When you’re discussing machines built for speed, they don’t get much faster or sexier than those built by Ferrari. Founded in 1929 by Enzo Ferrari, this Italian brand has always secured a top berth in the heap of high-dollar, high-performance sports cars. Ferrari has been refined and tested to the point of near perfection. Highly coveted, it represents man’s peak achievement in engineering and design. An icon of our power and dominance, at over $1 million USD, the LaFerrari is a symbol of personal arrival from a financial perspective. Equipped with a 781 horse power v12 engine boosted by a 161 horse power electric motor it does 0 to 60 in 3 seconds and has a top speed of 217 miles per hour. Only 499 of these incredible machines were ever built so personal ownership is unlikely. Possession of such a machine is a only a portion of the challenge of ownership. Maintenance is extensive, vital and mandatory in order to preserve its value. Because of its purchase price, an owner would never consider running it without oil or driving it on unpaved roads. These beauties are not mass produced and so it follows that repair and maintenance are considerably higher than traditional vehicles. Maintenance requirements are followed in strict order. Estimates of maintenance and depreciation can run as high as $5.50/mile. This is well over 15 times that of a domestic car. If the LaFerrari was presented as a gift to a struggling man, its value would not be perceived, its meaning would not be understood, its uniqueness would not be respected, and it’s worth would not be appreciated. Uninformed owners are dangerous managers in that they neglect and abuse out of ignorance.
I share this information by way of introduction to the importance of cleanliness and orderly maintenance for sophisticated mechanical systems like the Ferrari, but also for our most powerful and delicate life sustaining systems: the environment, the human body, and the human mind.
Cleanliness is the opposite of filth and both are about order. Life does not thrive or survive in filth and poison. From acid rain and chemical dumping to black mold and asbestos, we are killing ourselves and the life around us. All ecosystems function on delicate balances that are easily disrupted by our “aggressive vigilance” in cutting, burning, dumping, and emitting. Our body also functions on similar balances. Unwashed hands pass bacteria and disease to healthy organs and tissue. The world’s most deadly thoughts and perspectives compete side-by- side with the enlightened and the pure. Cleanliness is key to healing, disease deterrence and creation.
Cleanliness is order in our environment, order in our society, and order in our thinking. History shows that living things do not function well in lust driven filth and chaos. Order maximizes thought, growth, and improvement. Lust begins as excitement and is about motivation. Lust is chaos through lack of planning. It is intense desire and passion to the point of obsession. Traditionally associated with sex, in reality it includes money, food, fame, power and more. Extreme excitement that is allowed to grow unrestrained leads to emotional chaos resulting in the ultimate numbing of your senses.
Our environment includes everything that surrounds us such as animals, plants, atmosphere, mountains, and streams. The amount of water on earth is roughly the same as when the dinosaurs walked the land, but what have we done to it? The miracle of water and air is their life-giving properties. They are our inheritance: gifts entrusted to us all for safe keeping. Why do we abuse and neglect them?
Our body possesses amazing powers of creation, regeneration, and recovery. The most remarkable and outstanding feats of history have been conceived and built by this amazing creation: the human body. Our bodies require so little to maintain them. They consume a very small amount of fuel to energize them. They utilize such a small amount of sacrifice to grow and develop them. Why do we abuse and neglect them?
The mind cannot function in rubbish and poison. Uncontrolled desires are pollutants and poisons that are every bit as destructive and deadly to the cognitive process as toxins are to plants and animals. The mind is the source of behavior and the key to the future. Surrounded in darkness and immersed in filth, flawed thinking is to be expected. Buddha advocates that, “all wrong doing arises out of the mind.” Plans and strategies are a direct result of the environment from which they are conceived. Healthy, mature reasoning will never occur from smutty chaotic surroundings. In all aspects of cleanliness including environment, body, and mind, beauty and enlightenment are the outcomes of purity and order.
Our mind is the source of miracles. Our mind is the creator and destroyer of worlds. Our mind uplifts, and our mind pulls down with equal effort and exertion. Trained, disciplined, and fed through the enlightened conversation of the ages, the potential of the human brain is unlimited. Equally amazing is its destructive potential and power. What makes the determination? Could it be the environment? Neglected, these impulses become thoughts which become plans, then obsessions. It is in the mind where the balance gets tipped.
How much grander are these three great gifts of environment, body, and mind than that of the Ferrari? Out of ignorance are we often like the struggling uninformed person in possession of this fine car in our disrespect, neglect, and abuse of the environment, our bodies, and our minds? Uninformed arrogant users make dangerous stewards.
Environment, body, and mind are all critical, are all delicate, and are all invaluable but it is the mind where it all begins. The mind is the window through which we see the world. It’s in the deep facets of the intellect where behavior begins, where it is nurtured, and where it is grown. It is in the mind where plans, programs, and perspectives are born, nourished, and fed. The mind is the source of pain and happiness, of cruelty and service, of destruction and growth, of filth and purity. It is here where orderly maintenance, renewal, and repair must occur. It is here where purity must prevail. It is here where we must keep it clean! As Buddha states, “What we think we become.”
Cleanliness is about planning, prioritizing, and order; it is the absence of chaos. A decision is made to sacrifice time and effort to live an organized, orderly life. A decision is made to delay gratification for a grander tomorrow. Without these decisions we allow impulses, desires, and yearnings to control us. Cleanliness is based upon orderliness leading to planned health and happiness. Planning leads to productivity resulting in rewards from others. Plans begin with setting goals, managing time, and being persistent. Without such plans we operate in a self-absorbed vacuum driven solely by personal gratification where there is no need for acceptance, accomplishment, achievement, or productivity. Cleanliness is first and foremost about personal health and hygiene, and the individual living environment. Again Buddha admonishes, “You can’t keep your mind strong and good if your body is in poor health.” Thoughts generated in toxic environments grow unhealthy at best. Without order in any of these areas, there is physical and emotional chaos. Without order, disease and desire are left to spread like an epidemic. Self-indulgent devotion to personal gratification, lust, and yearning places everything and everyone else as secondary. When lustful earthly passions and unrestrained impulses dominate our thoughts to the point of obsession, the door to addiction is opened.
Most faiths and prominent personalities promote the necessity of cleanliness for overall well-being. Sri Sathya Sai Baba, a spiritual leader from India, noted that “a person might be an expert in any field of knowledge or a master of many material skills and accomplishments, but without inner cleanliness his brain is a desert waste.” Krishna, the deity worshipped across many traditions in Hinduism, insists on outer cleanliness and inner cleansing. Gandhi believed that “conversion without cleanliness of heart can only be a matter of sorrow, not joy, to a godly person.” From the Koran, the central religious text of Islam, it states, “God loveth the clean.” The 19th century German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche noted that “what separates two people most profoundly is a different sense and degree of cleanliness.”
By focusing upon the health of the body and mind as a foundational standard, the recipient’s capability for mastery is maximized. Children must be taught order, and to be clean in all aspects of their lives. Order, as opposed to clutter, should be emphasized. Sloppy housekeeping leads to sloppy habits. Sloppy habits lead to sloppy nutrition. Sloppy nutrition leads to sloppy health, and sloppy health leads to sloppy performance. Thus, dirty homes lead to unhealthy bodies and weak minds.
The effect of cleanliness extends beyond the body and the environment to our character. Healthy thoughts cannot dwell long in filth. By keeping our thoughts clean and bright, our actions and behaviors will likewise reflect fresh, unsoiled clarity and transparency. We must live with ourselves and thus it is in our best interest to be the best company possible.