Living near an industrial sector as a youngster, soot and grime polluted the air. A familiar sight was the window cleaner. Equipped with ladder, bucket, chamois leather and a cloth he went to whoever requested his services to clean their windows. Those unable to afford such services had to clean their own; not an easy task in a double-storey home, but essential for home pride, a clear view and inside light.
When writing his book ‘To the Edges of the Earth’, the record of a four and a half year journey visiting the wild places on every continent, Peter Pickford refers to a comment made by Dan Eldon – the most important part of a journey was “clean windows”, saying ‘He is right, not only in a literal sense, but in a metaphorical one too. All of us carry our own biases, our preconceptions and our way of seeing the world, and it affects everything we see and do’. Reading that I remembered the words of Jesus “Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light” (Mt.6:22). This surely emphasizes our need for clean windows.
In calling together the Vatican Two Council Pope John 23rd said he did so ‘hoping it would open windows to let the Holy Spirit blow through’. As a Christian it is important to ask ourselves how clean are my windows on the world, on sexuality, on the other person, religion, or nationality? We need to be aware of the biases, suspicions and misconceptions, created by false information, propaganda, emotion or tribal history, which will inevitably dirty our window of perception.
We should ask ourselves what is our window on the recent riots, looting, carnage and destruction disrupting life in South Africa. We found the scenes horrendous, unbelievable, shameful and disgusting. On TV we clearly saw large and small stores of every kind with windows smashed and shelves stripped bare of their entire stock. We saw people of all age groups, of both genders, from poverty stricken to car owners brazenly engaged in theft and atrocious activity utterly regardless of the loss and suffering it will inflict on others. However our window may not be clear on what are, or were, the causes which prompted such action. What, or who, persuaded hundreds to run or drive from their home, overwhelm the police and join in the rampage leaving behind them such appalling sights of destruction and death?
We hear politicians and social scientists speaking, with varying views, of what they see through their window as possible reasons. Poverty, hunger, criminality, political alliance, Covid stress, greed are offered as the rational for the riots. We heard nothing of moral or spiritual degeneration. If among the crowds there were citizens who, whatever their social status, age or gender are associated with a church we have to ask ourselves where have we faltered in our teaching? What moral, spiritual and ethical vision have we failed to impart?
In psalm 51 the writer asks three times for cleanliness; ‘cleanse me from my sin’ v2, ‘cleanse me…and wash me’ v7, ‘create in me a clean heart’ v10. I think we could conclude he was asking for clean windows of mind and heart. This psalm is attributed to David, on being challenged by the prophet Nathan, after David’s seduction of Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, and his arrangement for Uriah’s murder. David’s window on sexuality was dirty. Today we would say he was ‘dirty minded’ and attempted to conceal it and its consequences.
On the international scene we may ask how ‘dirty’ (that is, unclear) is Israel’s window on Palestine and vice-versa, or how ‘dirty’ is the Republican’s view of the Democrats, or how ‘dirty’ is Hollywood’s view of women and sex, or the West’s view of China. Much could be attributed to dualistic thinking which Richard Rohr claims causes serious misunderstanding and led to the separation of the West from the East. He sees Jesus as a nondual thinker whose vision of God, the world, life, the individual and sin (systemic or personal) was crystal clear and unambiguous. Let us, as his followers, constantly check our windows to keep them clean then, as Peterson’s Message intimates, our life will be filled with wonder and light and consequently our vision more like Christ’s.