I Plank, Therefore I Am

File:PlankingTheTajMahal.jpg

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If you don’t know what planking is, it’s where you have somebody take a picture of you lying, typically face down, rigid as a board, in an unexpected place. You then post it on the Internet. In the above photo, for example, you see three people planking on pavement before the Taj Mahal.

The Daily Beast today has a whole gallery of images of people planking, and they’re hilarious (see here).

But planking also has a dark side (everything does, it seems). At least one person has died engaging in extreme planking, and one has been critically injured (no, I’m not joking). These disturbing tidbits come from Brian Ries (also at the Daily Beast):

Acton Beale, 20, fell off a six-story balcony and died while attempting an extreme plank—balancing on a 5-centimeter wide railing. Another 20-year-old is in a coma after attempting to plank a speeding car.

These two guys sound like odds-on favorites for Darwin Awards this year. But, in general, isn’t planking a wonderfully Dionysian thing to do?!

Article - Planking

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One thing brilliant about this fad is how it puts on display the human capacity for irony. Human beings, of all creatures on earth, can metacognize and stand outside of, not just their environments, but even themselves, turning their very bodies into objects for ironic contemplation. Planking is an (almost) perfect representation of the divided self; the separation of mind from body. It’s the self that can stand (or plank) alongside itself, contemplating its own weirdness in contingent settings; its own absurdity. Planking is a reminder of why Rene Descartes will never be completely dismissed: neuroscience not withstanding, dualism is always poised (or planked) for a come back.

And I assume the atheist planker will appear shortly (sneaking a plank on eucharist table and pew). Planking, after all, sounds a lot like pranking.

So, of course, there must be an anti-corporate planker anon (somebody from Greenpeace who planks an ARCO sign).

And what better way to deflate an austere artist, boss, businessman, banker, religious figure, or politician than to simply plank before them? Planking is a form of readily removable but poignant graffiti, and curiously artistic at the same time. It’s a Dadaist way of saying, “Come off it! I deconstruct your seriousness and self-importance!”

Jesus kind of extreme planked Pontius Pilate. 

And Albert Camus, I am sure, would love planking. (I’m picturing him right now as Sisyphus planking a boulder.)

There’s also something yoga-ish about it: a prone pose you might do toward the conclusion of a yoga class session. (Maybe a bit hard on the nose, though.)

File:Playing The Lying Down Game at the geohash.jpg 

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Image Source Credit: Wikipedia Commons (for the three plankers at the Taj Mahal and the planking boy in a field; and The Daily Beast for the montage).

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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