Monday, September 28, 2009

The Power Of Water

I was just singing the praises of water, the power of naked water to accomplish cleansing, it’s a couple of posts down. I’m not just relieving myself into the wind here.

I have lived for weeks in houses where dishes were washed by the agency of mere water, and non-potable water at that, and neither I nor anyone else in the house got sick. The water was applied conscientiously, and the job was accomplished satisfactorily.

Beyond this underestimated, innate faculty of water, there is a greater truth: it is possible to be “too clean.” Ever take a course or two of powerful antibiotics? Killing off all of the body’s bacteria wreaks its own kind of havoc. Ever see an electron microscope photograph of a fingertip? It’s all “Starship Troopers” in super-miniature. We are filthy creatures, naturally and necessarily.

It is no kindness to isolate children comprehensively from the generally filthy world in which we live. There are benefits to be had, for instance, from the intimate manipulation of mud by a child. Besides being great fun, and encouraging creativity, playing with mud builds strength in the immune system.

On the flip side, maintaining a child in an artificially sanitary environment may actually harm the child, not only by stunting the development of the child’s immune system, but also by exposing the child to a universe of harmful chemicals, known as “cleaning products.” Asthma, or worse, may result.

The problem, I believe, is in misinterpreting progress and modernity. We may rightly embrace higher standards of hygiene, but we cannot completely leave behind our origins as beasts of the earth.

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