, feel, and live as positively as I can for as long as I can and hope that things work out.

I suppose that's all any of us can do.

It's a day-to-day, second-to-second way of life that makes me feel okay about lots of things.

Except for those greedy billionaires. They still get to me.

 

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In the year 10,041, we will have plasteel teeth just like the folks in that book DUNE. We'll live for three hundred years and fold space-time. Meanwhile, we all need to go to the dentist. I sing with my electric toothbrush. It plays the drone, and I sing world-music over the drone. It's fun. Nice teeth are fun too, and good dentists are needed and appreciated! But I STILL wish it were 10,041.