Now I have a health reason with the virus for keeping clean and I would have to admit – as a scruffy, leftist Englishman – that I actually appreciate feeling cleaner. I had been someone to point at the weird associations between cleanliness and right-wing attitudes, showed up in a few psychology experiments, and to struggle living with people from cleaner cultures than my own. Again it has taken a crisis for me to find a more wholesome perception and, in true Buddhist fashion, to turn this around.
Clean, it seems, can feel rather refined in a good way, raising up the mind.
I had noticed already the steadying effect on the mind of going through some of my more refined monk’s duties, washing the alms-bowl, for example. Now, through the regular hand-washing and domestic cleaning I can also find myself thinking of the soldier cleaning his boots before the battle, preparing for the worst, hoping for the best.
My Mum tells me the whole family used to join in preparing her father for his military parades in the ‘Home Guard’ during the Second World War. She, aged only six years old, used to polish his boots and the brass buttons on his coat. They were all very proud of him. At night they would all snuggle under his big thick coat to keep warm. This is like the use of the monks robe which is also worn proudly one moment and used as a bed-sheet the next. At times of crisis resourcefulness is often an antidote to pride or attachment. We can be proud and strong, dignified, without taking on the vulnerability of conceit. And these can become qualities of the community of which we are a part, not just a personal thing. It can help us all keep our spirits up in a time of crisis.
I offer this for your reflection