The Dangers of Sitting: 45 Years Ago Hubert Humdinger Warned Us
ADAM MICHAEL LUEBKE
NEVER SIT AGAIN IF YOU VALUE YOUR LIFE
I’ve been doing a lot of leaning, lounging, and relaxing lately, all in the upright position. But you won’t find me sitting.
The only time I take a load off while I’m awake is when I use a toilet. I would stand then too, but real men sit while urinating so as not to make a mess. So I risk it. Not the mess, but taking a sit.
It’s because the latest studies are convincing enough. Sitting for even one hour might be detrimental to your health. Sitting for five hours is even worse, even if you exercise every day, and it can increase your chances of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Now imagine your lifetime of being seated, of letting the blood pool in your ass.
I told my neighbor (the ungrateful one) about the concluding evidence from 47 studies showing that sitting for more than an hour at a time will greatly reduce one’s lifespan.
“And you play video games all the time,” I told him, “then you drive to work, where you sit more. I’m worried about you.”
“Yeah, but every half an hour or so I get up to go out and smoke a cigarette,” he said.
“Maybe that’s OK, then,” I said, “as long as you smoke often enough throughout the day.”
We should really turn to an expert in this matter. The dangers of sitting seems like new information, but one long-forgotten cultural philosopher lectured us on this over four decades ago.
1970: LECTURE ON BEING A JUNGLE MAN
The exiled cultural philosopher, Hubert Humdinger [hum-din-jer], has known about this hazard for decades. He’s always active, never sedentary. He should know the proper way to live. While nobody knows how old he is, not even him, we’re fairly certain he’s been on this planet for at least 130 years.
He once said, “This tired church rat’s been in the belfry for too long.” He said, “As long as the belfry’s warm and I’m not sharing it, I’ll persist as long as I’m allowed.”
What’s his secret?
Decades ago Humdinger gave a lecture to a packed gymnasium at a not-so-prominent college in the Midwest. It was his second speaking gig. It practically fell into his lap (or would have, had one ever been able to find him sitting still).
His first lecture gig was at the Sons of the American Legion. Everybody got drunk on rum and half-and-half. They liked most when he spoke about his time in the war. When a curly-haired, red-faced man offered him a drink he called a Titty Tugger, Humdinger refused, saying, “I breathe the industrial world’s air. That’s toxic enough for my blood.”
This was well before he’d fled to his undisclosed location in Northern Europe, to which he sought cover from hostile government and corporate entities unhappy with being nailed by his constant stream of hard-hitting books and essays (even though nobody was reading them).
The student crowd in the gymnasium was hostile. Or at least only half of the crowd was. The other half looked like they had stomach aches. Their professors had forced them to attend the talk by making it count toward their grade. Worse yet, a rumor had gone around that the illustrious speaker was the wild Gonzo writer from Colorado, who had been making his college circuit with a series of explosive question-and-answer sessions while he was drunk, high, and in a terrible mood.
When the students found out the speaker was actually Humdinger (which they also pronounced incorrectly as ‘hum-ding-er’), they sulked and moaned and turned vengeful.
If they had to sit through an hour-long talk listening to a man lecture them on the necessity of vigorous living around the house (the subject of his latest book Being a Jungle Man While Living in the Sissy City), they were going to make it memorable.
UNDER SNIPER FIRE
They tossed paper airplanes. Then someone shot a spit ball through a straw that smack-landed on the moderator’s forehead. The moderator lurched backward, slipped, and fell. The janitor, who would later receive a reward for his selfless act of bravery, took a risk and dragged the dazed moderator off stage left while spit balls splattered and sharply-creased paper planes sailed on all sides.
Humdinger, his own forehead shining with sweat under the heat of the stage lamps, stood strong. He, as oftentimes the most fearless of military generals do, escaped with not even a scratch. His lips furled and if you knew the history of Humdinger, you knew he was drawing the same inner strength he’d drawn during combat in WWII.
Or a year later, when the US State Department would burn all of his books in what was called the Great Purge.
He shouted, “I’ve been under sniper fire before. I’ve seen men’s heads explode like watermelons.” His voice was picked up by the moderator’s podium microphone. Everyone heard him, thundering and commanding, and they quieted down.
EVERY OLD FART SAYS THAT…
Humdinger took his spot at the podium and went on to explain why his generation thought they (the students in the gymnasium) were a bunch of milksops.
“You can’t grow your own food. You don’t know how to hunt. You couldn’t defend yourself if it meant saving your mother’s life. Men don’t know how to treat a woman with dignity, and women think chivalry means buying her useless shit. And the majority of you sit all day long watching the TV.”
He uttered a most memorable line, which was brought to my attention by an email from a student claiming he was present at the 1970 lecture. Humdinger said, “I’m here to tell you: ‘Your innards are pickled and your DNA is frayed. Your blood is syrupy sweet, and your thoughts are too sentimental to produce meaningful understanding of a complex world and your multifaceted existence in it. It’s time to wake up, or it’s time for society to perish.'”
The philosopher stood sturdy as a marble statue (well, that’s how the heroic janitor would later describe it).
An associate professor who required her Western Civilization students to attend the lecture, butted in at this point. Her cheeks had flushed with indignation at Humdinger’s berating of the students.
“How dare you say that?” she called out in a trembling voice. “Every old fart tells the new generation they aren’t as good or strong as the generation before them. It’s baloney.”
Humdinger snuffed a little at that. He straightened his brown tie, which semi-matched his faded brown polyester suit pants and coat.
He told the associate professor he thought she was eating too much bologna, and that’s why her thinking process was so muddled. “A brain loaded with nitrates and animal fats can’t be expected for high performance,” he said. “But welcome to the 20th century.”
Many of the students snickered. That must have made the professor feel like piddle left in the bottom of the toilet. But Humdinger also mocked the students: “I guess there aren’t any processed meat eaters in here, huh?” he asked.
Humdinger was not finished. He zeroed in on the professor.
“It’s true what you say. Throughout history the older generation chastises the younger. Is it without reason? Each generation is successively worse, more indoctrinated into the folly their parents did not correct in their age. If you think I’m impressive, you shouldn’t. I’m a joke compared to my father and grandfathers.”
According to Humdinger, the kids respected that kind of trash talking. They wanted to be beaten down. They wanted to see others beaten down. He didn’t know it until he’d begun talking.
So he elaborated on his own theory of a society obsessed with sitting.
The sitting-study scientists were 45 years in thought behind Humdinger, and that’s because, as Humdinger explains, “They don’t pay attention with one hundred percent of their consciousness. They’re too busy fetching factoids to keep with the pulse of humanity.”
THROUGH SQUEALS AND ECHOES HE CONTINUED…
“Stand more than you sit,” he said. “Squat if you have to. Sitting and being sedentary unravels the precious ends of the strands of your DNA. Your most vital bodily processes are breaking down. This is why most of you couldn’t hold a candle to your forefathers’ physical acts or intellect. Humans were meant to move. Humans are active. They adapt to hot and cold, wet or dry. But your organs, tissues, and molecules don’t adapt to doing nothing.”
The pariah philosopher then delivered a point-by-point guide* by which modern humans can, to the best of their abilities, emulate the jungle man, or the primitive human, or the noble savage.
“It’s not about sparking an age of barbarism, it’s about re-instilling purpose. It’s about counteracting the plummeting sperm counts in males, the collective IQ plunging like a wounded duck, and general political apathy so profound that your college should open a new department just to study it.”
After his lecture, a young woman in a dress printed with a bunch of falling flowers stood up and asked Humdinger why, if he was so darn active all day long, it was so damned hard to get in contact with him via his mailing address.
The old philosopher didn’t like the tone of her voice. He is a big fan of firing back the same attitude of the person questioning him.
“I run a rigorous daily regimen of reading and writing and making love to my wife*. All of which I do while I stand. That leaves, at the end of the day, very little time for people like you.”
Humdinger went on to ask the young lady her name. “Olive,” she said.
“Olive,” he said. His voice pealed across the wooden gym floor, pinged off the cement block walls, and reentered in diminished form the microphone that set one centimeter from Humdinger’s cracked, dry lips. Through a squeal of feedback, he said, “I’ve received thus far, after publishing twelve books and thirty-nine quality essays, three pieces of fan mail. I had time to respond to one-third of that mail. I’m sorry to announce that yours did not make the cut.”
The girl sat. Humdinger claims he saw her blushing, despite the dimly lit bleachers. Had he been too stern with her? he wondered. Stern is fine, but to be discouraging is not.
“The letter I did respond to,” Humdinger said, thinking it might make Olive feel better, “was actually addressed to a Harry Humdinger. The world’s foremost expert on the reverse pregnancy of seahorses.”
Little did the unflappable veteran philosopher know that 44 years later he’d be mistaken for Harry Humdinger once again. By an African man, who even offered his nubile daughter to him for marriage. An offer that Humdinger turned down, but only after flying to Africa to check out the goods and also meet the man he thought was one of his few fans left in the world.
“So,” Humdinger said to Olive, who sat bent over with her arms folded in her lap, “I wrote back to the young man. I called him a louse turd and warned him that if he ever again mistook me for a researcher of seahorses, I’d personally make sure one got misplaced up his colon.”
The kids liked that one. They hooted and hollered and laughed. Had they been living in the 21st century, there is no doubt they would have all pulled out their smartphones to look up Harry Humdinger, the esteemed seahorse expert, to find if he had any social media accounts by which to bombard him with coarse insults.
Humdinger concluded his lecture, for which the college paid him $50 dollars and the provost treated him to lunch in a steamy Chinese restaurant with a sparsely populated buffet line, with advice nobody in the United States seemed to remember or take heed of until 2015, when the so-called experts echoed the exact same sentiments as the venerable philosopher.
“And now, I’m off to lunch with your provost. You’ve been sitting far too long. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve squandered half a year of your lives just during this talk alone. As for me, during lunch, I will sit, but I will be doing leg pumps the entire time to fool my brain into thinking my body is working, and to keep my heart brisk and strong.
“Go on with your lives,” he said, “as I’m sure you will, as if none of this talk ever happened.”
Humdinger exited backstage. Little did he know the next year of his life would bring such drastic change and challenge he’d have to flee the country.
*When I first heard this story from the exiled cultural philosopher, I said, “You had a wife?” I had never heard that before. Humdinger said, “She passed. She’s in the Hereafter. Life moves on. It was sure nice to intersect two lives for the twenty-one years that we did, but as with every aspect of life on earth, it ended.”
*Some of these points are as follows: “Food planting, gathering, and hunting is one of the essential lifelong experiences of any human. Yet, do you toil when you drive yourself to the grocery store, pick up a wide variety of food items pre-packaged and processed, and carry them one hundred feet to your car? You must toil for your food, or you are not a part of what it is to be human. You must walk at least 10 blocks one way for to do your grocery shopping, and you must carry it back, on foot. Anything less is subhuman. This act generates gratefulness for the food, thankfulness for the sustenance, and it provides a reason for you to eat in the first place — because you need it. You worked for it.”
Another point: “Make additional movements throughout your daily activities. While you’re toweling off after a shower, stand on one leg. Perfect your balance and strengthen each leg. This is provided that you have a firm footing or mat on which to stand so you don’t slip. My vigorous living plan is infinitely more difficult to carry out while in the hospital.”
[Roosevelt in wheelchair, and Hindu holy man on bed of nails both in public domain; Noble Savage cropped from Benjamin West also public domain – Wikimedia]