at home, historically speaking

warning: despite this pretty picture, this entry is not a happy little blog post.

a friend recently loaned me a book, 'at home: a short history of private life' by bill bryson.

bryson writes, "if you had to summarize it in one sentence, you could say that the history of private life is the history of getting comfortable slowly". that it is only in recent history that we have even used the word 'comfort' to represent being comfortable in a place-- before that it was only a verb-- 'to comfort' someone. homes were not particularly warm, food not easily come by (except for the very rich, but even then there was limited variety), raw materials and time were spent on making clothing, feed sacks, and utilitarian quilts, not on luxurious curtains or throw pillows. most people did not have time for lounging, so no lounge furniture was necessary-- never mind its being affordable.

but the last hundred years have seen the realm of material comfort grow into an enormous, multi-billion dollar industry selling comfort to the masses by making material goods cheap and readily available to everyone with a little extra cash or a credit card. in our current culture people assume that comfort is a right, not a privilege, and they often go into debt to furnish and feather their nests for ultimate comfort. a few companies and individuals profit greatly from this belief, and their material comfort is at an all time historical high.

and yet there are still people living without material comfort. still people whose homes do not have enough heat, still people for whom food is not plentiful, still people who do not have time or money for lounging. and there are still people working in the factories and production plants that make our material goods, whose lives and working conditions are hot, long, inhumane, and definitely uncomfortable.

how can we be comfortable with this?

- mary moore.

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