Do you find this image at all unsettling?
I do, but I’m not sure why.
Mr. Clean was purportedly modeled after a real U.S. Navy sailor from Florida (hence the tan), although some people think he’s a genie because of his earring. I think he bares a mild resemblance to the Green Giant, myself.
As my little cleaning adventure commences (I’m emphasizing little, here), I’m at once reading not one, but two, books on the subject.
Both are memoirs.
One is called, Other People’s Dirt, A Housecleaner’s Curious Adventures, by Louise Rafkin. She’s a professional cleaner with a Master’s degree in Comparative Literature and the mind of an archaeologist. Piecing together clues from the stuff people leave around, she discerns the secret lives of her clients: Who’s an alcoholic, a binge eater, an unlikely spiritualist, etc.
Details magazine compares her writing to that of David Sedaris because she’s a social observer whose weird essays reveal something meaningful about our values, our society and ourselves. Plus, she’s funny.
In fact, I have to admit I bought the book largely because of the excerpt printed on the back:
“My closest claim to fame is that I once heard Barbra Streisand’s voice on an answering machine at the precise moment I had both hands in the toilet.”
Sounded interesting to me.
Also, she goes on a research trip to Japan to stay at a cleaning ashram. That’s right. It’s a community called Ittoen in Kyoto, Japan, whose members devote their lives to the principles of non-attachment and humble service.
In the late 1800’s, its founder, Tenko-san, lived the life of a wandering mendicant, mopping and scrubbing other people’s floors and privies. For him, this was a means to enlightenment.
The second book takes the subject of cleaning to a whole different level. It’s called, The Journey Home, an Autobiography of an American Swami, by Radhanath Swami. I was sent a galley proof by the publisher because Radhanath Swami will be visiting Maui next week on a book tour, and I was asked to introduce him.
It’s an extraordinary story of a young man who finds himself in India in search of the ultimate Truth, receives inspiration from a host of spiritual luminaries, including Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama, and ultimately surrenders himself in service to his guru, A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami, and to God, known to him as Sri Krishna.
It’s definitely a book about cleaning.
Actually, it’s a book about devotion, with cleansing the heart being its natural byproduct, but to my mind, any inner-housekeeper would find inspiration in it. Whatever your religious particulars, the book reads like a spiritual adventure.
What I got from both memoirs is that cleaning –both inner and outer—is best done as a regular practice, a little every day.
While going on an intensive spiritual retreat can be a very good way to refocus one’s attention –and, likewise, clearing one’s clutter as a focused, eight-week project may be similarly beneficial—one’s peace of mind will depend on what happens afterwards.
A simple daily ritual of both mindful house-cleansing, inspired by Tenko-san, and mindful heart-cleansing, like that of Radhanath Swami, should do the trick.
All I need is a bucket, a broom and my beads. Hare Krishna.
You can follow me on Twitter (@TheYogaofLiving) to see how it’s going or just to say hello. And, if you’re wondering, in 1962 Mr. Clean was given the first name, “Veritably.”