Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bathing for Joy

One of the 'sleeper hits' in my library is Leonard Koren's Undesigning the Bath. Essentially it is a long meditation on the joys of bathing, and how modern US bathrooms are poorly designed to facilitate enjoyable bathing. Instead, our bathrooms are extremely utilitarian, and designed out of the 'aesthetic'* of the Protestant Work Ethic. In other words: get in, get clean and get out and back to work. Koren particularly draws upon two cultural referents, the Japanese bath, and the Turkish hamam, as examples of pleasurable, joyful bathing. He espouses bathing as a means of returning oneself to the earthy and the pagan, and to a real sense of self.

I thought about this book as I was showering this morning (in a very PWE manner, by the way). I realized that I had at least four different soaps in the shower with me, but no place to put them all. I also realized I wanted more than four soaps, since I like to change which I wash with according to my mood. I will look around hardware stores this weekend and see what I can find to increase the storage in my shower for soaps. (Although whatever I get will need to hang high on the wall, since the shower is one of Manuel's favorite play areas.)

Speaking of Protestantism, I've begun to wonder whether my fundamentalist childhood & youth constitute my 'fisher king' wound. It seems that no matter how far away I get from that form of Christianity, I still can't shake off not only the scars of it's influence, but even the subtle thought patterns that are so deeply engrained in my psyche I don't even realize I have them. I wonder whether I will ever fully be rid of the judgementalism, the bias toward austerity, and the harsh negativity that underlie my daily approach to getting by in the world. I constantly find myself thinking and acting out from a harsh and judgemental place, and doing so so reflexively I don't even notice most of the time. I'm tired of it, but other than increasing my diligence, I don't know what to do. Ironically, 'increasing diligence' is a very Protestant Work Ethic value. *sigh*

*Although it seems obscene to use 'Protestant Work Ethic' and 'aesthetic' together, I think you understand what I wish to convey.

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