The dishwasher

I read an interesting quote last week:

“The way you do anything, is the way you do everything.”

On one level it seems a little harsh; we can’t be perfect all the time… But looked at another way it’s an invitation to find meaning in the mundane.

Historically, I have sought to rush through as many daily tasks as possible. Always seeking ‘a solid roster of achievement’; hoping for pleasure in the sheer volume of tasks completed.

But there’s a good insight from endurance sports: sometimes doing something fractionally less energetically costs you little on time, but everything in energy depletion.

So, rather than rushing through packing and unpacking my old friend the dishwasher – why not savour the daily puzzle of getting as much as possible in?

Why not admire the gleam and sparkle of every item coming out, and enjoy placing them a little more carefully in their rightful place?

It turns out the cost in time is almost identical, but the cost in ‘huff and puff’ is much much less. And remarkably a routine task becomes a thing to notice and pay attention to; five minutes of being alive, not dead set on just getting it done.

It’s the same with brushing my teeth, putting away clothes and more. Taking a moment longer and doing it with a fraction more care brings more pleasure than rattling off task after task.

Maybe the dashing jockey on my screensaver is learning to enjoy the ride.

Pax Romana

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Spending time with friends at New Year, a penny dropped – I do like my peace and quiet. I can do ‘gregarious’ in bursts. But in the main I’d rather be a respectful distance from folk having a good time. Ideally in the next room.

Perhaps, with the passage of years, I’m more interested in knowledge than conversation? The Platonic ideal of ‘justified true belief‘ appeals far more than the garrulous Socratic Method – especially when Google and Wikipedia are such reliable and immediate alternate sources.

I’m far more up for the first two legs of the Reithian ideal of inform, educate and entertain – although one excellent rediscovery this New Year’s has been a tall, well iced Gin and Tonic which puts me far more in the mood for the latter.

And perhaps this is the crux of it. As Russell Crowe famously said to a baying crowd in Gladiator: “Are you not entertained?” I recognise a duty to engage and take part, but after a few thrusts and parries, a lap or two around the sociability track and a couple of good conversational gambits – I’m done.

More booze and I’m nodding off, more chat and I’m reaching for the iPhone for facts and data… And so to the kitchen for my reliable friend the dishwasher. A pot, porcelain and pan-based puzzle of stacking and arrangement, which doesn’t answer back – peace at last.

A Much Loved Friend

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A much loved friend
Has come to the end
The dishwasher, tired
Has finally expired
I’m left bereft
And swabbing mop handed
The hours I’ve spent
Hunched and bent
Playing messy chess
With cups, plates and dishes
But now it stands idly
Lights out and silent
It shared my pain
But could no longer drain
A decade of suds
Cut off at the mains.

We take for granted labour-saving devices. But you sure notice them when they’re not there. It has only been bust for a day, but the dishwasher is sorely missed. According to a book the missus is reading, it takes less than a second today to earn an hour’s worth of artificial light. In the 1950s it took three seconds. In 2000 BC it took 9 months – the only oil was olive.

Our modern lives are remarkably free of fetching, carrying, scrubbing and cleaning – which has come to pass in less than a lifetime. As I don rubber gloves and squirt washing up liquid, I am briefly (I hope) reacquainted with the drudgery of pot washing.

I will miss my reliable old friend and the three dimensional chess which was packing a family’s pots, pans and dishes into its slightly too small space. A flashy new one should arrive in a week – fingers crossed – but this one has earned its place in white goods heaven.