In Western culture today, it’s understood and strongly encouraged that we take care of ourselves and our belongings. In an ideal scenario, this would keep our towns, citizens, and spaces well functioning and orderly. Though in reality, it wouldn’t be very difficult to find someone who struggles to maintain the current ‘un-lived-in’ look, whether that be in their physical homes or within themselves. With the ‘void’ aesthetic currently being ideal, where is there room for real life and truth?

When humans are born into this beautiful world, they are greeted with a plethora of life from every angle. No matter how hard hospitals try to clean it out, it cannot be stopped. Life is constantly pushing up into existence, whether we like it or not. Germs are constantly procreating, as are animals and ourselves. Looking from an astronaut’s view, I bet this would look marvelous. Part of our tasking while we are alive is to bring some order to this chaos of creation, create beauty from it, art and wonder. To make holy is to clean, to purify. This cannot be confused with sterilize. To sterilize is to destroy life, and unfortunately, as a collective, I think we’ve made a wrong turn here in our duties in this department.

For some reason, there is a trend in our shared human history that involves taking this task too far, whether that be with taking land that wasn’t ours, tyrannical oppression, and generally over stepping our boundaries in many ways. This applies to how we order our own lives as well, clearing and stripping away all that poses some potentiality of a threat, imagined or not. Is this breaking a boundary with life? We want to ensure our safety, perhaps, for the price of annihilation.

What makes this crystalize and more difficult to correct is that it has found its way into the ‘untouchables’ category of social acceptance, something we shouldn’t question if we want approval. If someone isn’t being safe foremost, that person is often seen as reckless and insane. Obviously, no one wants to be seen as insane, or question their sanity, so they fall in line and do what is agreed upon to be safe, or they wait until no one is watching. Notice the word sane can be found it sanitation. To be sane is to be clean. Though, what really is clean? Is it the sterile, vacant surroundings, or is life inherently clean when well cared for?

One of our amazing gifts we are given as human beings is our brain power coupled with our intuition, our ability to problem solve, think, assess, and weigh out options. Risk assessment is a vital skill to live on the planet; do we go for that bush of berries, risk running into a more ferocious beast? Do we apply for that job and risk being turned down? If this were non-existent, the risk turns into not thriving, stagnating and dying.

What’s happening with hygiene today is that we have stopped using our own risk assessment and are looking to the medical profession mostly to give us the go ahead. There’s nothing wrong with asking for advice from a more knowledgeable source, though there is danger in offering them total control over your thinking capacity to a higher authority. How many times do you think to yourself, ‘is this really necessary?’, maybe this is a good sign that life is still thriving within you.

(Risk Impact/Probability Chart from MindTool.com)

Looking at our mentality, the way that we think and feel today, it’s not uncommon that many people remark some sort of pressure to be perfect. A recent study reported 2 out of 5 children suffer from perfectionism¹. What we deem as ideal is having total control over our emotions, and total control over our outward performance. Striving for perfection isn’t inherently bad. It’s how we grow and become better human beings, though we aren’t perfect. We’re incredibly flawed, lovable human beings, doing our best. However, failure is inevitable. When we apply this pressure to perfection, we start to fracture. We go insane, neurotic, and refuse to experience life in its messy & chaotic state. I’m sure trauma fits into this equation so far, to expect the worst and control the outcome to avoid, but I will stay off that topic for now.

As a new mom, I’ve learned about the importance of modelling emotions like sadness, anger and fear in a healthy way. It’s a learning process, I will humbly admit. Parents that refuse to experience these emotions can leave their children with the impression that they aren’t okay or accepted in this world. Christine Northrup calls this ‘sanitized emotions’ in her book Mother-Daughter Wisdom². Like germs and animals, emotions don’t just go away, no matter our efforts. They too will fight to thrive, push their way through. Many moves are being made to normalize the spectrum of human emotion, especially with emerging generations, though the ghost of perfect emotional control still lingers.

My question comes down to this; is life clean and do we really have to exert so much energy to control it? We notice a turning back to life as it was and has been for hundreds of years. Farmers are learning about soil fertility and the detrimental effects of genetically modified foods. Health professionals are back peddling on prescribing antibiotics (which actually translates to without life), seeing the power and the benefit of having bacteria thriving within us. Children are being taught to notice and accept how they feel and how to handle their emotions with care. More cleaning products are coming out with less intense chemicals. People are thinking and realizing maybe we’ve over-stepped again. It’s time to pause and reclaim our inherent risk assessment skills.

Here are some potential outcomes from hyper-sanitization; I don’t know if these are directly related, I’m just making observations. Currently, we are seeing that it’s becoming more challenging for some people to become pregnant and fertility rates are generally lower than previously recorded³. In Ontario, Canada, it’s currently trendy to paint the entire outside of your house black, and decorate in different shades of grey and white. If you have ever eaten food fresh from the farmers’ market, you may notice the flavour is much more present than in a high production supermarket, which is where we habitually go to find our produce. Jazz music is, well, almost non-existent in our culture, and in pop music, most songs are extremely catchy, with repetitive, predictable rhythms and beats. People are allowed to have control over their gender. Atheism is at an all-time high⁴. Anxiety is through the roof⁵. I’m not saying that all of these are inherently wrong, I’m just pointing out what I see, and drawing a potential link. Maybe some of these problems could be solved by making friends with the unknown? Get to the parts of ourselves that are scared of life.

This takes all takes time, of course. Self-examination doesn’t happen overnight, and requires patience, tenderness, forgiveness and bravery. Even while writing this article, I had many thoughts intrude saying, ‘Are you crazy? Hygienic practices are necessary. How dare you!’ I practice as a nurse. I abide by the standards and protocols set in place, though I still question them, and make changes in my personal life. The truth has nothing to hide, so ask away. If something cannot be questioned, and claims to be the truth, that may be an indication that something is array. There definitely is something though to having faith in a higher power. Just ensure that it’s not a false prophet.

References Made :

1.      Katie Rassmusens study ‘The Development of Perfectionism in the Family System’, 2016. The article costs money to purchase, though you can read articles written on  the study at

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20180219-toxic-perfectionism-is-on-the-rise&ved=2ahUKEwiPhqvTl6_zAhXsT98KHczfBE0QFnoECAoQAQ&usg=AOvVaw3hRKt2RQldnwKItD-8qb7p

Or

http://eurscmag.eu/%3Fp%3D1741&ved=2ahUKEwiPhqvTl6_zAhXsT98KHczfBE0QFnoECB0QAQ&usg=AOvVaw2hYgpw5kSAASzB1NA8lqB7

2.      Christiane Northrups book Mother-Daughter Wisdom, 2005.

3.      Infertility statistics https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/infertility.htm

4.      Atheism rates from 2019  https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/12/06/10-facts-about-atheists/

5.      Anxiety rates https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder

Image:

1.      https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_78.htm

Share this: