Welcome to meditation, Liz!
Liz Lemon, one of pop-culture's great curmudgeons, has taken up the practice. What does it mean? Rod Meade Sperry explores the question.
Last night, on NBC’s 30 Rock, Liz Lemon started meditating. Lemon is of course the character portrayed by Tina Fey, who plays what we sort of imagine is a version of herself, in a workplace that we sort of imagine is a version of the Saturday Night Live set. Lemon is smart, cantankerous, wordy, nerdy, cynical. Maybe even slightly nebbishy, if that’s possible. Point is: she’s on the opposite side of New Agey, and not someone we’ve been led to believe could ever be interested in meditation. (Or, as my cablebox’s TV listings described it, Liz’s “new hobby.”)
Now, I’m not going to critique 30 Rock’s comedy writing, or tonight’s various meditation jokes; they’re often so highly constructed that there’d be no point in trying. (Okay, one thing I will say is that the writing seems to be veering more and more into Police Squad! or Airplane! territory as it goes on, and I like it.) But as for that particular storyline—there is more to the show than just that one meditation thread—I do think it’s notable. Does Liz become a meditator? Well… yes, that would be cool, wouldn’t it? And maybe she does.
But first: just why does Liz Lemon get the meditation bug? Well, as tonight’s episode (“The Shower Principle”) opens, she realizes she’s in the same place as a year ago, even asking aloud: “Am I just in a permanent rut?”
I wouldn’t say “permanent,” but yes, she’s in a rut. She’d proudly announced herself as a fledgling meditator a year ago, and now, here she is: same shit, different year. No, Liz decides: “This year’s gonna be different.” She’s gonna see this meditation thing through.
And though boss/work-husband Jack (Alec Baldwin) does tease her for it, Lemon persists, which leads us to see a couple of depictions of meditation—or imaginings of what a meditative state is like—as only 30 Rock would do them. (These are funny, in context—and worth seeing, but near-impossible to describe here.) In one sequence, we see Liz even reaches a “state of total enlightenment” …wherein she realizes, of course, that meditation is a waste of time.
But that realization? Surprise: It itself is not so real. In fact, Liz ends up defendingmeditation, and her intentions to do it, to Jack. (Jack, we’ll later see, even proves adept at meditation—though in his own way.)
At the episode’s :25 mark, though, Liz does lose her confidence. “Nothing ever changes,” she declares, and as the show begins to winds down, it looks like Liz’s sitting days are over. Her deluxe “Pi”-style bench—“my meditation stool,” she calls it—even ends up in a Dumpster.
Does she fish it out? SPOILER ALERT: She does. And yes, that is pretty cool. (Keep sitting, Liz!)
Cooler, though, is that a show like 30 Rock—that is: a big-deal network sitcom, and arguably one for the ages —depicted meditation as it did: as something worth doing. Something worth defending and encouraging others to do. Something maybe worth being teased about a little. That’s cool, you see, because meditation really is all those things. And we meditators don’t mind being teased; don’t think that we don’t know the whole thing looks weird. One thing you learn doing this practice? You gotta have a sense of humor.
So thanks, Liz Lemon, for keeping in mind that while meditation may be funny, that doesn’t make it a joke.
And good luck with your meditation practice. You may find it really helpful. It might even help you out of that permanent rut.