August 25, 2009
Mopping and sweeping floors goes with the territory when you are a woman at home. The broom is the universal and most primitive of kitchen appliances. No home which is truly lived-in goes a single day without need of sweeping. There is constant precipitation from above.
Sweeping has the reputation of being boring and mindless, but I can’t say that it is. I rarely think about the floors. I look at them, technically speaking. But, I am elsewhere. I think of other things. “Laborare est orare,” said Benedict. To work is to pray. To work manually is also to think. There is some mysterious harmony between the hands and the thoughts, between a mere broom and the highest flights of the imagination.
It’s myth that women have been freed from drudgery by working outside the home. In fact, they have been further chained to drudgery. The woman who never engages physically in homemaking, or does it only in a hurry, leaves uncultivated an integral part of the self and the mind. We are not lessened by these tasks; we are made whole. Women are innately territorial. They crave to put the physical stamp of personality on their homes, which is the projection of their inner horizons. There’s nothing low or animal about this impulse. It is part of our higher nature and so too is any physical task that goes into cultivating it. It protects our separateness and our intellectual integrity.
The physical chore is not a violation of our higher nature, but in accord with it. We can’t both want the freedom and independence of our domestic worlds and yet scorn what it takes to set them apart, to make them physically and spiritually distinct. To make our own meals, sweep our own floors and tend our own gardens is not servile. To depend on others at all times for these things is.
More importantly, sweeping is fascinating, captivating, deeply intriguing. Why try to sell it’s virtues when they so clearly speak for themselves? We are alive. As we sweep, we are alive and our minds are free. It’s impossible to fully articulate how this sense of liberty pervades our lives. The mind – even more than the body – longs to be free.