In Praise of Couches

Yesterday, I finally moved my couch out of storage into my apartment. I kept it in storage for a whole year after my move from the Bronx to Northern California. It’s a leather couch, the color of cognac. I didn’t know that until a friend told me. To me, it’s just brown. I’ve also described magenta as pink, which is probably why no one ever encouraged me to pursue a career in interior design. Well, that and a few other reasons.

I love the couch. It’s long enough for me to stretch out on and take an afternoon nap. I can also balance things on its cushions like martinis and bowls of cereal without spilling them, which tells you something about my lifestyle. But the greatest feature is its pure comfort. To both tush and touch, the couch feels firm but not hard, cool but not cold, soft but not spongy. It fits me like a leather jacket I used to own, which protected me like an extra layer of skin. I wore it until it nearly fell off my body in shreds.

These are important features, because I spend a lot of time on the couch. I read on the couch. I write on the couch. I watch YouTube videos on the couch. I eat, drink, and sleep on the couch. In fact, you might say I live on the couch, but in no way am I a couch potato. I don’t sit there in a vegetative state à la Brendan Sullivan’s “potted plant.” No, sir.

In addition, my couch is comfortable enough for me to switch positions with ease so that I can stare at the kitchen counter, out the front door, toward the bed, or into the backyard. And here’s the thing. When you see the world from such different perspectives, you begin to think differently. This is why travel is so important no matter your age but especially when you’re young.

Speaking of the young, I believe Jordan Peterson advises his followers to make their beds or clean their rooms whenever they find themselves in a rut. That’s fine advice, although I would go further and suggest rearranging the room to gain a different perspective. You’d be surprised what that will do for you. It could also give you practice and confidence for rearranging the larger, unwieldy furniture in your life like a job or relationship.

It’s just another step from there to think about the implications for society. For instance, imagine what would happen if people started looking at issues from different perspectives. I mean truly different, not just arguing about what the other side is saying but getting to know their reality. For that’s the stone in the road that trips everyone up.

It’s not that the Right and Left disagree with each other, which, of course, they do. But they disagree, because they live in different realities. The arrangement of furniture in one doesn’t come close to the arrangement in the other. They might as well be sleeping in separate bedrooms. But you can’t argue from one reality with people living in another reality, not unless both sides rearrange the furniture. I’m talking about people of good will here, not those of ill intent or ideologues.

This reminds me of a summer job I had in college as a camp counselor for blind adults in South Jersey. I was responsible for a cabin of five men. These guys were much older than me and had been going to the camp for years. They had a routine that included smoking cigars, playing poker, and drinking whiskey late into the night. They referred to each other as “blinkies.” After other cabins complained about the noise, the camp director told me to do something or my guys would be sent home.

It took my threatening to rearrange the furniture before they took me seriously and settled down. They weren’t happy about it, but eventually I became friends with two of them. One wore a beret and worked part time as a chicken plucker. The other asked me to take him jogging every morning, which I did by tying a rope between us and leading him around the camp. I also learned a valuable lesson about furniture.

It can turn lives around.

Image credit: couch cat by Tim-Oliver Metz on Unsplash. For more, go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”

4 comments

  1. As I posted elsewhere, I find your experiences at that camp quite moving, and an excellent metaphor for the benefits of moving the furniture.

    As course, there’s also Feng Shui!!

    Hope you and yours are doing OK with these bad air days and apocalyptic skies!!

  2. A couch in cognac, with a throw and a peaceful cat… I love it. Reuniting with items from storage is a welcoming experience. Moving furniture around in one’s space, not so much; kind of destabilizing. But, yes, I agree. It is good to move around the mental, the relational, and operational furniture. New sights, new mental maps.
    During one period of my life, I assisted a friend with her retirement dream of purchasing a fixer-upper motel, in which my friend opened a living center for adolescent and young adult persons with schizophrenia that had been unsuccessfully treated. The idea was to provide a supportive living environment in which persons could develop social and vocational skills working in the small motel. Notable were the many times our guests would move all of the furniture out of their rooms onto the sidewalk, and alter the environment significantly by sprinkling comet cleanser, grass, and plants on the carpet and walls. It seemed to be a matter of survival, prerequisite to other life reorganizations.

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