A few weeks ago, I went out for dinner with my wife to a beautiful Italian restaurant in Toronto. After about an hour, we started up a conversation about one of her courses she’s been taking, as part of her Interior Decorating Diploma – the history of furniture. This is a course that she appears to be quite inspired by. She came to realise, through her learning, something so obvious, yet mind opening, about the furniture that was made in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. They were all one of a kind and, not only that, there was so much that went into creating these masterpieces. She then said something so simple, yet incredibly profound and it got me thinking. Those words came out of her mouth and they literally brought tears to my eyes – A Chair is Not Just a Chair. What a revelation and a perfect metaphor for the human being.
Inspired by her insight, we continued our conversation about this idea and how it relates to people and the ways in which we could show the world that a ‘Chair is Not Just a Chair’. In other words, there is so much more beyond what you see on the surface. An intense amount of work and detail has gone into creating these and they are all unique – one of a kind. Our discussion went on for a few more hours and into the next day with ideas and the start of a potential project that we could embark upon to help the world truly understand this concept, as it relates to people.
We so often look at people and make judgements about who they are, what they’re like, how smart they are and so on, purely based on what we see. It is, in fact, the first response we have to our environment. We look before we touch, taste, smell or listen. Let’s take the new iPhone 5 as an example. It’s not a person but this example definitely illustrates the point. The iPhone 5 does not look too different from its predecessor. It may be a little longer and little thinner, but invariably, nothing has really changed. As a result of this perception, there are people who don’t value it, judge it and think it’s a wasted effort by Apple. However, upon doing more research, there is more to this new creation than meets the eye, and it’s all under the surface. I spent about an hour watching the presentation given by Apple, before the official launch of the phone, devouring the ingenuity, engineering feats and inventiveness that brought this device into our hands. It’s actually mind blowing. The amount of detail, focus on design, technological enhancements that impact design and so on really astounded me. My appreciation for Apple increased ten fold when they recently revealed the new iMac. Again, another breakthrough in engineering and technology.
I recently watched an episode of X-Factor in the U.S., where a very obese man was wheeled onto stage in his wheelchair to perform for the judges. The cameras panned around to see the audience and judges reactions to this person. From the expressions on peoples faces, it was clear that this man was immediately discounted based purely on the way he looked. He was judged before he even had the opportunity to reveal himself. Then he sang. Everyone was surprised that this man somehow had an immense degree of talent inside of him, waiting to be shared. It was evident to me, that he’d been hiding this part of himself for a very long time.
Human beings have lost the ability to appreciate and value each other beyond what they see. We walk past homeless people on the street, without a blink of an eye. I know I have been one of those people. We look at people with disabilities with feelings of discomfort and fear inside of us. We judge fat people by their physical size, rather than by the potential contribution to the planet they could make, that goes beyond their body size. We toss aside advancements in engineering, technology and design purely because of the way they look or appear on the outside. As a consequence of our actions towards each other, towards our children and towards the world we are the creators of the things we are trying so desperately to change and/or transform. We project our beliefs, our values and our wounds onto others expecting them to be the way we want them to be, the way we want them to look and the way we want them to function. They, as a result, place those same expectations on themselves. Ultimately we’ve landed up with a world of increased obesity, disease, mental health problems, suicides, bullying, economic crises, poverty and so much more.
So, a chair is not just a chair. A chair is so much more than what we give it credit for. It’s time to look beyond what we see on the surface, what we expect and what we project or believe others should be and allow their true brilliance to be recognised, acknowledged and appreciated.