Out damned spot!
Anxiety invigorates the moments. Guest are about to arrive! Did Ben Hur receive such a welcome? Did Alexander? What of Caesar, or Napoleon, or even Hitler? Were palm leaves not spread before the passage of Jesus? Which house was not prepared for guests? Which city does not take into account the imminent arrival of eminent foreigners? Who does not think of the right food, the right drink, the right bedding, the cleanliness and tidiness and presentation (if not perfection) of at least one's best? We do try to impress. We do want to please. We do hope to make our guests comfortable and at ease and so satisfied that they may even come back! (Above all else, let us not be shamed.) Anxiety dictates the preparations; if not the presence of the moments we have with a guest. Let's give 'em a parade! And at best, everything looks as if it was easy, as if 'regular'. (Paint the slum.) After all, isn't this the way we 'always' live!
The shells with which we clothe ourselves can be complex indeed. We do not like to be seen naked, let alone vulnerable. The unexpected knock at the door can send us scurrying to tidy up, if not ourselves, then at least our hair, our living rooms or our kitchens. A single speck on the floor can have us bending, even at the last moment, to retrieve the strand of hair, the crumb, the dried-up drop. We'd prefer to be spotless. Is that what the concept of original sin gives us, this sense of being so imperfect that we must scrub away at every evidence of our living existence, as though we leave no footprints at all in the warp and woof of time? Our exoskeletons are built to belie our innards. We puff ourselves up in finery and pomp. We paint our walls and decorate the doors to our private parts of life. And those we do let inside, we show most preferably that which we want them to see; meanwhile the closets hide quantities of the untidy and the unresolved and even the indelicate. Who wants to see our dirty laundry? Who wants to inspect our soiled cloisters? Who dares invade our closed cupboards? Yet which of us does not have the very swirl of life's necessities attending us? We are perpetually caught in the need for balance between what is, what is desired, and what can be obtained. History itself grew into us with the evolution of our needs; we deceive and lie and exaggerate. As a collective we understand these implicit things. But as individuals? It remains an issue of comparisons.
Outward appearances perpetuate one's position in the status quo. The lawn is mowed, or not. The car is washed, or not. The type of car itself can be an issue. So too can the state of one's garden. It all is referenced to the self; it all can be taken so personally! One has 'made it', or not, by comparisons, most usually. And somewhere deep inside, perhaps subconsciously, one is driven to anxiety over whether one really does meet another's expectations. Paradise lost? A mother or father's inability unconditionally to love? A series of being bullied by others, by the media, by society itself? We live in states of inauthenticity for the sake of serving expectations. If not entirely because of our own making, then because of wanting to please or obey those in close relationship to us. "Go clean up your room; guests are coming!" has an enduring ring.
Yet surely the conventions of compassion, courtliness, fellowship, frankness, and purity of mind ought to suffice for any meeting between oneself and an 'other', no matter the hierarchical stance of their eminence. Surely we needs but be authentic, sincere, and caring of any other, with little fear that they will judge our city, our village, our house, our attire, our furniture, or our place of living. Surely? Still, afore any guest's arrival, we clean up, tidy up, and ensure that all is 'perfect' for their presence. (Still.) Thing is, how to do so without the attendant anxiousness, without the evident subjectivity of worrying about the recipients' opinion of oneself. How best just to give accordance to an 'other's' presence, and let the chips fall where they may, surely? Then again, oh dear, surely I didn't miss a spot?