What does the world needs more of?
“Benches are awesome,” he nodded.
He asked me to construct a bench in his honor when he dies.
“Not a boring, regular wooden bench with a plaque,” he shook his head. “An epic bench, like this one,” he gestured to the bench we were sitting on.
We were taking a water break from riding our bicycles on the Virginia Capital Trail. The Capital Trail stretches 57.1 miles between Virginia’s first capital, Jamestown, to its current capital: Richmond.
We rode a whole six miles.
In those six miles, we packed a wild day’s adventure in. I stood on my pal’s back to peer in the window of an abandoned house to discover a room full of baseball cards. We honored a dead cat on the sidewalk by covering it’s petrified body with flowers and berries. We said a few words in Street Cat’s honor. We threw rocks into a lake with our eyes closed to listen to the splash. We ate pizza. We whooped and hollered while whipping down the biggest hill, then peddled our asses back up the hill to ride down again.
We sat on a bench.
This bench was made out of surfboards. (In Richmond, about 100 miles away from the Atlantic Ocean.)
Each surfboard was painted with different scenes that represented this person’s life. Campfires, mountain peaks, musical notes, and water swirls represented seemingly important pieces of this person’s experience of the world.
Show us a picture of the surfboard bench!
I don’t have one.
You must be one of those presence indulgers huh? I bet you leave your phone in the car when you go outside.
How did you know? Yes, exactly! It feels comforting to be understood.
Okay, Oh Present One, why does the world need more benches? Aren’t we sedentary enough?
Benches promote presence.
Benches beg us to notice nature.
Benches allow us to accept our body’s need for rest.
Benches only ask us to observe.
Benches are not objective oriented. No one says: I’m going to go to the park to do fifty crunches, jump on six benches, run for thirty minutes and to cool down: sit on three benches for fifteen minute intervals.
The Dalai Lama said, ‘We are human beings, not human doings.’
Benches beckon us to be.
Benches invite us to join our surroundings instead of bustling through them by bike or foot. We may sit on a bench and for the first minute think: wow, the world is still and peaceful. Nothing is happening. No one is around. I am alone on this bench.
Then a minute passes.
And we hear a finch or a woodpecker in the trees. We look up, but we cannot see where the sound is coming from. Our attention is grabbed by leaves crinkling; our heads whip down to the ground to watch a grey a squirrel run in circles around a tree.
Another minute passes.
The wind rustles the top branches of the trees and raises the hair on our skin. A crow lands on the field in front of us and finds something in the grass it wants to eat.
Five minutes pass.
A biker blasts by and for a moment our ears are filled with huffing and puffing and peddling. Maybe we even get a half assed “hi.” It isn’t until the biker turns the corner that we hear the silence again.
A minute passes.
The clouds move over the sun and suddenly the warmth on our faces disappears and we become aware of our body’s temperature and wish for the sun to come out again.
Then, abruptly we get up and we’re on the move because we’ve only hiked .2 miles since the parking lot. We question why there was a bench built this close to the cars. We judge ourselves for sitting for so long after sitting all day at work and sitting in the car. We tell ourselves it’s time to move on, deeper into the trail. We ignore the next two benches because we ate two brownies for breakfast and need the workout, even though the second bench is beside a peaceful babbling brook and we love to listen to the sound of water.
Fuck it, we sit on the bench again.
Benches call off the internal critic. They ask us to sit, notice, and nurture our curiosity. They ask us to observe our surroundings without judgement.
Benches ask us to be still.
Benches beg us to surrender.
If we surrender to benches, the world has more to show us.