Monday, July 27, 2009

Reflections on an Old Clawfoot Bathtub

It's actually for a person's own good that he can't fathom or distinguish the difference between good and evil when he's a child. For if he could . . . he'd realize how much more self-sufficient adults were than he . . . And he'd die from worry and despair realizing the contrast between himself and adults.
--Bachya ibn Pakudeh, The Duties of the Heart (2:5)

In an Inn in Massachusetts, as I struggled to climb out of an old clawfoot bathtub, I reflected on how physically vulnerable I am destined to become should I be blessed with many more years. If climbing out of a bathtub is a challenge even now . . . (!) Yet also I remembered a time over fifty years ago when an ordinary bathtub seemed as huge as this clawfoot tub is for me today. I surprised my mother when I was quietly sitting on the toilet and she emerged from the shower completely naked, not expecting to see me. How lovely she looked! And how embarrassed!

At the bookends of life every mountain is harder to climb; every stream more difficult to cross. The scale of this bathtub catapulted me simultaneously to my beginning and my end. How much less self-sufficient we "adults" are than we sometimes realize!