Two weeks ago on 30 Rock (one of the big Thursday NBC comedies), main character Liz Lemon meditated. This week, on Parks and Recreation (another big Thursday NBC comedy), Ron Swanson, played brilliantly as always by Nick Offerman, did not meditate. Repeat: Did not.
Yes, the “Don’t Tread on Me”-government-hating government worker did go to a meditation center, in a rare moment of deference to his health-nut pseudo-boss Chris (Rob Lowe), who sometimes goes in for spiritual or even New Agey stuff. But Ron’s only along to get chummy enough with Chris that he can keep his plum job of being paid to do as little as possible.
So what did Ron do in there if he wasn’t meditating? Chris may think that a post-sit Ron “radiates mindfulness” but as Ron himself puts it:
All told, we were in there about six hours. And no, I was not meditating. I just stood there quietly breathing. There were no thoughts in my head whatsoever; my mind was blank.* I don’t know what those crackpots [in there] were doing.
Of course, Ron has been warned. When he asks Anne (Rashida Jones) what to expect from meditation, she answers right away: “It’s crazy boring, it lasts forever, you’re going to wish you were dead.”
When the obsessively individualistic Ron tells us that meditation does nothing for him, there’s reason to believe him. But then, the important thing is that he’s tried it. Even if he didn’t get anything out of it. The enthusiastic and impulsive (and often wrong) Chris agrees: Ron’s willingness to try meditation (even if he tells us that he hasn’t tried it) is impressive. He assures Ron that his plum-job security will be extended.
Later — there are plenty more meditation jokes in the episode, by the way, and other storylines, too — Ron does revisit meditation, even bringing it into the workplace… but just as a cover for work avoidance.
So maybe Ron Swanson and meditation weren’t a natural pair. Again: The important thing is that he tried it — even if he didn’t get anything out of it.
And even if he really did.
* Note: Yes, some of that ironic stuff Ron is saying about meditation, like about having a blank mind, etc, isn’t quite representative of many meditation experiences, not least Buddhist meditation experiences. And so it could be said that some of the jokes, which are about the fact that Ron actually was meditating, when he thinks he wasn’t, don’t totally work. But then, it’s Nick Offerman delivering the jokes, so it all balances out.