Friday, January 22, 2010

Housecleaning and torture: a repost

It's funny to think about it, but my "Eureka!" moment concerning torture involved, well, a vacuum (though not one sharing that brand name).

The post below comes from the days when I was still anonymous on my blog (hence the "Cardigan" moniker). The principles, however, remain the same:

The Cardigan family had some out of town extended family company visiting this weekend. If this were a different sort of blog, what follows would be a description of the event the family came in to town for, complete with pictures of the Cardigans surrounded by various family and friends.

Since this isn't that sort of blog, though, I thought I'd share with you some of the thoughts that occurred to me as I was vacuuming on Friday afternoon. [...]

At this point, as I rounded the corner of the living room and began to vacuum the bedroom hallway, I was struck by a sudden, horrifying thought: what, exactly, does "clean" mean?

Clearly it means more than the absence of dirt, or I wouldn't have been so committed to the clutter-removal stage of company preparation. But equally clearly, people can, and do, define "clean" differently, so at the deeply subjective level "clean" can mean different things to different people at different times and places. So, how do I know if I'm really "cleaning?" Is clutter-removal necessary? Is scrubbing the kitchen sink necessary?

Is this vacuuming even necessary?

I switched off the vacuum, but only to move the plug to a different outlet so I could reach the children's rooms. Logically, I knew there had to be a reason why I was doing what I was doing, and after a bit more rumination, I found it.

The principle, I thought, is not that I clean for my guests. The principle is that I'm committed to the ideals of good hospitality. If my focus is on good hospitality, then the exact definition of the word "clean" becomes supremely unimportant; even if my guests are the sort of people who dust their light fixtures daily (they weren't) it doesn't be come necessary to clean as they would; it is only necessary for me to clean as I would, when I'm having guests, in order to maximize their comfort and enjoyment of the time we spend together.

And suddenly, I found myself understanding exactly what Mark Shea has been saying all this time about torture....
Read the whole post here.

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