The Comfort Crisis - Michael Easter


This is one of those books I would have never picked up had it not been for book club.

In his book The Comfort Crisis, Michael Easter explores “The Comfort Creep” and how humans have increasingly become averse to discomfort. To counter this, there are groups of people that attempt to do uncomfortable things. In this book, Michael Easter describes one such experience - his journey into the Alaskan Arctic to hunt Caribou. As he narrates his experience, he explores various facets contributing to comfort creep.

Here are my four takeaways from this book.

  • Misogi
  • Avidya
  • Butchering Meat
  • Rucking


Van Gennep coined the term - “Rites of Passage”. This term referred to the rituals in historical societies that transitioned children into adults. These were often physically and psychologically demanding tasks. Think of the opening scene from the movie - 300.

Inspired by this, groups of people undertake hard and complex challenges. They describe these challenges as - Misogi.

The challenges in Misogi are “different” and incomparable - and therefore not competitive. They can range from moving heavy objects while walking underwater to undertaking a hike previously not done.

Misogi requires challenging yourself to do more than you are capable of. This challenge is most often physical and mental. Failure is typical as the journey intends to build layers of grit.

People vastly underestimate the consequences of failure today

The challenges are meant to be private and do not require an audience.

You do not tweet about your misogi.


As the author describes his hunt in the Alaskan Arctic, he remembers visiting Buddhist monks in Bhutan.

The monks introduce him to the concept of Mitakpa - also known to the Indian Buddhists as Avidya. Centuries later, it would be redefined by the stoics as Memento Mori.

Impermanence has been the cornerstone of Buddhism. People who have thought about death often live in the moment, are more mindful and are not affected by feelings of greed.

You must think about death three times a day!

In contrast, according to Medicare - most money is spent towards the last 5% of our lives to prolong it for procedures and medication with little success. This is mainly because of the fear of death.

Butchering the Meat

The entire section on butchering the Caribou meat is an odd one (personally). On the one hand, it seems disgusting to think about. However, the author does make a good point. We eat meat every day and yet are not disgusted by eating it. We don’t give a single thought to the process of butchering.


I first learned about rucking from a colleague at work when I noticed his unusually heavy backpack. I liked its minimal design. Upon inquiry, he told me that the “Ruck” was designed to accommodate a weight plate. On weekends, he would often join a group for 12-hour events designed to test the boundaries of their stamina and will - long hikes that involved carrying logs or other heavy things.

All this was alien to me at the time. Carrying a heavy backpack made some sense. However, it couldn’t compare to a 45-minute workout at the gym - could it? Also, these rucks made in America - were priced relatively higher than any average (or designer) backpack. I was skeptical.

As the author recounts his experience carrying a heavy backpack of Caribou meat and antlers 5 miles uphill to camp, he outlines key differences between fitness in modern-day humans and our ancestors.

Heavy, bulky muscles would have been considered a liability for our ancestors. In contrast, while our ancestors were not muscular, they were stronger than modern humans. They had fantastic speed and endurance. Most early animal kills by our ancestors resulted from chasing the animal and wearing it down. This is still true of modern-day athletes- on a hot day, they can still beat any mammal in the distance and go further.

Another example was the resting squat, still practiced in Asia and parts of Africa. Our ancestors originally rested squatting. This employs lower back and leg muscles to stabilize the body; hence, the muscles remain active instead of atrophying. Lower back issues are more common in societies where people are least active.

Modern-day gyms allow us to lift balanced weights that can be challenging but do not replicate the uneven weights (carrying animal meat) that require stabilizer muscles.

My takeaway from this discourse in the book - is that I would like to add variety to my “45-minute gym attacks” by including rucking into my daily routine.

New events decelerate our perception of time - research by William James