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washingwindowsCleaning. It’s the upkeep side of life. It’s the irritating drudgery that’s always following us with broom in hand. Cleaning is the voracious vacuum that’s never satisfied, the frantic feather duster that spews more dust than it captures, and the less than palatable reality that things don’t clean themselves. The imagery is one of a collection of plastic buckets, dripping mops, obnoxiously scented cleaning supplies, deteriorating sponges of assorted colors, latex gloves, and sweat. Who has time to clean? Much less, who wants to clean?

The definition of cleaning in the Encarta Dictionary reads “the activity of making things clean, usually in a domestic or commercial environment.” Talk about flat. Sadly, cleaning tends to carry a negative connotation to it. It’s just one of those things that we tend to grimace about when we’ve got to do it, or even think about doing it. It’s not on our top ten list of the most engaging things to do. There’s an old African Proverb that says, “When making a fire, people like to join you, when cleaning the ashes, you are often alone.” There are two sides to most of life; doing something and then cleaning up after we’ve done it. Most of us like the first part of that, but not the second because that involves cleaning.

Cleaning seems oddly self-defeating as well. We clean things knowing full well that we’re going to have to clean again. It’s not like there’s anything of real permanence to what we’re doing. Cleaning is not an effort that we can complete and feel some sustaining pride in what we’ve done because what we’ve done we’re going to have to do all over again in just the same way we just did it. There is no conclusion to the process of cleaning. We never come to a point where it’s done forever and ever.

If you think about it further, cleaning as an action is not about obtaining something. It has nothing to do with the further acquisition of anything, nor does it have anything to do with the improvement or advancement of something. Cleaning adds nothing to our lives except cleanliness. In terms of resources or assets or improvements, it gains us none at all.

Rather, cleaning is energy and time that we have to put into maintaining what we already have, which adds absolutely nothing to what we already have. Cleaning, in and of itself, is an acknowledgement that nothing’s permanent and that everything requires maintenance. The acquisition of something doesn’t insure the continuation of that thing. Cleaning clearly lets us know that. We can buy it, barter it, order it, build it, swap it, charge it, win it, and even steal it, but we’re going to have to clean it. Such is the dusty and dirty reality of life.


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