Already kneeling while sweeping litter from the powder room floor where the cats spilled, I sat back on my haunches. A clean commode beckoned to me. Yeah, I felt a “calling” from this white porcelan-based ancestor of the old “WC” (“water closet” to the Baby-Boomers who called it the “John” or simply the toilet).
I close my eyes. And move my head in a figure eight, raising my skull high to the right in the direction of the heavens, and then low, toward the region of my heart. I sway. My hands raise, I get into the silent rhythm as I chant:
“La ilaha ilallah.” (There is no reality, but the reality). “La ilaha ilallah.”
(I try to keep count, but my focus is locked and centered on a feeling of “Oneness.” I guess at reaching the number 11. But time matters not with this Sufi chant. Only the joy that arises, right before me, in the commonest of common locations of my house, my heart, my soul — a literal “rest“ room.)
I place my hands on the white toilet seat lid. I look at the water container toward the back, the smooth white porcelain “basin” that holds the water for healthful flushes below. The handle and attached metal arm, as well as the floating bowl and rubber plug inside all work in sync, providing me with sanitary conditions my ancestors in Greece and in Germany had never known.
Above the basin is the cover I wipe each day as part of my daily chore emptying the nearby litter box. We use a sawdust-based litter. Clumps well, but, more importantly, it’s great for covering the urine smell that drove me crazy as I was grew up smelling the nasty odor that seem to always emanate from the cellar where cats must have hidden to play, got locked in, and discovered no other place to relieve themselves than in or near a coal bin, a crawl space, or behind 10,001 objects that one would have to move to find the source of that reeking smell.
Bowing from the waste, my head comes to within an inch of the wooden lid and seat before me. My eyes are still closed. I bow 11 times, and on this occasion, I’m able to count. These are deep bows, slowly from the waste forward and then back.I go slower and then, stop. I notice how my shoulders are totally relaxed, my breath has slowed and evened out, and how calm my entire demeanor has become. I open my eyes and I wonder . . .
Have I just prayed before an altar?
How unholy my thoughts must be to suggest such a thing! To try to merge the two thoughts together, a commode and a dignified altar! How could one raised Catholic, a former altar boy at that, dare think of such a comparison, let alone share the idea with another?
And, Lord of Heaven, what would anyone walking by the opened bathroom door say if they saw this semblance of a man kneeling and bowing repeatedly before this . . . commode? How could he treat that . . . that . . . commode . . . like a throne in his Conshohocken, PA home?
When the Spirit moves you, you gotta go, a realization manifests inside me. I learn that the manner and the place is not for me to decide.