An excerpt from a book I almost wrote…
How To Sit In A Chair – Depending on your perspective, this may be a simple proposition, it may be so ridiculously simple an idea that not only have you never thought of it, you now consider it to be the simplest thing there could be. You may be so advanced in kinesiology, physics, psychology and micro-biology that the concept is at once painfully simple yet infinitely complex. You may even be cursing my name for having brought it up in the first place.
But, since I exist safely out of arms reach, for the moment, I’ll endeavour to look a little deeper, to divine some hidden meaning from so simple an action. I know not where we are travelling, but the journey shall reveal our true selves.
For nearly 35 years, I been encased in this crust of self loathing, entombed in a shell of depression and defeatism. I have been my own worst enemy, far worse than any man could ever have been to the course of my life. By luck or chance, but certainly not by design, I have muddled my way through to a point where I need two hands to count my blessings. Is my glass half full or half empty? It depends on the day.
You see, I’ve been a dreamer; a pie in the sky, excuse making machine. Do I know what I want? Well, no, but I know precisely what I don’t want; as though that consolation is going to get me somewhere.
It’s all about intention. What do you want? If you can’t define that one simple question beyond an inventory of your refrigerator, then you’re going to have problems sitting in the chair of your life. We can all dream of the mansion, or the cars, or the trophy wife and the perfect life; but what’s the difference between me, in my modest house with my minivan parked in the driveway and, well, mytrophy wife in the next room, and the guy who made it to the mansion? Is it luck? Is it skill? Is it intelligence? Or is it simply that his desire to get there was greater than my own?
Some of you may be lost and are now thinking of the goodies in your fridge, others may be nodding in agreement, wondering where I’m headed with this, and others still, may be reading this with sarcastic caution, holding an eye toward the door and feeling the itch to be left alone in your self-pity and your success, such as it is.
While intent shapes the manner of our lives, giving us substance and perspective, there are deeper questions, some larger, some smaller, but all things considered, their impact is the same.
Before one can fully understand the process of sitting in a chair, one must first consider a few things that can have a potentially devastating effect on the outcome. Most obviously, is there a chair to sit in?
In an effort to avoid the highly confusing and circular argument of quantum physics, Perception vs. Reality, let’s assume for our purposes, that what we observe is as real as will ever be. There appears to be a chair in the room, it has shape and mass, it may be large and upholstered with billowy cushions, or Spartan and cold, made of steel with pivoting hinges, making it easy to fold and convenient to store.
This chair must conform; it must abide by certain laws. Albert Einstein might suggest that the effectiveness of a chair is limited not only by space-time, but also by the speed of light, and he would be right, though somewhat overcomplicated. The chair must be sturdy, it must be constructed with a design in mind, one that has been tested and proven to be worth repeating. It must take a certain shape in order to be recognised as a chair, it must be comprised of very specific components and be free of certain others. What’s more, it must be real. It cannot be imagined or dreamed, lest we learn it through our backside. It must be rooted in the here and now, made up of the physics of our world and our universe and must be known to us as a chair.
Whatever its shape, whatever its size, we can all recognise its form as that of a chair. Its purpose, clearly, is to be sat in. To support us, to provide respite from a long journey that has left us weary and tired, or to house our ingenuity as we careen recklessly down the varied roads of life.
We sit, therefore we are.
Dr. Sigmund Freud might assert that before one can sit in the chair, one must first understand what both the chair means to our subconscious and what the act of sitting does to our ego. I’m willing to concede that the chair does not represent some latent desire to sexually consume our parents, and that the act of sitting is entirely subjective in meaning.
What the chair means to us depends entirely on our life circumstances, it can be a comfort, it can be foreboding and it can be completely immaterial. We give meaning to the chair just as we give meaning to the choices we make in life. We justify, we reason, we ignore and we plot. We manipulate meaning to work to our advantage, to be a benefit to our intent.
In the same way, we assign meaning to the action as well, I sit in the chair because I’m tired, and the meaning of the act is found in my intention to rest. If I sit in the chair because it is appropriate to the social setting, then the meaning of the act is found in my desire to socialize appropriately. This duality is found throughout our universe, it is the connection between us and our world. This duality is in fact what makes it very much more difficult to sit in a chair than you may first have considered.
What drives you? What moves you to sit in the chair, or reach for the stars? Is it peer pressure? Is it cultural assimilation? Is it the pressure your parents put on you to become a doctor, while the only thing you ever wanted was to become a rock star? “Why” might be better left to Dr. Freud, or actually, to you. “How”, on the other hand, is the domain of micro-biology.
You are, essentially, a vast community of single celled organisms; a society of cells and bacteria and microbes. While your hand looks solid (hopefully) and your feet belong to you, what you see is a trick of perspective. If your eyes were equipped with electron-microscopes you would see that enormous civilization of cells that make up your body. They work in unison (usually), conducting a symphony of biological beauty; specialists and generalists, each with a function that becomes the point of their existence. They perform this ballet, not for your benefit, but for theirs. Survival of the fittest, long ago, meant survival of the most cooperative, and so, through evolution comes not only our body, but our awareness, our ability to sit, our ability to understand why we sit, and, most importantly, our ability to make the chair in the first place.
Do we really need to consider all these complex processes and concepts just to sit our asses in a chair? Well, probably not, but the deeper meaning behind this simple act can be translated into more profound ideas and acts. If we know that first, one must have the intention to sit, which is derived from deeper motivations such as environmental conditions or social pressures; and we know that the chair must first exist, it must be constructed and manufactured and it must conform to the basic rules that govern chairs in our universe. Then, and only then can we command this vast machinery, this marvel of modern biology and evolution to step forth, bending and contorting, shifting weight and adjusting in compensation of the forces of nature, eventually seating our community of single celled organisms solidly and proudly in the chair.
Fantastic! We did it, we sat in a chair, and all it took was an exploration of existence. Heh, well maybe that’s a little overdramatic, but if you’ve been following along, you’ve likely drawn some parallels between my earlier admissions of wish-thinking in my own life to the relative struggle we experienced in sitting down. You may have recognised yourself in that mirrored epitaph, and looking back from this end of the tunnel, you might be thinking that I’ve lost my mind entirely; not so!
I ask you to consider the complicated and layered journey we just took when next you are faced with your own self-labelled mediocrity; remember this, we explored science, we pondered meaning, we measured reality and for what? To sit in a chair; such a simple thing, I could have ended this story in the first paragraph, with a plain kinetic explanation of bending and shifting weight, then ultimately plopping your butt onto the seat of the chair. There, we did it! Ah but, isn’t that just like the rest of your life?
Isn’t it such a simple thing to say that I want to be successful? Isn’t it so complicated a thing to actually get there? Can you simply sit in the chair of success, or must you weigh the very meaning of life in order to realise your goals?
Lets practice a little complicated chair sitting in our lives, lets make those things we see as simple, as mundane and immaterial, into complex processes that require our immediate and undying attention, and let those larger than life problems and issues become whittled down into simplistic goals. What do we gain from this? Most likely a little perspective, we might experience a paradigm-shift in our own priorities, we might finally see the path to our own success, but at the very least, well find a moment to sit and think about the wonder of the universe.