Alibi V.29 No.12 • March 19-25, 2020 

Art Magnified

The Art of Washing Your Hands

Thirty seconds of sanity while the world goes mad

Soap up for sanity.
Soap up for sanity.
Clarke Condé

Let’s step back for a moment and think about this. Maybe there is a new normal developing or maybe there is an old one that we can return to. Maybe we can simply heed the precautions that our communicable disease experts have always recommended while establishing for ourselves a meditative practice that will help keep both our bodies and our minds healthy in this time of crisis. Can all of this can be found in hand washing? Oddly, yes.

During the Bubonic Plague that ravaged Europe and Asia in the mid-14th century, those that practiced ritual hand washing had infection rates at nearly half the rate of all others. Unfortunately for them, they were often blamed for The Plague and murdered, but that is a different story. What we want to focus on is the aspect of that transformative pandemic whose takeaway had everything to do with increased sanitation practices in society. What we can learn from The Plague is to wash our hands.

At times of stress, we have been told a million times to take a deep breath and count to 10. It usually works. Washing your hands can do more than that. There is no act of devotion that is as universally understood as mindful washing. Let that devotion be to yourself. Plus, we have the running water, we have the soap and we have the time, so let’s approach this task with a different mindset.

Turn on the tap and wait for the water to reach a temperature you like. Wet your hands and soap up. Skip singing “Happy Birthday” and instead focus on your breathing. Calm yourself and simply, deliberately and mindfully wash your hands. Spend 30 seconds. Hell, spend a minute. What’s the rush? It’s not like you are going anywhere.

Where does the art come in? The art is in self-betterment. You are both the artist and object in this transformative practice. Odds are you will feel better, having taken a moment to center yourself and your hands will be clean. Bonus. This is your opportunity for a moment of peace that no one will begrudge you while the world goes crazy. Take it.