Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The metaphysics of the Clothes Care Center. Part IIa: In the world? Of the world?


The new/unsuspecting reader can find Part I of the Metaphysics here.

At the end of Part I, I implied that I would begin this post by describing the internal arrangement of the Clothes Care Center and THEN describing the neglect it has suffered, along with some speculation as to why that has occurred. But I think it better today to begin the other way around. For that is, after all, the way I myself, an initial unbeliever in--nay, truly one not even cognizant of--the Center's underlying symbology first, and for a long time, thought of the Center: as a ruins devoid and unworthy of any attention deeper than the thickness of the dryer sheets that litter its floor.

(Go ahead. Click. You know you want to.)


I think that the neglect of the Clothes Care Center has its origins in two places: a) the fate that also usually befalls the sanctuaries of state religions; b) the outer asymmetry of the Center itself. a) is easy enough to understand: except among those fervent believers in Clothes Care, the complex-decided necessity of having such a place and subsequent tendency on the part of most of us to take for granted such places leads inevitably to a general slovenliness of attention even to maintenance matters. b), though, deserves some closer attention, not only because, as I will show in my next post, that asymmetry contrasts with the Center's inner symmetry, but also because the resulting friction or tension or what have you is akin to Paul's "stumbling block": to fully appreciate the Center, we have to acknowledge that it requires certain things of us that mean the putting aside of certain other things.

In Part I, I mentioned that the sign "Clothes Care Center" appears by the poolside entrance to the Center but not by the parking lot entrance. Subsequent research shows that not to be true; it simply happens that more often than not, the door to that entrance is propped open (owing to the Center's oppressive heat from the dryers), thus all but hiding the sign from view. Nevertheless, one crucial asymmetry remains: the wall that limns the parking lot side of the Center is solid, with no windows other than one by the door, which itself is a dark-tinted glass. The poolside wall, though, is a floor-to-ceiling window that, though also tinted, easily reveals the interior of the Center to the pool's users.

And here we come to the friction/tension earlier noted: I also mentioned in Part I that, due to "the teleology of Sanctuary" that my and every other apartment complex I have ever heard of has adopted, the Center is named what it is named, as opposed to something like "Laundry Room," which unpleasantly evokes images of labor. Hence, I suppose, the opaque parking-lot wall. Who wants to see, upon arriving from a grueling day at the desk or at Hooters, yet another reminder of the work that no doubt awaits them at home, gathering in the closet hamper? But consider the even more confrontational GLASS wall on the Center's pool side. Surely the pool, as THE physical embodiment of the rhetoric of Leisure at my and at any apartment complex, exists in utter and irresolvable conflict with the Center, whose rhetoric, despite its afore-parsed pretty name, is that of Work. The tension, the reciprocal resentment of the visitants of both spaces, is palpable despite--precisely because of--the glass barrier defining the two spaces.

But in this the designer of the Center is to be applauded rather than wondered at. S/he has chosen not to hide the Center under an architectural bushel but to have it actively engage the world beyond it--and, most tellingly, at that part of the world most opposite it. It is the embodiment of the concept of the Clothes Care Center-militant. But it also reminds those inside the Center that all is not work, that equally important to the whole person is rest and leisure.

Our living in/engagement with the world, like a washer, can get off balance. That glass wall, an architectural asymmetry with regard to the walls of the Center, paradoxically serves to remind us of the need for balance via its permitting the pool's visitants to see into the Center and vice versa. Of course, we sometimes don't like or resent being reminded of that need--hence the neglect I spoke of earlier.

Next time: how a change of perspective revealed to me that the Center is a veritable Nazca Plains of line and symmetry . . . and a space for pondering the Mystery of the Cycle.

If you've read this far, you'll probably want to read Part IIb, here.

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5 comments:

R. Sherman said...

The EMBLOS is going to teach Freshman comp this coming fall at a local Community College. Her first assignment will be a "description." I'm printing this series off to show her.

Cheers.

Andrew Simone said...

"... as I will show in my next post, that asymmetry contrasts with the Center's inner symmetry, but also because the resulting friction or tension or what have you is akin to Paul's "stumbling block": to fully appreciate the Center, we have to acknowledge that it requires certain things of us that mean the putting aside of certain other things."

Case and point.

(see my comment in post above)

fearful_syzygy said...

Walls 'limn' over there in Kansas, do they? That's a new one for me, I must confess.

It's interesting, this, by the way. As you know, in Swaziland I had to do all the laundry, which was hyper-organised (of course), but the place itself was dark and dingy, underground and illuminated by bare bulbs. And the infrequent encounters with some of the other inhabitants, particularly when they thought it was their day, were often awkward, embarrassing, or at the very least frustrating on the vocabulary front. You'd be surprised how difficult it is to convince someone that, no, they've got the wrong day and it's actually your turn to be down here, in a foreign language. They were usually quite nice about it; which unfortunatey, especially in the case of the concièrge, whose French wasn't great either, meant that they tried to strike up a conversation to make up for the intrusion on my laundry day, to my added chagrin and dismay.

poco said...

I've never lived in an apartment complex with a laundry room.For a few years, I had to go to a public laundrymat. I wish you could go there and chronicle the inhabitants with this type of literary analysis. They are a breed apart-- fascinating creatures, who appear to rarely wash their clothes, or even see the light of day.

John B. said...

jmb,
That appears to be the case at the Center as well. In fact, the initial impulse that caused the looking around that has led/will lead to these posts was my observing a woman putting her laundry in two washers at opposite ends of the room when I knew for a fact that all but a couple of washers in the whole room were empty. She was attractive AND attractively maintained (I'm referring to her grooming and dress), which made me wonder all the more about her behavior. I know I prefer certain washers over others; perhaps her behavior reflected her own preferences? I almost asked her. Instead, I just looked out the poolside window, happened to notice the sign, and . . .

So: there will probably be some posts about behavior. In the meantime, y'all will have to endure one more post about the physicacl space.