We all have comfort zones on this journey we call life. They expand and they contract over time. As a child, my zone of comfort was small and limited to pretty much family. But then it extended to school and making friends. And as an adult, the sky was the limit. Literally. My comfort zone grew to foreign countries and culture. All of this was my physical comfort zone. But looking back, I can now see that my comfort zone also grew intellectually and culturally. Foods that as a young child I thought I’d never try suddenly enticed me. Books I thought I’d never read called to me. You get my point.
So it was with a bit of surprise that I recently discovered that my place in the world, specifically this country, has also changed. And like with most things that I’ve learned throughout my life, I discovered this with a book.
When I visited Lenox in May, Alice and I stopped by the local book shop. I saw The Paris Architect on the table and recalled I had wanted to read it when it was released. So after I got home, I began to read it. It’s good. Very good. Briefly, the setting is Paris during WWII and the architect builds hiding places for the Jews. Although not extremely graphic, it does deal with the treatment of Jews by the Nazis. And I began to find that the more I read, the more uncomfortable I began to feel.
I have read many such books, both fiction and non-fiction, for over fifty years. I have seen many films on this subject. Schindler’s List ripped my heart out. I can still recall the visceral emotions I experienced when I visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam during the late 1980’s. However, although I had the utmost empathy concerning all of this, I recently discovered something new with this novel. My comfort zone has changed. My sorrow for this time in our history was real. But now I know why this particular book bothered me to the point that I stopped reading and put it aside.
All of my life I have had a false sense of security. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s just the way it has been. Brought up in post-WWII America, I have never had to experience what so many in Europe did during or after the war. I did, however, grow up knowing and understanding about Russia. Long before I studied the country, its politics and rulers in grade school, I learned that my Polish grandmother left northern Poland in 1908 to escape the Russian influence on her country. And as I got older I came to understand even more about Russia. I remember the Cold War. I remember my grandmother, never, ever, spoke badly of anybody! Except the Russians! And so, with more study, with paying attention and with growth, I knew Russia was America’s adversary. But . . . I was in my comfort zone. “I” was okay. Those books I read? Those films I watched? Those places I visited? None of that really affected me. That could never happen here, in America! NOT in my country!
And now? Now I’ve come to realize that once again, my comfort zone has shifted. My false sense of security was exactly that. False. And so . . . I pay even more attention, I read more, I watch more, I protest, I do everything I possibly can to prevent that comfort zone from shrinking even more.
See you here next time……………………….