Kleshas and Tanhas

ethics morals faiths ideals

“Dishes thou art, to dishes returnest”

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There ain’t never been a more patriotic act for volunteers than dishwashing. The whole history of dish washing is simple and easy for anyone and everyone to comprehend. From the Dawn of time, cavemen ate off of bone plates and drank from seashells. Apparently, legend has it, there were no recycling bins; the term “renewable resource” wasn’t the buzzword it is now. There were no bone or shell recycling plants yet for little Jimmy Grotto to partake in school-wide recycling challenges. And so, the origin of dishwashing came about from the lack environmental awareness of our monkey-ancestors.

               To this day, the art of dishwashing has been passed from some of the field’s greatest. Jesus Christ is most notable; the Bible botched the account of whose feet, or rather what chalice, he was washing that one Passover night. (You can’t say that Jesus didn’t help clean up after the Sadr Supper; it wasn’t kosher to eat and run.) Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto was really a call for the laborers to become more in touch with their roots, that is, dishwashing. Back in the day, supply and demand had obviously not existed, and there was no need for clean dishes. But during the second week of Genesis’ creation story, Adam had to address a more serious issue than original sin; the huge stack of dishes on their kitchen sink.

In his Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffet must’ve had quite a few empty glasses to clean up after that extravaganza. We can only infer that this lyrical genius was pointing to something greater in his songs. That is, the consequences of drinking out of glassware meant that glasses needed to be cleaned. In a not so similar way, Ghandi was known for his fasting. However, this did not mean he was exempt from cleaning up after others if not himself. Taoism’s unknown founder was a dishwasher. And on that note, anyone who has ever eaten a meal at some point in their life has encountered the dish dilemma: Do I clean these dishes or do I slip out the back and run?

The universality of this most sacred (in terms of health) tradition is something to marvel at. In partaking in this elementary act, one gains powerful insight to the greater cosmos of dishwashers. So when I was asked to deviate from my usual service by my superiors to do kitchen duty, I answered the call. Did I know what I was getting into? I sure as hell did! Dishwashing, if it has not been built up already, is the one act that I can string through my past, present, and most-hopefully future acts of service. There’s something rejuvenating about sticking your hands in scalding hot water for the greater glory of sanitization.

And by the way, there’s a reason why there are only men mentioned as some of the mythic heroes of dishwashing. At some point in time, the world became skewed. Somehow, the world’s reflection of itself portrays women performing women work. Today, in a very sexist manner, women are stereotyped as members of Occupy Kitchen. I would like to make a personal testimony that I have bled over dishwashing (quite literally) and find the task to be daunting for the rookies of the trade, male or female.[i] After the first few encounters, one can quickly calculate how many hours x a stack standing at y height will take with z washers.

So there was no surprise on my side when I walked into Mercy Neighborhood Ministries’ kitchen and stared down about an hour’s worth of dishwashing. Ms. Antoinette quickly recognized that I was no newbie when it came to dishwashing. Lessons on how to use an industrial-sized dishwasher are for suckers. By the end of it all, I had those dishes shining like the high-end dishes at the fine dining restaurant I work at back home. It’s inevitable. It’s one’s duty. “Do your dharma” is commonly used phrase in Eastern religions. It means “do your duty.” Do your dishes.

[i] The level of stress a volunteer dishwasher takes on in one load of 2.5 hours’ worth of dishes can take its toll. When I was asked with several other volunteers to do evening dishes in addition to morning dishes, the sight wasn’t pretty. About 30 minutes in, we found ourselves dazed in a mirage of soap n’ bubbles as if we were taking on some task like crossing the Nairobi Desert. In a heroic, maybe more so sporadic, attempt to cheer up one of my fellow volunteers in our grudging work, I blindly grabbed a wet knife fresh from the dishwasher machine. My plan was to emphatically stab the knife into the rubber carton that the cutlery was cleansed in as I shouted a “this is Sparta” line. Let’s just say in this not-so-bright moment, chaos got the better of me as the oddly-shaped cheese knife slid up out of my grip, and through my pinky finger. No cutlery was harmed in this scene. No blood was spilt either, so all health freaks, calm down. (We even ran that batch of silverware back through the washer.)

 

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Written by Jack Viere

March 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm

One Response

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  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this piece. Such a great idea: dishwashing as an equalizer. Never really thought too much about that when I was cleaning up from dinner. Plus, you can never go wrong with allusions to notable people as well as a touch of humor. I laughed out loud at the make-shift “FOR SPARTA” scene. Good for you, taking the blog in a much more personal and humane direction.

    Aly

    March 22, 2012 at 6:32 pm


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