Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Chairs, are they killing us?

Chairs, are they killing us?:
Even American cats sit in chairs.

The knee injuries I've accumulated running, hiking and fencing have a lot to do with basic flexibility problems. Mrs. Root Simple likens my inflexibility to that of a ginger bread man or a 2 by 4 pitched into a swimming pool. So should I plant my stiff derriere on the nearest yoga mat? Or should I throw out all our furniture? I'm thinking the latter. Let me explain.

Photo from Max in Kabul

I'm willing to bet that traditional societies that don't use chairs have fewer flexibility problems later in life. I'm reminded of a dinner I attended at an Afghan co-worker's house in San Diego many years ago. We spent a few minutes in a typical suburban living room. The rest of the evening, however, took place in a room of the house that had only an Afghan rug and some pillows--no chairs or tables--where we sat for several hours listening to a concert of classical Afghan music. It was a lot like the picture above. Everyone, young and old, sat on the floor, cross-legged for the entirety of the concert. Imagine a group of Americans sitting down to a Thanksgiving dinner like this. And we wonder why Americans injure themselves doing yoga?

I have to ask what exactly do chairs do for us? Are they just about status, a kind of throne envy? I'm willing to bet that elderly people in chair-less traditional societies fall down less and have fewer joint problems.

Arakawa + Gins, Bioscleave House (Lifespan Extending Villa),2004, photo: LĂ©opold Lambert

Maverick architects Madeline Gins and her partner, the late Arakawa (he only used his last name) had the idea that our houses should not be comfortable in the western sense of having lots of couches, chairs and ease of access. Rather, they designed off-kilter floors, awkward doorways and dangerous staircases with the idea that being forced to be more active would give us longer, healthier lives.

Gins and Arakawa were being deliberately provocative to make a point. I don't think we have to be as extreme. But will I have the courage to turn the Root Simple headquarters into something more like a traditional Afghan abode? Will I ditch the chairs? Will I lower the desk I'm writing this blog post at? Let's hope so.

If you do the Pinterest thing, I've started an idea board of chair free living spaces