Taking an Interest in the Washing Up

Why do we not take more interest in the washing-up? It is a regular daily activity, and occupies some time. Purely from a pragmatic perspective, it would be of benefit to us if it was interesting, as we would have a pleasant interlude three times a day or more. Taking interest is a legitimate pleasure, and less harmful than indulging in alcohol, or scrolling down Youtube.

Further, from the Gurdjieff perspective, this interest, if we can find it, is a valuable tool for self-remembering, primarily because to “take an interest” is to control the attention of the emotional part of the centres. We are, thus, awakening higher parts of centres.

In addition, by taking an interest in the washing-up we will, by virtue of that very effort, not be identifying with turning thoughts and negative emotions. That, then, results in decreasing the constant leaking of energy.

Let us think about it. We wash-up because we wish to keep our utensils, food and drink vessels, and pieces of cutlery clean, and available for future use. There are good reasons for this: it would be expensive to forever be throwing out and replacing them. Further, some of these items are valuable to us for personal reasons: e.g. a mug we purchased somewhere we cherish, an item which belonged to a friend, or which has been in the family for a long time, or reminds us of someone. It may be a piece which is particularly useful, beautiful, and scarce; perhaps even irreplaceable. Then, we take a legitimate pride in seeing something sparkle after we have cleaned it. Cleanliness and order, and reducing waste in the household are good in themselves.

We could value washing-up as ancillary to the activities of eating and drinking: the receipt of the first being-food. If they were not being-foods, they would simply be fuels. Keeping our kitchen tidy and spotless need not be unrelated to our respect for food: a cosmic substance we share in.

On Sunday 14 August 1988, at the Weekend Work, Mr Adie said:

I must take interest. … Attention and interest go together. … interest comes after the attention. If I give attention, I can find interest. How can I cook up interest if I’m not taking part? I have to take part. I have to remain in order to have interest. I have to remain. It’s not automatic. I have to maintain my interest, direct my attention.

Suppose you were having a meal and you start off with interest, but you don’t like the food. What happens to your interest? It isn’t maintained, is it? And so we are here, where there’s a different kind of a meal. And I need to attend, if I don’t, I can’t have interest. As I am, my interest depends on my personality. … This all cloaks me, fogs me, cuts me off. That’s all the identification and the considering. I have to try and sit aside from that. And then, if I could, I could be interested, because there’s lot I don’t know. And there’s the work, and it’s a work to be shared. It’s worthy of interest.

Our interest depends upon likes, just as with the food. For us, it’s just a question of luck. But is something where I even have some choice. It’s a funny thing. I have choice whether to be interested or not.

Then, for “interest” it is not necessary to agree. I can have interest and disagree. I can be very interested indeed. I notice things that don’t correspond. You have to be open, you have to be freer to direct your attention and sort of escape from the sort of chain mail of personality.

… Another thing is that interest is something that practically seeks to be shared. I share interest. I have so many interests. Common interest, that’s a big thing. An interest which is shared by no one but myself is rather a lonely affair. Being doesn’t depend on such selectivity, it’s free. Positive, negative, it’s the interest of conscious being. Interest in processes. Why it’s working, why it’s not working. Who’s sharing it, who’s not sharing it? Why is it shared, why is it not? It’s all very interesting.

He was speaking generally, but we can apply it to our specific example of the washing-up. People who accept this task find that it is transformed from a chore into a human activity. Sounds of the activity are pleasing: the clatter of cutlery, the swish of brushing, the rush of water filling the sink and later rinsing over plates, placing what has to be cleaned on the sideboard. There are some sounds which we take for granted but when attended to, are musical. Then there is the way that the volume of these sounds depends on my actions and the nature of the items and the activity. What do we dry and what do we leave to drain? How do we handle the items as we dry them? Do we have any respect for these instruments, and for the intelligence and skill which into making them.

There is the sensation of the water, its temperature and its texture, which changes over the course of the work, especially if oil has been used in the cooking. There is also the way we do it: what do we wash first and why? What do we use to wash and why? When we put items away, where do we put them and why? Would there be any advantaged in reconsidering where things go? I heard that when Mrs Staveley put a plate back in its stack, she always placed the one she had just used at the bottom, so as to rotate the use of them. That is a good task to take, if one wants a task, but I do not see it as an absolute good.

What is my state as I do the washing-up? What is my posture? My breathing? Is my mouth dry, moist, or where? Is there tension somewhere? How am I standing?

There is much more to say, but I will close on one almost arbitrary note. Personally, I never use a dishwasher, but they might be helpful at a large event. The main reasons I do not like them is that they distance us from the job.

The illustration shows four women washing-up together. To perform this humble and useful task with others adds another dimension to what I have written above.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *