Stirring sugar into coffee is an interesting thing. We are aware that it will dissolve, but we are unaware of the pace at which it will happen. We make educated guesses based on the amount of steam coming off the liquid as to its heat, on the efficacy of the instrument used to stir, on the pace of stirring itself, and on the volume of liquid and amount of sugar to assimilate.
And yet through all these educated guesses, we know that we cannot make these calculations without proper instrumentation, and that the instrument of our brains has been long incapable of this without external tools. Complex mathematical equations confuse us. We are aware of their necessity and existence, but even more aware of our inability to apply them. For many of us, we know we would be unable to calculate these equations even with the use of the proper external tools, and yet we continue to stir and stir based on our educated guesses.
If we continue in thought and remain aware of our efforts as we consume the coffee, we may be tempted to analyse the correctness our of guess – is there sugar left at the bottom of the cup? If not, how long were we still stirring after it had been totally assimilated? Or was there only a tiny bit left after our stirring efforts which simply dissolved over the exact amount of time it took to drink it all? These questions plague the basement of our minds – they are like mould growing, slowly and almost undetectable. Until one day we stroll by and notice the door is ajar. We peek in and are reminded of all these unanswered questions.
Some are tempted to go into this mental basement with a bucket of cleaning products and give their best effort at tidying, but most of us know that if we enter, there is a real threat of being unable to emerge the same person – if we are lucky enough to emerge at all.
Week after week we are reminded of the mould growing and growing in this basement. A relationship conundrum, a moral quandry at work, a tiny question of the fortitude of our personal ethic. What to do with this basement? Some indeed have practised ignorance for so long a time that walking by no longer creates anxiety. It has become simple. For others there is a daily struggle. Is it morally right to try and tackle this mould problem? Does it affect who we are in the world? How we parent, love, study or work? Am I a measurably better person for having a clean basement? Is it possible in this life to obtain such a lofty instance?
Only some truth remains after these questions are asked; that the basement is indeed a dangerous place for mere mortals, that cleanliness is good, but to err is to be human.
My own relationship with my basement is one of mixed emotions. I tend to watch the progress of mould growing quite regularly, and feel as though I’m only willing to scrub what walls I can reach without actually stepping down the stairs. I am aware of some effect—if only residual—that it has on my life. I ask God to give me strength and wisdom so as to slow any undesirable growth. The basement is an ugly by-product of the human condition. And as with all things, our only lasting peace comes from abiding in Him.