Linda Downing

Get up off that thing

The only out to routine grind is to think uncommon thoughts. Thinking is the hardest work, but the payoff liberates us from the boredom and fear of the everyday. To escape the commonplace, thoughts must soar above the mind-bending culture and negative news while at the same time keeping up with them. Congress and the president may be puppets as predictable as their string-pullers, but still we must hope for something or someone new to enter the stage. Snooki may be faking her new image on "Dancing with the Stars," but fairness dictates giving her a chance. Shaping our personal world does not require mental or spiritual schizophrenia. It demands an understanding of why Jesus prayed we would be "in" the world but not "of" the world (John 15). If the outside is the biggest shaper of the inside, we are doomed. Oct. 12 marks 521 years since Christopher Columbus landed in the so-called "New World." People then believed the earth was flat, that if we travelled far enough, we might fall off the edge. If we limit our minds because we live in limiting situations, the world is flat for us, always blocking our freedom of movement, always suggesting an unseen precipice.
In the October Vogue magazine, Ginny Graves reports in "The Hot Seat" on the dangers of inactivity, of spending much of our time sitting: a 147 percent increase of cardiovascular trouble; a 49 percent more likelihood of dying from diabetes risks; and weight gain, to name a few. The only thing that can counteract the potential dangers is regular standing and walking around - at least 10 minutes every hour. Graves writes: "Carrying your own weight, it turns out, is one of the healthiest things you can do." It looks as if the Ellen DeGeneres Show is offering more than entertainment when it begins with "Get Up Off Of That Thing." "Sitting is killing us," says James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic. Since so many jobs involve sitting, we must look for creative ways to get off our behinds while working. Innovations include the standing desk, the treadmill desk, stationary bikes mounted under desks, and holding meetings while walking. In this scenario multitasking may be vital to our overall health. Negative multitasking drains energy because it tends to pull from one source - the mind. Positive multitasking, on the other hand, brings the body, mind, and spirit into one working unit. If sitting is killing the body, what is stagnation doing to the mind and spirit? I used to think my desire to write and to travel was unique until I noticed that every other person I meet feels he has a book in him or wants to go "somewhere else." We can - even if lack of health, funds, time, or talent seems to stymie our plans. One of our greatest American poets, Emily Dickinson, was described by writer John Brinnin as living a life "uncommonly barren of events." She wrote her secret: "There is no frigate [ship] like a book." So, read and think. Kate Maxwell, writing in this month's Conde Nast Traveler, says we are experiencing a generational shift in which the youth are "creating the environments in which they want to live and work." That's not limited to youth. It's open to all who will get up off of that thing. Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together - side-by-side. Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at