Monday, April 14, 2014
The Scale of Our Days
My Mondays usually look much the same. I wake, and after ingesting my coffee, I walk the dog. I come back, and read the paper, and then I look to the debris field that the house has become over the weekend. Two teen boys at home, plus whatever rushing around we've done? It usually means things are a mess.
And so I settle in, and I gently sort the chaos into a semblance of order. The pile of dishes in the sink slowly disappears. Counters and tabletops are cleaned, and bits of paper that do not belong where they have been placed are either recycled or moved to a more logical location.
It's not a particularly impressive or unusual morning, to be honest. I am not building a reputation. I am not wowing the world with the wonder that is me. I am not shaking the foundations of injustice with the power of my prophetic witness.
I'm sweeping the kitchen floor.
Again, to be utterly honest, I like sweeping the kitchen floor. There, on the floor, lies the detritus of several days in the life of our little home. A bit of cereal here, by a clot of dirt from the garden. A niblet of dry dogfood there. I take the broom, and I sweep those leavings into a little pile, which is then neatly ingested by our dust buster.
It is a satisfying thing.
Then, I mop it.
As I mop, the stains of the days come up off of the tiles. It is pleasurable, simple, direct and with clear result. The floor was dirty. Now, for a while, it is clean. It has returned to order.
I am like a dream moving through the mind of my sleeping home, sorting its thoughts and memories into order again.
It is not a particularly impressive thing, this cleaned kitchen of mine. But we are not impressive creatures. What am I doing, I think, sometimes, as I clean. Make a name for yourself! Pour your energies into seeking acclaim!
But why? Why would I tear myself to pieces chasing after something that is no more meaningful than the thing I am accomplishing?
I look to the heavens, to the great deep of creation, and I see how little personal glory would matter. If I were the Emperor of the World, with a vast robot army and undisputed command over all of humankind, and all loved me and despaired, I'd still be a speck on a speck in the vastness.
I consider the complexities of the subatomic realm, in which our every movement is irrelevant to the elements and energies that comprise us. What is fame, on that scale? What, even, am I? Less than a breath. A cleaned floor is, on either scale, no more and no less significant than the life of Alexander the Great.
So I look to the scale on which I live, and take pleasure in my kitchen, cleaned and mopped and straightened. What an excellent thing, I think.
And it is.