Cleanliness is next to godliness.
What exactly does it mean? Who came up with this strange statement that looks like it brooks no disagreement?
I only know it makes a whole generation -mine- feel rather guilty. A convent education with Moral Science, frequent lectures on the virtue of unselfishness, evening prayer and aratis ensured a vague understanding of God and godliness. Grandmothers and mother all added a clearer understanding of cleanliness through the mandatory dusting ( oh, what a bore it was!), removing footwear outside, washing feet every time you came in from outdoors,and scrubbing hands fiercely before meals.
Now, with meals often in restaurants, spoons and forks involved, complicatedly laced footwear that requires a chair and both hands and a lost battle with dust in these arid surroundings, I find solace in this little poem by Rose Milligan that ends like this –
Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.
Gods and godliness has become more confusing than ever. Why this disparity and untouchability in our society, why are sincere devotees not spared the worst kind of tribulations? Wasn’t that the carrot held out for us to be Good, that we would be spared?
So, some cleanliness,yes. Because I like to live in clean surroundings. Clean food,too. But no moral values attached please. And no cleaning from morning to night, endlessly, mindlessly.