Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


Clean, Well Lit Quarters

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

New Year's Day, January 1, 2009



This essay, Clean, Well Lit Quarters, is the companion piece to It is the second in a group or six written on New Year's Day:
  1. Orion
  2. Clean, Well Lit Quarters
  3. External Tank
  4. The Magical Breakfast Burrito Assembly Line II
  5. As Your Natural Self-Expression
  6. Werner's Work In Academia
in that order.

I am indebted to Paul Roth who inspired this conversation.




I like the reflection of the sunlight when it streams through the window and shines on the brightly waxed floor. I especially like it when the window panes are clean and clear. It reminds me they were once dusty and streaked ... and now they're clean. I enjoy menial tasks like cleaning windows. I like any task when there's a noticeable before  and after, simple tasks which produce dramatic results. If you're unwilling to take on cleaning a bathroom and toilet with nothing other than Q-tips  and a tootbrush, you'll never be Zen master candidate material.

If towels aren't hanging straight in the bathroom, I like to straighten them. A towel dries as long as it's  dry, so its angle doesn't effect its dry-ability. Nonetheless a towel should be straight. Neither should towels have folds when they're hung unless they're folded intentionally. It's contrary to the purpose of a towel if it's hung sloppily. A towel is for drying, usually because something's been cleaned. It serves no use for a towel to add to disorder. That's contrary to its raison d'etre. It defeats its purpose.

I like making my bed with sheets tucked under in square corners. I enjoy getting the corners just so. The sheets themselves should be pulled tight  so they're smooth - no wrinkles. I prefer my blanket rolled at the end of the bed. That's a visual assertion  which gives my bed utility, functionality. Secondarily, a bed is decorative furniture  for me. Primarily it's utile. I like making my bed in the morning. It's a daily prep  ritual which closes and completes the night before. Making my bed is an assertive start to the new day.

It's not complete for me when I've washed dishes after a meal until I've washed the sink and its surrounding countertop space as well. In any given collection of household  chores, there's none that speaks quite as directly to my consciousness ie to my being conscious, as washing dishes. Whether dishwashing is done by a dishwashing machine or whether dishes are individually washed by hand (my preference), afterwards the sink and surrounding countertop space should also be washed. I like to wash and dry the kitchen sink and surrounding countertop space just as meticulously (if not more) as I washed the dishes in it.

Clearly this leaves kitchenware in a state ready to be used again for another meal with new people's mouths. But that's not why being conscious goeswith  washing dishes (as Alan Watts may have said). Tasks like washing dishes, making a bed, hanging towels, cleaning the floor and windows are an opportunity to bringing who you are  to bear on the space. They're not simply opportunities to be impeccable. They're not simply opportunities to do work based on satisfaction  rather than on rewards. They're opportunities to put your Self  into the space. They're valuable occasions to intentionally bring who you are into the real  world.

Given many diverse conjectures as to the true nature of the real world  as a choice of many possible interpetations  (for many, a moving target at best), menial cleaning chores, dishwashing in particular, is a fine way to start touching the surfaces  of what's real. It makes good sense. It makes good Zen.



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