A Zen proverb says, “After Enlightenment, the laundry.” So, as I was trying to resume my blog this week, after travel, after a lovely family encounter, after reading, after being virtual witness to the headlines of acclaim, of narcissism and of tragedy, I found I could not muse with enough clarity to articulate something “spiritual,” something wise, even something true. I had admit that before I could sit down at the computer to find my voice, I needed to take care of business, the first item of which was the laundry.
When I compare my chores of laundry doing with most of the rest of the world, there is nothing onerous about them at all. I have a washing machine with dials that adjusts for speed, size of load and temperature. No water carrying, no beating with a stick, no scrubbing necessary. Adjacent to it, I have a dryer, again with capability for adjustment. I have detergent, and fabric softener, electricity, water that fills the tank, and air and heat that blow the wet wash as dry as I need. and as one who is of the designation Empty Nester, even then I only do laundry for half the nest. So where does the Spirit inhabit This Which Must be Done?
I found once again this week that engaging the laundry invited me to settle into a context, a framework, where I could slow down my brain and my body to focus on the “one thing necessary” while I worked. Saints of many tradition and eras have known this. Jean-Pierre De Caussade in the 18th Century in the book of his musings wrote:
To live by faith, then, is to live in joy, confidence, certainty and trust in all there is to do and suffer each moment as ordained by God. (22, The Sacrament of the Present Moment).
So matching socks (if they both can be found!), hanging shirts, folding towels can all be experienced as a place where the Holy lives, if I am paying attention. It can call me to be at peace, it can prod me to patience, it compels me to faithfulness to myself and my nest from which I offer hospitality. And while I am engaged in such a simple exercise, I am prodded to pray for those for whom the issue of cleanliness and laundry are elusive at best, sometimes absent altogether. As we know more and more about people being displaced from homelands, fleeing for their lives, perhaps finding landfall, but with no sure welcome in the country in which they have landed, I am prompted to seek more concrete ways to express the compassion of Jesus to those who are suffering, from right here in my neighborhood to the impacted shores of Europe and the war and disease ravaged land masses of Africa. And while stacking the T-shirts, I can listen for the Voice that will tell me, “This is the way; walk in it.”
It isn’t only laundry that needs doing. It is car maintenance, paying bills, emptying the fridge and making a grocery list, answering e-mails, arranging fresh flowers, checking on the neighbor who is not well, wrapping packages to be mailed; all give me opportunity to encounter and share the Light by which the world is Enlightened. Thus, I do not need to dread the quotidian tasks or put them off; sometimes they are the first lines of where the Spirit comes to me with Truth and Grace.
And enlightenment may come, or seem not to, and then there is the reality that those tasks much be done again, tomorrow and the next day. However, it is the moment by moment awareness that there is nothing that can separate us from the Love of God, and that there is nothing that we can/should/or will do that is not a window through which the Holy shines that energizes and empowers us in our perserverence. On to the new day, the new week, the new season in the Light of the Spirit!