I was doing some laundry this morning before work when it hit me. However, before I explain that statement let me just say that I am a big admirer of the renowned Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield, not least because he is the father of Uma Thurman. No wait, that’s Richard Gere. Still, I am a big admirer of Kornfield, author of After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. I never read the book, but I intend to now that I am writing this blog so that I can avoid future embarrassment.
After the Ecstasy, the Laundry: it’s a brilliant title. You get it right away. You actually learn something just by reading that title. Even though I never read the book I think of its title often: when I am walking down the street; when I am playing badminton with Richard and Uma; and of course, when I am doing the laundry.
The laundry is always there. It just keeps coming, even after your most glorious moments, whether spiritual or material. Kornfield chooses the laundry as an example for his teaching precisely because it is so ordinary and routine. Ultimately, Kornfield is saying, you should do the laundry, or you will start to smell bad. Well, that too, but also, ultimately we all come back to earth. We must. And I want to stress “we,” because life is not something we can do unaccompanied; we need each other to find the way. No one should have to go it alone, and no one should choose to.
This is not new information, of course, but it is good, truthful knowledge. The idea that achieving some goal—enlightenment, landing that special gig, becoming a movie star, getting laid, escaping from prison, getting that special someone to say “yes, I will play badminton with you for the rest of my life”—will free us from the human condition is an illusion, and I appreciate being relieved of it on a regular basis.
This brings me back to this morning before work, when I was sorting the laundry. It was then that I had a real Richard Gere, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry flash. Standing there, over a pile of boxer shorts, I had the overwhelming feeling that I had everything I needed: family and friends who love me, shelter, food, good health, good work, happy goals, colleagues who respect me (I think), and clean clothes. Just for a moment I wasn’t fretting, striving, or strutting, and for that I am grateful. It is good to be alive. So thank you, Uma Thurman.