Stanley M. Fried
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Chairs are strange devices.  Often beautiful by design and always functional, they usually fall short of providing comfort to those who use them.  This is due to a problem inherent in their design and manufacture. 

Since chairs are designed to meet the needs of a body which is supposed to belong to the average person, they will never truly fit anyone just right. 

This average body stands so tall, has a thigh length of so much, a calf length of some other dimension.  The small of the back will be at a perfect height above the seat so as to rest comfortably at an angle that will allow the shoulders, which are of course of the correct height, to be situated in such a way that the rightly proportioned arms of some predetermined length will rest easily on the arms of the chair. 

Notice how comfortably you sit in your chair now.  We all have developed the means to accommodate the genetic limitations of our bodies to fill that space wherein we are expected to sit.

In a democracy, whatever is good for most of the people is good for all of the people.  It becomes a tribute to our freedom in a democracy that we can so readily adapt to what is desired by the average, expected of the average, to toe that median line.

In a democratic society, there is always going to be someone sitting uncomfortably on a chair. 

Of course, chairs are not the sole property of democracies.  Totalitarian states, anarchist groups, even monarchies use chairs.  Each of them designed for some unknown average person somewhere. 

Just as chairs are designed for different averages (and what is average does vary from mind to mind and from place to place), everyone is always expected to accommodate themselves to someone else's concept of comfort. Just as we learn to conform to the shape of a chair, we learn to conform our minds to the norm.  We learn there are only a limited number of choices we can ever make that will be correct…a limited number of answers we can give that will be correct.

Of course, that which is considered correct is not necessarily right or true.  What is correct is what is accepted as normal and the experts who establish those norms…experts who have developed a self-perpetuating system of training which each of us has been subjected to and which each of us has learned to accept. 

They have done a good job of it, too.  Good enough that they have even included safety-valves to accommodate those who could not be successfully trained… those who would have otherwise drifted off into their own mind's thoughts were trained into cynicism to keep them distracted from seeing that any alternatives could exist. Even what might be considered radical thought and radical actions are incorporated into this training system.  They are fostered to keep the system from fossilizing.  The methods of change radicals seek do not come from outside of this training.  They bring this training with them and their actions extend the very arena of the system itself.  Rather than securing change, radicals merely extend the boundaries of already established thought.

It's a wonderful thing, this system of thought.  It allows all of us to share common feelings, to have similar ideas, to find something of mutual concern and interest among ourselves.

In totalitarian states, information is controlled.  People know they are not receiving the truth about what is taking place in the world.  They seek to find out what is behind the lies in the press.  In a democracy, people have access to all the information available in the world.  But, our training has taught us we do not need this information.  This is a much more effective system to suppress the truth since everyone here can have it but no one wants it.  We do not need people to lie to us.  We just don't care.

So what if our training has limited our thoughts?  Who cares if truth is a relative term that is changed to suit the lifestyle of the moment?  Who cares if dishonesty is accepted as the norm?  If that is what the average person desires, then this is the strength of our system.

Here we all are…sitting pretty…knowing deep down inside that we are uncomfortable…still, we find new ways to accommodate ourselves to the next chair we will encounter…even before we have seen it…even before we know where we will be sitting.  Tomorrow, we will accommodate our minds to something terrible.

©1991 - Stanley M. Fried



Chairs was presented as a part of As Planes Go By performed by Mr. Fried in San Diego in 1991. It was read to Nino Rota's La Passerella d'Addio from the Frederico Fellini film 8½ (Otto e Mezzo) played in the background.

Use the music player below to listen to the score.


This text will be replaced by the flash music player.


Soundtrack Recording © 1963 C.A.M S.r.l.


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