Saturday, October 20, 2012

Zen and the Art of Cleaning the Litter Box

(With apologies to Robert Pirsig)

Seeking a Better Approach—A Conscious Choice
P.S. It Didn’t Help a Whit

Try Zen. He struggled to find the perfect toaster setting. The toasting choices of the words Pastry and Frozen were stacked on top of each other. Finally, he achieved toasty toast by arranging the levers until try and zen were arranged so:
Trying zen and a positive focus is appealing, especially when faced with a daunting task. Wash the dish, paint the fence, wax on, wax off. And the zen approach works most of the time. However, it does not work with all noxious tasks. In fact, the words zen and litter box don’t belong in the same neighborhood, much less the same sentence.

This cat-bathing outfit would have worked well for my dreaded chore.
Faced with the clumps, the lumps, and the overwhelming odor, scooping and refilling were no longer an option. The plastic case of crud cried out to be scrubbed. A dreaded task, a loathsome task. Could I seek a different approach? Could I find the joy in cleaning the litter box? No, I could not, because that kind of joy simply does not exist.
The positive approach demands that we meet challenges with a smile, and a grin, and an eye toward some cosmic lesson learned. That approach is valuable in much of life. But some things need to be tackled head-on, eyes squinted, nose plugged, hands gloved. The joy of doing is not present in some situations. The muck, mud, guts, grease, and gore of life happen. In those cases, finding the peace, finding the joy, happen only when the experience ends.
In this case, a different approach did not work, did not help. The zen came only when the job was done . . . and a sense of accomplishment silenced the yelling yuck. Now, on to wax on, wax off, paint the fence, wash the dish . . .

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