Last summer, I was exploring a new town and handed over a vast amount of cash to explore their famous palace. It was well worth it, after my bank balance had recovered. (And yes, I do know why all these places charge a small fortune – it costs a massive amount to maintain these ancient buildings, but it’s still always an internal debate for me – do I pay that much, or just enjoy from the outside?)
As I was wandering through the rooms, there in the children’s nursery stood a very tall, very narrow, very rickety looking small chair, a tiny child’s high chair, with exceptionally long legs. I was just thinking the legs looked as if they had had some uneven wear and tear – all four legs seemed to be slightly different heights, leading to the rickety appearance. As I was looking, one of the castle guides came up, and asked if I knew what I was looking at. A child’s chair? Well, yes.
But this is different – this is a punishment chair. Huh? This chair dated back to 1700 or 1800 ish. The royal nannies who looked after the young princes and princesses were not allowed to physically raise a hand to a child or punish them in any way. Which meant that these young royals were running riot. So, they developed the punishment chair. Because of its height, with it’s extremely narrow base, it was already not terribly stable. Add to that the legs all being at different heights, and the whole thing was liable to topple over.
Sadly, photographs are not allowed within the palace, and the only image I can find of the chair, is this one that isn’t terribly clear…
And this was the first naughty chair. If a young prince or princess was being naughty, they were put in the chair for a while. And while in the chair, they had to sit absolutely still, otherwise it would topple over. Quick fix for temper tantrums, right? The staff didn’t inflict any actual punishment, but the child very soon learnt to be still and quiet. Hmmm…. And what does that have to do with you, and why I’m writing this?
How often have you heard instructors yelling across arenas, just sit still, stop fidgeting, and relax, just sit there. There is nothing relaxing about sitting still – it takes a fair amount of physical effort to “just sit still”. Hello, it was a method of punishment… It takes physical and mental effort to be still. I bet those young royals learnt about using their core and stabilizing themselves in a hurry. It shouldn’t be torturous to sit still, but it certainly isn’t something to “just relax” about either.
(In a totally unrelated thought – follow me here – just think about normal school kids. They have to sit still in class, not get distracted, not move about, not make a noise, and if they don’t – straight onto Ritalin…. Hello, sitting still is torture!)
But, it also made me think about horses, and what we inflict upon them. Get your horse’s head down – put him in one position and keep him there…. How is this not a torturous punishment? Every living being, be it human, horse, cat, dog, any animal, needs to MOVE. You cannot tell a rider or a horse to sit still in one position and hold it. And yet, what do we spend much of our time doing?