The Comfort of Average

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By Jon Eckert

I recently began reading a book by an author I had heard of but with whose work I was unfamiliar. About 35 pages into the novel I stumbled upon a cluster of paragraphs which I found profoundly intriguing.

In this part of the book, science fiction writer Kilgore Trout just received an invitation to speak at the grand opening of the new Midland City Center for the Arts. Success was foreign to Trout; in fact, failure was such a familiar occurrence that he found comfort in it. Needless to say, the author was skeptical when he received the letter of invitation. In the following paragraphs from the book, Trout is discussing the matter with his parakeet, Bill:

“Then he thought about what Bill himself might want. It was easy to guess. ‘Bill,’ he said, ‘I like you so much, and I am such a big shot in the Universe, that I will make your three biggest wishes come true.’ He opened the door of the cage, something Bill couldn’t have done in a thousand years. “Bill flew over to a windowsill. He put his little shoulder against the glass. There was just one layer of glass between Bill and the great out-of-doors. Although Trout was in the storm window business, he had no storm windows on his own abode. “‘Your second wish is about to come true,’ said Trout, and he again did something which Bill could never have done. He opened the window. But the opening of the window was such an alarming business to the parakeet that he flew back to his cage and hopped inside. “Trout closed the door of the cage and latched it. ‘That’s the most intelligent use of three wishes I ever heard of,’ he told the bird. ‘You made sure you’d still have something worth wishing for—to get out of the cage.'” Upon reading Trout’s logic, I was astounded. Not by the truth of it, rather by the sadly familiar bell it rang in the steeple of my head. I wondered how many people live their lives with such a mindset; afraid to break out of the comfort of the average, the security of the ordinary. I wondered if I’ve unconsciously succumbed to a similar lifestyle.

We’re beings of order; that is the way we were created. However there is a thin but distinct (and indelible) line between a natural proclivity to order and an apathetic life of comfort.

Thin metal bars were not keeping Bill incarcerated, fear was his prison. Fear of the unknown was a more impenetrable cage than any man-made holding unit. We are too often just like Bill; afraid to extend ourselves, to give comfort, to sacrifice, to share our faith, to love.

Don’t let fear entrap you. Don’t let apathy hold you down. Don’t let comfort keep you from doing what you know is right.

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