The meaning of life, as explained in doing laundry


Washerwoman

 

 

Collect the clothes, collect the shirts, collect the underpants, get them to the washing machine, dry them, iron them neatly, and fold them in your wardrobes, and this is what most of us (but quite a few bizarre exceptions may apply in this world) will end up doing for the rest of our lifetime.

Or take it to a broader scope. Imagine a scenario like these. Wake up, take a bath, grab a breakfast, chase a bus, get to work, 9 to 5, go back home, take another bath, have a dinner, complete your assignments, and go to sleep, or what have you, probably on weekends you are either going to focus solely on your family or on your own solitude, and again, this is also what most of us (unless you are going to be artists) will end up doing for the rest of our lifetime. Until we age, or perhaps until we get our coffins done.

Stop! One moment, probably driven by your existentialist mind-questioning riddles, you start, at one point, to feel a complete irrelevance, a striking absence of meaning manifested in life itself: what sounds utterly absurd, either that I continue with such mundane, inside-my-box, well-arranged pre-programmed life, or that I commence abruptly ending my daily life rituals, and adopt something most will never do?

Maybe at one point you start envisioning that you should get someone else to complete all your tasks, or to imagine that a scientist somewhere create a robot (say, a real-life Doraemon) that grants all your wishes and does all your jobs while you go on and enjoy your day, or even that you wish something else – whoever that being is – to finish what you have yet completed. But, as time goes by, you recognize the absurdity in your thoughts yourself, and as it goes deeper, deeper than Freudian icebergs, you also start to feel, again, the tastelessness of life, this time on a more abyssal level. You find yourself barely reconciled to the fact that all of us, no more than mundane creatures struggling to survive in such cold and indifferent universe, willingly or not, have been entitled to all these ‘obligations’: we can’t always get it completely done. That you once believe you could really solve all the world’s problems, but you won’t. That you think the world, one day, will end up in a happily-ever-after, merry-going state, but that is only what your mind wishes for. That you believe universe itself has been fine-tuned for life, but that is only what we personally conjure. Slowly, you are reconciled to the fact, that you can’t find the peace outside; it all must be sought inside.

Heather Havrilevsky wants to explain, beyond the mundane task of dirty laundry, literally and figuratively, the philosophy of life itself. Read the full article on Aeon Magazine.

Excerpt:

Of course, back when you were single and untroubled by laundry, were you actually progressing steadily toward greatness? No. You were trying to decide whether to order the pastrami or the roast beef for lunch, or you were getting your hair highlighted while flipping impatiently through a heavy fashion magazine, or you were neurotically reviewing your drunken conversation with a guy you met the night before for clues as to whether or not he was interested.

But this is the strange gift that laundry brings to our lives. Its sheer mass, its magnitude, its ceaselessness make us aspire to greatness, even as such aspirations become less and less possible. When faced with such awesome power, we want to rise up, to harness the best within ourselves, to create something inspiring and wise! Why, then, must we spray stain remover on this little white smock instead? Why must our brilliant thoughts lie fallow, as we gather armfuls of laundry from hampers? One thing stands between you and the enviable career, the lasting legacy that you so richly deserve: dirty laundry.

Dirty laundry also prevents you from communing intimately with your spouse. Surely you’d be uncorking a nice bottle of red, pouring it into glasses, and having a gentle and rambling talk about your day, if not for the numbing, impenetrable nothingness of piles of clean laundry, those folded stacks crowding you on your own bed, rendering impulsive affectionate gestures or intimate touches an impossibility.

 

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