Carpe Aeternum

Finding the Eternal in the Every Day

The View from the Couch

One Super Bowl commercial still sticks with me almost a month after the fact. I still find myself thinking of it often. The product was Jeep Cherokee and the point of the commercial was to be bold, take action, and to engage life. These are concepts that I love and try to embrace. More precisely, they are concepts that I embrace but occasionally enact. The bit that sticks with me though it the way they bashed stillness.
In my experience, modern America counts stillness as a sin. It is seen as the opposite of action and therefore bad. The expectation that we drive forward constantly defines greatness. Lack of drive equals failure, worthlessness and, wretchedness.
My sitting on the couch, watching the Super Bowl and the commercial in question lends credence to this point. How much of my life is squandered watching TV? What value do I gain from watching TV? (I actually believe that TV can be a good thing, but that is a subject for another post n another day.) My inactivity on the couch fits the mold.
The truth is that inactivity fits the theme of the commercial better than stillness. Despite naming stillness the enemy, they truly oppose inaction. In my life, that manifests in many forms besides mindlessly watching TV. It may be playing online games. It may come as procrastination that disguises itself as busyness. I definitely despise inactivity, in theory anyway; my practice of this is feeble. Yet, stillness and inactivity are not the same.
Stillness gets disparaged nonetheless. Thus the commercial named stillness as undesirable. Must it be? Can stillness be good? Is there value in doing nothing? In having downtime and just being still and quiet?
Instead of using stillness to power our action, we are encouraged to toss it aside. Which to me is the greater failing in our society; that action is vaunted so highly that stillness is bad. Action, for all its good can’t be the only thing.
I think stillness can be powerfully spiritual if we take time form doing and just be. Of course, I believe there needs to be a solid dose of doing for the being to have depth. The being then brings substance to the doing. I can be an ascending spiral, brining good and great things out of us. I try to make this happen. I try to get some quiet into my life several times a week. It seems to help. This provides me the chance to catch my breath before diving into the next thing.

Shameless Self Promotion:
March 9, 3 PM – performing humorous speech at First Presbyterian Church of Woodstock, IL, It’s a free will offering fund raiser. http://www.fpcwoodstock.org/
March 15, 4 PM – doing a comedy workshop at a Toastmaster s Open House. 4S175 NapervilleWheaton Road, Naperville, IL 60563. http://sos.toastmastersclubs.org

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6 thoughts on “The View from the Couch

  1. Nice post, Brad. I didn’t see the commercial, but believe you are on to something, especially for introverts like myself. Stillness can be energizing and give life to our action. Of course the opposite extreme is to get stuck in contemplation and never act. This can be especially tempting for Christians, where it is often unintentionally reinforced that having the right opinion about something matters just as much as doing something about it. May we truly be contemplatives in action.

    • bradbellmore on said:

      I think that finding the tension between both action and stillness can be truly powerful. hopefully I will get there someday.

  2. Jeff J on said:

    Sometimes my wife will come in the house to find me sitting in a chair staring into space. She’ll ask me what I am doing and I’ll tell her that I am thinking about something. “OK, but why are you just sitting there, can’t you think while you are working?”

    Yes, I can think while I work or do chores. I can think while I talk a walk too (I do that a lot). But sometimes I need to just sit and think – to open up the issue and not put a time constraint on it – and to leave room for my mind to wander and God to put in His two cents.

    Also, Brad check those dates and times at the end of the post – seems like you will be in two places at once

    • bradbellmore on said:

      Jeff, if you understood the true depths of stillness, you would see that I can be in two places at the same time.

  3. Karen Burke on said:

    Hey Brad! Such a treat to see this. To all those who poo-poo stillness I have THIS. A loong time ago (in a galaxy far, far away) I was watching a Bruce Lee flick. I can’t say which one; I didn’t even watch the whole thing. All I remember was, Bruce was SURROUNDED. There had to be fifty mean bad guys descending on him, preparing to come and whoop his a**. It was tense – but what made it even MORE tense, is that ol’ Bruce didn’t run out to meet them. He didn’t start practicing swinging numbchucks (sp?) around – he didn’t even warm up his shoulders, or practice high kicks. No. Bruce found an empty room and shut the door. He sat down on the floor with his legs crossed and closed his eyes. The camera would cut to all the bad guy preparation, and back to Bruce, just sitting there. Breathing. Relaxing almost. I was waiting. Ok Bruce. You had a break, time to get goin’. . . nothing. Bruce, they’re getting closer. Bruce you CAN’T HOLD THIS MANY GUYS OFF! Bruce didn’t listen to me. OMG. And then, I got it. This is how Bruce prepared. In stillness, breathing, praying, meditating – whatever he was doing, “it” was preparing him MOST for the mind numbing action that would follow. When they got outside the door, Bruce didn’t even get UP, if I remember correctly. Then they started to get in – he opened his eyes. And you knew, from the look on his face, that it was GAME OVER for the bad guys. Stillness, real stillness is the only thing that can precede decisive and powerful, impactful ACTION. Stillness is not necessary for activity. In fact, we use activity to keep stillness at bay. Some people (I am not exactly one of them) run from stillness like the plague, and to do this they engage in constant activity. But where we experience our own real efficacy, where we connect most with ourselves and the world around us, and most important, how we engage our enemies – is with a life that accepts stillness. That lives, breathes, and waits, in stillness. That rests, communes, and watches, in stillness. That listens in stillness.

    So I agree whole heartedly with you. Bruce Lee taught me that lesson long ago and I never forgot it. I’m no professional though. The struggle to be still is real for me. Real and very, very worth the struggle.

    Give all the beautiful girls in your life love from Chicago!

    • bradbellmore on said:

      I love this. Great story. I feel like I was there watching with you. And I too have a lot to learn as to how to enjoy stillness and how to prepare for and recover from doing in it.

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