dijous, de desembre 30, 2004

Cleaning, a needful thing (English)

Why is it that so many people loathe cleaning. I find it to be a very meditative and internally cleansing activity. It could very well be the Pennsylvania German in me, with it's willfulness about arranging the home and the world, or perhaps it's the Welshman in me, for whom a modicum of anal retention about one's dwelling place is as natural as breathing, and therefore little to no thought is necessary to effect it. One thing I can say about both Wales and Germany us the general cleanliness of both countries. Graffiti is hardly present in either place, nor is general rubbish along the roads. People keep their homes neat and tidy, and where dross and debris are necessary parts of life, it is customary to secret them behind fences lined with plastic mesh. There is something in the wild American spirit that generally, through much of the country, in particular the rural areas, but not necessarily, permits a kind of decadence, not due to poverty, rather due to dereliction and sloth which result in utter careless abandon of the land and the towns and homes.

There are exceptions, places like San Diego or Pennsylvania German land. Still so much of the country I have seen so far relegates order and a sense or savoir-faire in regards to home maintenance to the wealthy classes. I adore New Orleans, but it really is like a third world country in many ways. My own home-city, Schenectady, witnesses a stark divide between the classes on the basis of home maintenance. I can think of no decent middle-class or higher class of person here who relegates their unwanted interior furnishings to the front porch. This appears to be the explicit purchase of the once so-called working or poor classes. There seems to be little to divided people in this regard among ethnic or color lines either, except where minorties are part and parcel of the class which entertains such behaviors.

I bring this up since today I set about the task of ordering and cleaning my domicile for the arrival of Tom, and the subsequent arrival of others to celebrate the Christian and calendar New Year. I began my work at around 10 AM, and it consisted of arranging various objects which had lost their way in the days since I had returned from Pennsylvania. Some were Christmas gifts, others were things needful at moments that I had neglected to put in their proper places. By 1PM my work was done, and I had cleaned and arranged various and sundry things in six rooms. The lion's share of my work was done in the bathroom and in laboring time on the floors, wet-swiffering them to bring back the shine. I also polished the dining room table and did two loads of laundry and ran the dish-washer. I also took out the trash and recycling, and even took my pretty car out of the garage and let it run for a few minutes. In three short hours I had regulated the minor flotsam and jetsam of life and cleaned and scoured nearly every surface in the house. It was hardly labor intensive, and it was certainly worth it. Moreover, the last time I did it was more than a week and a half ago.

A person might be tempted to ask how I, as a self-proclaimed hedonist, could be worried about dust and grime, disorder and general wretchedness. I, on the other hand, would counter by saying that to fulfill my Hedonistic intentions, I must do it. I feel the happiest when I am in a clean and beautiful place. I find my home very comfortable because I surround myself with beautiful things, at least I find them beautiful. I believe that basically people are happiest when surrounded by pretty things in pretty places. Some may argue with me on that point, and while I am not positing that happiness is solely to be found amid pretty objects, I do believe that they can go a long way to making one feeling better about the world. I feel certain now after more than a decade of having travelled there various times, that people in France are happier than people in America in part because in general there are surrounded by beautiful, and old, things.

On the other hand, people who live in simple concrete block subsidized housing, whether here or there, are less happy. What is worse for the American block-dwellers is that their prison-like homes are plunked sqaurely in the middle of blighted cities. Interestingly, France has little to no urban blight, at least not in the cities proper. They have poor and destitute, but have relegated them to the fringes of the city. French people to whom I have spoken admit their solution is not the best, but point out that at least they're trying to make things better, and maintain liveable cities. Having seen both the insides of HLM (Habitations à loyer modéré - subsidized housing) and the insides of low-rent or subsidized housing in both countries, I know the one in which I would rather be poor.

Clearly there is no simple answer, but the move to a modicum of order in ones personal life, and dare I say, pride, is a beginning...

And, I know that I enjoy sipping my $60 bourbon in a well-appointed and tidy room, more than in a slovenly hole :)