You see this scene of Jodie Foster in Contact where she’s stuck to this crazy chair that keeps shaking and shaking and eventually she figures out that she’s not supposed to be in that chair. She figures out that the powers that be have decided this chair would be a good idea for her and they put her in it and she’s in this spaceship going through the universe and she figures it out, she figures it out, she figures out she’s not supposed to be in the terrible shaky chair society has put her in. She needs to get out of that fucking chair so she does. She unclicks, she gets out of that fucking chair, and then the chair breaks, because bad systems break.
And she’s now in a natural system, a really nice somewhat natural system, I mean … she’s in a temperature controlled spaceship thing.
I saw this scene in this movie that I don’t love, I saw the scene and I thought about all the different chairs people have put me in over the years, and please don’t think I’m saying I’m a victim, that’s not it at all. I’m just saying all of us are put in chairs of other people's making, and most of the time we choose that chair, we say we want to sit in that chair, we want to sit in that chair, we wanna work hard for you, and we wanna make money for you, and we want to be the best sibling or the best child or the best friend or the best lover or the best whatever, employee, charity giver, any number of things, gamer, hiker, we mostly decide to sit in these chairs but the thing is: we think we need to sit in the chair because it’s the only chair in the room and people over us tell us it’s a good chair.
And they’re not evil necessarily, they think it’s a good chair, they think they’re doing us a fucking favor. I mean, sometimes they do it because they think they’ll save money by not paying us what we need, or not giving us the love we want, or not being the friend we want, or not being the family member we want. So sometimes people don’t have great excuses for the reason they are putting you in this fucking chair.
But try not to think about this chair as something with a predator and a prey. Try to not think of it as you are a victim and they are the enemy or something like that. I’m not saying you’ll be wrong to think that way. I’m just saying as a thought experiment, just think about this, think about the chair you’re in currently.
What is the chair you’re in currently that is shaking?
Is that chair really protecting you or do you need to get out of that fucking chair?
Is that marriage really good for you or do you need to get out of that marriage? Are you in a bad friendship? Get out of that bad friendship. Do you think it’s bad but it’s actually good? Then stay in it.
I just want to show you this chair because I think it means so much to me and I think about this chair fairly regularly in my life where I go:
What is the chair I’m allowing myself to be in that is shaking and making my life worse? And when I escape this chair, what better state will I be in where I can float around in the air like a happy joyful Jodie Foster exploring the universe?
I mean, can you think of a smaller metaphor in the biggest of all environments? A chair flying through the entirety of the universe? The chair is small, the universe is infinite, and you have to decide whether you want to be in that chair and shaking, or do you wanna release yourself from the chair and enjoy your ride for the length and width and breath of the universe … or the universes, or existence, or nonexistence, or whatever the fuck we’re in. Whether you think we’re in a certain kind of religious space, or a science space, or a cold science atheist space, or whether you’re an agnostic, or any of the religions, or whether you don’t care about any of that stuff.
Maybe you just think all that stuff is a waste of time to even think about, and you don’t know what you are, because you just want to exist in the world. A very valid place to think. All of these places are very valid. Everybody’s fucking valid.
We all have one thing in common. We’re all in some chair and the chair is shaking. You have to make this decision whether you’re better off in the chair or not.
Another thing we don’t see in the scene is that there are moments in life where you are better off in the chair. That’s the problem. Sometimes you need to stay in that chair. Sometimes you need to stay in that sort of broken marriage, I have. Sometimes you have to stay in a broken work environment, I have. I’m not saying I have therefore you have to. I’m not saying that at all.
I’m saying we all have moments where we’re like, I need to stay in this stupid fucking chair a little longer. And weirdly sometimes it pays off. I’ve stayed in a few chairs, I thought, I'm gonna be in this chair for one more minute while it’s shaking me to death and I need to just put up with it for another minute … and then all of a sudden things turn around, and the chair becomes a very smooth ride. And you’re like oh, this is fantastic, I’m glad I stuck this out.
So I’ve gotten out of many chairs in my life. And sometimes I should have stayed in but most of the time I was ready to get out. And I stayed in a fair number of chairs and, you know, a fair number of those chairs I made the right decision and other times I didn’t. Life is very difficult and all you have to do is make these gigantic decisions in your life, you know, all the fucking time. Life is full of all of these gigantic decisions all the time.
Am I going to stay in this relationship? Am I gonna stay in this job? Am I gonna stay in this career? I’m gonna stay in this hiking group? Am I going to keep going to this Starbucks? Am I going to shop at a different grocery store? Is my friend beyond repair? Do I need new running shoes? I don’t know. A lot of these things sound small but … a good pair of running shoes? Or a better place for coffee? A better phone? Or do you think you’ll get a better phone but then you’re just spending $1,200 on some fucking phone that’s exactly like the last one you had and now you feel like you’re $1,000 poorer and you made a terrible decision.
I don’t mean to pile on too much, I meant to make this a very simple message, not a complex message, so I will get back to the simple message of this chair.
So here’s the chair and Jodie Foster‘s in it. So you need to think of yourself as Jodie Foster and you need to think of that chair as whatever you think about most of the time.
What’s the thing you think about most of the time? Is it work? Is it a boss? Is it someone you’re attracted to? Is it someone you’re not attracted to anymore? Is it some villain? Whatever it is, what is the fucking chair? Identify the chair every single day or once a week or once a month or once a year. That’s what I do.
So now I’ve said everything I can possibly say about this scene which haunts me all the fucking time:
I love you unconditionally just like I love myself unconditionally. I hope you’re having the best day of your life.