Friday, May 4, 2018

The Aesthetics of Washing Dishes

I have been reading Yuriko Saito's Aesthetics of the Familiar.  She has a great chapter there on the aesthetics of laundry.  I can relate more to the aesthetics of doing dishes.  So here is my current thinking about this.  My question is:  to what extent is the proper attitude to doing dishes mindfulness?  I want to do a kind of phenomenology of dishwashing.

I go back and forth on mindfulness.  What happens when I try to be mindful (as I do) when cleaning the kitchen.  I am aware of the ugliness of the dirty dishes and do not try to take a Ziff like aesthetic attitude towards them.  I get to work washing.  So my awareness of the dirty dishes is one that has a certain directionality.  As you have taught, it is action oriented.  If I was just mindful of my dirty dishes as dirty dishes I think this would not lead me to action.  But the directionality is towards the positive.  Negative aesthetics is only important if is directed to positive outcomes.  (probably an overgeneralization...but it seems apt here.)  I am also mindful of the process of my action, i.e. of cleaning and neatening.  It would be wrong of me (and less conducive to happiness) just to focus on getting the job done and over with.  I do not want my thoughts of the future (end of this process) to make the task itself less present.  That's the good way to interpret "be in the now."  But I also do not want to be totally in the now, for then I would miss out on the dynamic of the relation between the original situation, the process, and the goal.  Ideally I am aware both of the mess going away and of the orderliness coming in.  (Be in the now does not mean erase past and future.)  The end of the process is what Dewey would call a culmination.  I have had a low level example of "an experience."  The culmination however has no point if does not carry with it the process that led up to it.  Actually, the end moment, as I survey the neatened kitchen, although satisfying, is not actually more intense on the pleasure scale then any of the other moments, for example then the "now let's get to it and get this done" low level enthusiasm at the beginning, or the "let's focus on the natural rhythms of neatening" that gives pleasure to the medium moments. 

Another factor of this is that mindfulness can either be aesthetic or non-aesthetic.  Aesthetic mindfulness is attentive to aesthetic properties.  These emerge between objectivity and subjectivity.  But some may be believe that aesthetic properties are not real, for example because the subject him or herself is not real.  In that case it might be wrong or considered distracting or part of Monkey mind to attend to aesthetic properties:  in mindfulness you erase the thus and thus erase the aesthetic since the aesthetic always requires the self.  This kind of mindfulness is anti-aesthetic.  it might involve being aware of the oily feel of the plate but not of the unpleasantness of the oily feel of the plate.  My thought here is that the mindfulness I want to achieve is not Buddhist mindfulness if Buddhist mindfulness is the non-aesthetic sort I have just described.  

No comments: