All I have to do is think of these words and a grimace flows horizontally, stretching the small part of my face that is not covered in beard hair. The SNL skit is a classic; filled with social commentary of fear tactics used on youths and a coked-out Chris Farley making it impossible for the supporting cast to hold a straight face. A man who lives in a van down by the river, warning kids against ending up in a van down by the river. It is ultimately a sad story, but we laugh.
We laugh because comic relief is a survival skill. And because Chris Farley was an objectively hilarious human being. Laughing is proven to be an effective way to diffuse stress, which creeps up from time to time while on the road. Being able to smile each time the memory of living down by a river comes back to me is oh so comforting. Actually, it was not such a dreary place once I remembered to breathe, and smile.
There was a guy named Brian and his crew of hooligans who had been down there for months. They respected the place and kept it low key because it was their home. Brian had a big dog and warned that, unfortunately, she wasn’t friendly. Besides the occasional longing wail for freedom emanating from her cage, and the late night Sublime covers from the half drunk guy with dreadlocks wearing a tie-dye shirt, it was a quiet and peaceful place. There was no hustle and bustle, or traffic noise, no people driving around in fancy cars pretending to be cooler than anyone else, no one to impress or answer to. Just some folks living life their way.
What Filippo (right) said with this look was ‘that was the worst night of sleep, I’m leaving’. I do wish he got a better night of sleep, but he went on to meet a great friend after the frustration of the river-bed.
The riverbed was vast, the gentle flow of the water was soothing. And possibly best of all, it was safe. Tucked away behind some industrial-type businesses there was no foot traffic nearby. Settled between two small towns it seemed that neither would claim the land as their own so we were left unbothered by police. The cobblestones, smooth from years of aquatic erosion were beautiful but not the most comfortable to sleep on. Still, I can’t claim to have ever woken up feeling anything but refreshed. Well, maybe a bit chilly on some mornings, but what would life be if we always lived inside our comfort zones?
In a recent article, Dan from wheresdan.com said “Comfort means something different to every person. Hot or cold, hard or soft. It’s good to be comfortable with who we are, what we do, where we live. But when we develop the idea that comfort means always being entertained and the senses stimulated, comfort tends to become a carrot on a string mere feet in front of us while we’re stuck on a treadmill. The more we have, the more we need and we always need the newest and biggest versions: cars, phones, TVs, homes.”
I’ve never used anyone else’s content in my blog before, but why re-invent the wheel? Dan nailed it. My take on comfort is to go the other way. Become more comfortable with less. Live under a bridge for a while and all of a sudden a small, simple shack seems like a palace. When we tone down the sensual stimulation in various aspects of our lives we may begin to appreciate subtleties which we never knew of. The carrot represents happiness, but the joke is on us, because a carrot is all we need to be happy. Stop chasing it, pull the carrot off the string and eat it, that is where the nutrients are. Be happy, be healthy, share half of the carrot.