This is the article I'm submitting for the November issue of my church's newsletter. I thought I may as well share with you all!
The Cheapening of Spirituality and the Tao of Shampoo
Cleanliness is next to Godliness, as the saying goes. There’s quite a bit of truth to this. There’s always been something very viscerally satisfying about a warm bath, or the smell of fresh laundry, or even a stack of gleaming clean dishes. But I think some marketing people are taking it a little too far these days.
The other day, I bought this nice new shampoo and conditioner with a citrus scent. I smell a little like a creamsicle after using it, but I'm okay with that.
This morning in the shower, for some reason I looked more closely at the text on the shampoo bottle. "Refresh your hair and spirit!" it proclaimed. Huh? Wha? It's shampoo! I buy it so I can have clean hair, I don't buy it so I can attain spiritual enlightenment in the shower! But this seems to be happening all through the Health and Beauty section these days. It's not just shampoo, it's not just soap, it's a "sensory experience!" It's "therapeutic!" It will refresh your mind and spirit! Excellent, I can wash my hair and wash my brain at the same time. St. Therese of Lisieux wrote eloquently of how we might find God in the “little things” of this world—everyday actions and deeds. “It is just the same in the world of souls - which is the garden of Jesus. He has created the great saints who are like the lilies and the roses, but he has also created much lesser saints and they must be content to be the daisies or the violets which rejoice his eyes whenever he glances down.”
Doubtless a morning shower can be part of this way of looking at the world. Water is a great gift from God, and the cleansing of our bodies might remind us of the cleansing our souls received in our Baptisms. But using a particular brand of shampoo or soap that promises to “refresh your spirit” on its own? A person would be soggy in the shower for quite some time waiting for that “instant enlightenment” we are promised by the marketing departments of these companies.
Spiritual enlightenment, the path home to God, is not easy. It is the camel through the eye of the needle, and it is the dark night of the soul, the forty days alone in the wilderness. It requires deliberate thought, conscious effort and dedication, and it is not to be had through anything that can be bought at the grocery store. It requires nothing less than an entirely new way of thinking and a shredding of old patterns that hold us back.
There are no shortcuts on the Spiral Path our souls dance as they find their way back to the Source of all Creation. And this is as it should be. You get what you pay for, after all, and a quick, cheap version of “enlightenment” will fade in the wash, be too stiff to move and grow with your spirit, and wind up tossed in the spirit’s version of a garbage can once it’s too worn out to be useful.
No, best to work hard at it and go the long way around. This is a journey, and must be played out in its own time.
Of course, if you’re really in a hurry to attain enlightenment, that shampoo is on sale for $1.98. Spiritual refreshment is not guaranteed through its use, but at least you’ll have clean hair while you reflect on how lucky we are that God called Apostles and Disciples instead of advertising people.