How many men does it take to build a simple chair?

simplechairDid you catch this New York Times story of the “simple chair” that’s being built for the Pope to use when he comes to visit the US next month?

The story opens with:

NYTimeschairSo three men have spent the last few weeks, as described by the article, working with a fourth, to build the simple chair.

Just going out and buying one at Walmart apparently won’t do.

Moral of the story 1: it takes a lot of effort to appear effortless, and so the simplest things are often the most complex.

The Pope has quite an entourage, after all. And he’s part of an elaborate, world-wide, hierarchical system that’s well-known for rather elaborate ritual ceremonies, no? So there’s nothing simple about what he represents or any simple aspect of planning one of his visits.

Moral of the story 2: for the scholar, one ought not to be distracted by the rhetoric of the people whom you study; instead, you ought to attend to their doings, keep an eye out for what’s taking place off stage, behind the curtain, or after hours — since any cultural product is the result of an elaborate production process, even if it’s not always apparent.

After all, the simple chair pictured above looks a lot more like a throne than any of the chairs in my house.