All I Really Need To Know
I Learned In A Lint Screen
If you keep your heart, your mind, and the eyes of your soul open you
can, in fact, find truth anywhere and everywhere.
The entire universe is a symbol for the higher, purer truths of God. I
found infinite truth in a lint screen. And I'd like to explain that to you.
HOW A LINT SCREEN WORKS
First, we have to understand the physics of a lint screen. A lint screen
works in your clothes dryer. What is its purpose? Well, the way a clothes dryer works is
to blow hot air on the clothes. The clothes heat up and the water evaporates, leaving the
clothes nice and warm and snugly dry. As you blow the air into the clothes you have to
have some way to let the air blow out of the clothes dryer, otherwise you will not get a
proper flow of air. Now, as the air circulates the warm air comes in, hits the dampness on
the clothes, causes a bit of evaporation and then blows away. As it does so it picks up
teeny, tiny, almost microscopic bits of the clothes, dust, and some fibers which break
You get what is called lint. If you don't have a lint screen then the
lint goes blowing everywhere. Into your garage, out into your garden, wherever your outlet
valve for your hot air exhaust from the dryer is allowed to escape.
So what we do is we put a lint screen in there. The purpose of the lint
screen is to help capture most of the lint that flies off of the clothes so that it
doesn't spread its filth all over the place.
Now that might not sound like a very profound revelation, but in fact it
is quite robust.
SIX WAYS TO RELATE TO A LINT SCREEN
What, exactly, do you do with a lint screen? Well, you try and make sure
that the lint screen is clean so that it can do a good job of capturing the lint. As you
wash your clothes it gets filled up with the lint. And when you are done washing your
clothes you clean it off. When you do this you leave the lint screen clean for the next
person. That is the normal logical flow of things.
However, that doesn't always happen. And it turns out that there are 6
scenarios as to how we can operate this lint screen:
1) The screen never gets dirty.
2) The screen is never cleaned.
3) You find the screen clean and leave it clean.
4) You find the screen clean and leave it dirty.
5) You find the screen dirty and leave it dirty.
6) You find the screen dirty and leave it clean.
Each of these scenarios tells us something about ourselves and the world
we live in.
Scenario #1 is really not very realistic. That is, if the clothes
never acquired any lint on them at all then you wouldn't need a lint screen, and you
wouldn't need to clean it. If we had some super high tech plastic clothes that simply
never broke down and never collected dust, then you could dry those clothes (assuming you
could get them to not burn or melt) without needing a lint screen. So that is possibility
number one, the lint screen never gets dirty and never needs to be cleaned. This is
never-never land, the ideal utopia we seek. In short, the screen never gets dirty.
Scenario #2. Nobody ever cleans the lint screen, ever. The lint
just accumulates and accumulates and accumulates. Now what happens is that eventually the
lint screen becomes so clogged with lint that the air can no longer circulate through the
clothes dryer. The air gets blocked at the lint screen, we have no more circulation, and
therefore the clothes cannot get dry. The entire system breaks down. In short, the
screen never gets cleaned.
So at some point somebody has to clean that lint screen! It will
get dirty, and if we don't clean it, it is useless! That leads us to the last four
Scenario #3. You walk into the laundry room. It is your turn to
use the dryer. Someone has left you a clean lint screen. You use the clothes dryer, and
when you are done your lint screen has acquired a lot of lint. You clean it off and leave
it clean for the next person. In short you find the screen clean and you leave it
Scenario #4. As in scenario #3, you walk in and you find the lint
screen clean. You go ahead and you dry your clothes, but you don't do your part and
you don't clean the screen off when you are done. You leave it dirty for the next
person. This is really not a very nice thing to do. In short, you find the screen clean
and leave it dirty.
Scenario #5. You walk into the laundry room and somebody has left
a dirty lint screen. Well! You know that if you don't clean it off you're not going to get
your clothes dry. So you go ahead, clean the lint screen, and dry your clothes. When
you're done you figure, "Well, since nobody cared enough about me, and I had to clean
it off once already, I'm not going to clean it off again!" So you leave. You pass
along to the next person the mess you inherited. In short, you find the screen dirty
and you leave it dirty.
Scenario #6. You walk into the laundry room and, lo and behold,
someone has left you a dirty screen. Since you know your clothes won't get clean without
it, you scrape off the lint. You dry your clothes. And when you're done you take the lint
screen out once again and scrape it a second time. In short, you find the screen
dirty and you leave it clean.
Now, ladies and gentleman, it turns out that all of our human
interactions, all of our human relationships, every single thing we've ever done with
another human being is symbolized and embodied in this lint screen!
That may seem like quite a stretch to you, but I hope to convince you
that it is true.
THE LINT SCREEN SYMBOLIZES OUR LIVES
You see, the clothes dryer symbolizes the work that we all have to do.
And by work I don't mean just our jobs that we do for money, because that should really be
a very small part of our lives. Regardless of how many physical hours of the week it
takes, our employment should never be a defining characteristic of our essence.
When we talk about the work we have to do, that encompasses our
employment, our families, our creativity, and all the lessons we have to learn in this
The clothes dryer symbolizes that mechanism that enables us to get done
what we have to do: the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual activities of our lives.
Because each of us are, one way or another, "all wet!" And
we've got to get cleaned up and dried out!
During that process lint gathers. Lint is the by product, lint is the
dross. The lint is the not quite perfect parts of ourselves, the reverberations and echoes
that happen throughout our lives and everything that we do.
None of us are perfect. None of us loves completely, none of us
understands completely. And no matter how well intentioned we are there is always
something that's not quite right. If we are playing a piece of music, it is impossible to
play it perfectly. There is always a little bit of lint.
As we enter into a relationship with another person it's never perfect.
We are always intentionally or inadvertently hurting the other person. There is always a
little bit of lint.
No matter how well we try to build a house there are corners that are
not quite square, there are things that are not quite right. There is always a little bit
Lint happens. Deal with it.
INTERPRETING SCENARIO #1 - PARADISE
Case one of our six lint screen scenarios is what we call paradise.
There is no lint. Adam and Eve are in the garden and everything is
perfect. We walk in a perfect oneness with God. We walk in a perfect oneness with each
other. We walk in a perfect oneness with nature, and everything is as perfect as it could
ever be. There is never any pain, never any sorrow, never any mistakes. Never any lint.
But for our lives there's really no point in talking about scenario #1,
because we know that with every day of our lives lint does, indeed, happen. We strive for
the lintless state. We strive for that return to paradise wherein there is no more sorrow,
no more pain, no more despair, no more mistakes. And no more lint.
Eventually, all religions of the world agree, we will return to that
state. Each religion has a different prescription as to how to get there, but they are
essentially unanimous that there is a unified wholeness at the end of the rainbow,
wherein all people are reunited with themselves, with nature and with the universe.
But we have a lot of laundry to do before we get there.
INTERPRETING SCENARIO #2 - HELL
In scenario #2, no one ever cleans the lint screen.
This, for the most part, is what we call human nature. This is where we
find ourselves in many parts of the world on a regular basis. As we carry about our
business we fail, we cover up our mistakes, we lie about them. We intentionally hurt other
people and we do nothing to stop it.
Those other people feel the pain which we are inflicting on them. But
rather than try and do anything about it, to grant or seek forgiveness, they go forward
with hatred and malice, enmity and strife, until eventually the relationships and the
world and the lives themselves are destroyed.
From spousal abuse, to child neglect, to broken homes, to gang wars, to
murders and international disputes...we find that very often the machine simply breaks
And things become so clogged, so polluted, that the screen really can't
be cleaned anymore. There is no healthy clean air passing through the system, and all is
hopelessness and lost.
Air, you see, is a symbol for the spirit. The breath of God. Ruach
Eloheim. The voice of God is often symbolized by a great rushing wind. And the fact that
the wind has warmth in it indicates that it is animated and charged full of energy.
The warm air that rushes through the clothes dryer is the warm air of
God from the outside which comes into our lives. That offers love and peace and
forgiveness. That animates us and enables us to get on with our work.
Whether it is to create a happy home, build a successful business,
create a new invention, master a musical piece, whatever activity we may have on this
earth, it is that animated, warm, rush of the breath of God which enables it all to
But if we do not do our work of properly cleaning the screen, then the
flow of God's breath into our lives becomes blocked, and therefore cannot perform its
BETTER TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE
The Dead sea is dead. Not because no water flows into it, but the Dead
sea is dead because it is so low that no water can flow out of it.
You can have a very healthy faucet in your bathtub that can fill your
bathtub beautifully, but if you can have no drain from there then, lo and behold, that
bathtub will very quickly become quite putrid and unusable.
The breath of God that flows into us must flow out. It is not
merely enough to take.
The question, actually, when one enters any relationship is not
"what can I get from this," but, "what can I give?" This is one of the
watersheds of a human being's life, when the human being begins to look at his or her
relationships not in terms of what he or she gets from a situation, but rather from
the perspective of what he or she can give to the situation.
A marvelous example is church. As long as one is going to church for the
purpose of getting something then that person has not yet reached the half way point of
their spiritual development.
"For it is only the giving that makes us who we are."
"We receive all we venture to give."
"As you give so shall you receive."
That is the essence. If you go somewhere, be it church or anywhere,
simply for the purpose of receiving something you will receive very little.
But if you go there to give, whether it is your time or your talents or your treasure,
whether you are painting a wall or scrubbing a floor or teaching a class or cooking a meal
or cleaning a kitchen, you will derive much more than if you are simply sitting there
trying to get.
What does this have to do with the lint screen? Well, as life goes on
and we try to give, lint accumulates. Some people will hurt us and we will be angered.
Sometimes we will hurt others and they will be angered. And as that lint develops it
begins to clog the system, and God's breath is no longer able to flow through us, and we
are no longer able to do our work.
And as we come to the point that the lint has completely clogged the
screen then we are no longer able to give, and we are no longer able to receive. Since the
water cannot flow out of the bathtub, at some point the bathtub becomes full and can have
no more water flow into it. The water which it has is the water which it will always have,
and eventually that water becomes stale. The air that is in the dryer cannot get out and,
therefore, the air that is in there eventually becomes luke warm, loses its power, loses
its energy and can no longer do its purpose.
If we are so hung up on our hatreds, on our anger, on the wrongs we have
done, if we have intentionally or inadvertently hurt so many people that our message and
our work is no longer able to be accomplished, then we must have a mechanism to get rid
of the lint. Failure to do so means that the entire society and every relationship you
have entered into, fails.
That is why we need the lint screen. The screen collects these things,
these failings and misgivings and gives us a mechanism for piping them away. That is why
the screen, and cleaning it, is so important.
That is the focus of the next 4 scenarios.
INTERPRETING SCENARIO #3 - THE GOOD LIFE
In scenario #3, you receive a clean screen and you leave a clean screen.
Whereas in scenario #1 the screen never gets dirty (and we call that paradise) and in
scenario #2 the screen never gets cleaned (and we call that hell), in scenario three the
screen does, in fact, get dirty, but we don't leave it that way.
What is the screen? It is the mechanism for dealing with the dirt. The
screen symbolizes all of those things which we do to right the wrongs. They are
forgiveness, repentance and restitution. Where we turn over a new leaf and vow to change
our ways of thinking and acting, in order to no longer enter into a wrong situation or
action. This is compensation, making amends for the things which we may have done wrong in
And these are all very solid Biblical terms. When we sin we are to
repent. We are to seek forgiveness. We are to make amends for the wrongs we have done and
we are to freely forgive others.
Scenario #3, then, gives us a very normal, solid human life. Not
perfect, but perfection is almost impossible to attain on this earth. However, the person
that you meet is presenting you with a clean lint screen. You enter into this relationship
with health, and everyone is, in fact, open, above board and honest, and is taking the
other person's concerns into consideration. Over the course of time, as we do our work and
dry our clothes, the lint accumulates. Not so bad as to block the flow of God's warming
breath, but nevertheless lint does accumulate.
So we walk in, we're presented a clean situation. We have a little dross
from our work, we take the screen out, we clean it through repentance, forgiveness and
restitution, and we move on our way. We find the screen clean, we do our work, we clean up
after ourselves and leave things right again.
Frank Zappa said, "Do what you want to, do what you will, but don't
mess up your neighbor's thrill. And when you pay the bill kindly leave a little tip and
help the next poor sucker on his one way trip."
I think that pretty well embodies scenario #3. It's not to say you're
not going to hurt people, but you can make it better.
This business you hear sometimes about us all being hopelessly dipped in
sin and filth and incapable of doing good is simply a bunch of medieval superstition, and
it has nothing to do with the human condition.
Scenario #3 is life. It is good life. It is natural human people getting
their work done, drying their clothes and cleaning the screen off so that the next person
has a clean slate. You don't want to be walking around, polluted, full of all sorts of
hangups, nastiness, ugliness, pain and suffering. You don't want to be holding grudges
full of anger and malice. You certainly don't enjoy meeting people like that, and you
don't want to present yourself to others in that way.
When we live the good life others are presenting us with their clean
screens, they're healthy, they're loving, they're kind, they're giving. It is your
obligation to treat them as such.
But unfortunately that doesn't always happen. That takes us to scenario
INTERPRETING SCENARIO #4 - SIN
In scenario #4, you walk into the laundry room and you find out that the
lint screen is already clean. Someone's done you a good thing and left things clean for
you. You go ahead, you do your work, and you clean your clothes. Then you think,
"Well hey! I'm going to get one up on them. I'm going to get a free ride. I ain't
going to have to do no work. I'll be the king. I'm on top of it!"
And you leave your dirty lint for the next person.
Ladies and gentleman, this is what we call sin. Someone does you good
and in turn you do them evil. You're taking advantage of the situation. You're a thief.
You're not pulling your fair weight.
We all have to contribute. The Bible says, "If you do not work, you
should not eat." We all have work to do. We are all a team, we are all one. We are
all brothers and sisters in the human race. We are all equal children in the family of
God. When one of us decides that we don't want to participate, that we're going to take
advantage of others, that we're going to abuse their clean screen and hand back to them
dirt, we are, in fact, reprobate. We are evil. We are not a nice person.
Again, this is called sin. It is the essence of theft. It is the essence
of vandalism. It is the essence of lying. It is the essence of taxation. It is the essence
of abuse, manipulation and all sorts of horrid evils.
People sometimes think that they can get a free ride. "Oh, I'll
break into this store and I'll take something." Maybe I've got a chip on my shoulder,
maybe I feel society has done me wrong. And if I steal something from somebody else then I
feel like I'm getting even. If I don't clean up after myself and leave a mess for somebody
else, then that's their problem. That makes me superior. I'm the king. "The President
certainly doesn't have to clean his own dishes off of the table. Why should I?"
This is an attitude that exalts one's self above the others, to say that
one is more important than the other people. "I don't have to do what everybody else
does; I am superior."
All the while the social mechanism breaks down. Other people are
treating you with goodness. They are leaving you a clean screen. They want your experience
in life to be good. They are treating you with honor and respect. But you take advantage
of their hospitality, turn right around and leave your filth for someone else to clean up.
There are many ways in which we do this. They are all wrong, they are
all unfair. If we walk around with our pride hurt, with great anger, then we present the
next person with a dirty screen. We hold grudges. We feel antipathy. We have a hidden
agenda, and try to manipulate people into doing something they do not want to do. We're
not being forthright or honest.
And that poor person walks into that room, into that corporation, into
that personal relationship and finds a whole bunch of mess left by a disgusting sinner, a
mess which they must clean up before they can get on with their work.
This leads us to scenario five.
INTERPRETING SCENARIO #5 - RETRIBUTION
You walk into the laundry room and, even though you really shouldn't
have to, you know that you had best check the lint screen. And sure enough, some selfish
sinner left the lint screen all clogged up with the remnants of their job. They obviously
haven't cared about you, and now you have a mess on your hands. So you've got to go along
and clean up somebody else's filth. You do the laundry. And when you're done, since you've
already cleaned the screen once, you leave your lint for the next person.
Scenario #5 is what we call normal life. This is not the good life, this
is the bad life. This is not life completely broken down as in scenario #2, full of murder
and the total collapse of the social order. No. Scenario #5 is life as we know it in our
day to day lives. Somebody leaves us a bag of garbage, and in order for us to get along in
our jobs we have to go ahead and clean it up. We wipe the lint off the screen because we
know we can't get our clothes clean without it. But then, after we get our job done, we
figure, "Nobody cared for me, so I'm not going to care for them." So we leave
the screen dirty for the next person.
We walk into the kitchen, it's full of a mess. Whoever used it before us
left it filthy. So what do we do? The first thing we do is we clean it up so that we have
a healthy environment to eat in. Then we make our lunch and we leave the mess for the next
This is what we call retribution. "You hurt me, so I'm going to
hurt you." Scenario #5 is where most of us spend much of our lives.
Notice that scenario #3 and scenario #5 are essentially the same. You
have a job to do and you clean the screen once. The difference is, in scenario #3 someone
has given you a blessing, you leave a blessing for the next person. In scenario #5, (due
to the problems of the person before you in scenario #4 who received the clean screen but
left it dirty), you receive filth and leave filth for the next person. The same amount of
work is being done, but the results are very different.
There is so much retribution in this world and in our lives that it is
truly sad. But it is completely understandable. Since so many of us have inherited messes
in our lives it is very hard for us to rise above that.
Often the problem starts in the very center of our lives, with our
parents. Their parents didn't treat them well, and they don't know how to treat us very
well. This happens over and over and over again in this world. We know that children who
are abused by their parents, much more often than not, abuse their own children. We know
that children of alcoholics all too often wind up themselves to be alcoholics.
As we receive, we also give. Just as it is true that as we give so shall
we receive, it is almost equally true that as we receive so we will give.
If a child lives with hate, that child learns how to give hate. If a
child receives anger, that child learns how to give anger. If a child receives abuse, that
child learns how to give abuse. Just about the only common thread that runs through the
psyches of child molesters is that they were almost all molested as children.
This is tragic, but this is the human condition. What can be done about
it? Well, thank God for scenario #6.
INTERPRETING SCENARIO #6 - REDEMPTION
In scenario #6, you receive a dirty screen. You clean it up and get your
work done. But rather than leave your filth for the next person, you clean the screen a
second time and you leave it clean for the next person!
In an even relationship everybody cleans the screen once. Scenarios #3
& #5 show us that, as you clean it once, you can either have everybody living in a
nice, beautiful world or in a dirty world. You can clean up your own filth and leave the
world nice for the next guy, or you can clean up the previous sucker's garbage and make
sure that the next person's also got a mess to clean up. But still you're even.
Everybody's cleaning their trash once.
The scenario #4 people are the thieves. They don't clean anything.
They're the problem.
Which means that it's either going to stay scenario #5, or, if we're
ever going to get back to scenario three, where I can inherit a clean screen and leave it
clean, somebody has to come along and clean the screen twice!
These are the forgivers, these are the redeemers, these are the saviors.
These are they who have taken up their cross and follow Christ into life eternal. They are
the ones who are able and willing to bear the sin of generations past. They do the work
that the scenario #4 people stole from the future. They pay back the scenario #4 person's
borrowed debt. But rather than be a scenario #5 person and simply allow the sins of the
fathers to be passed on to the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the
scenario #6 people bear within themselves the ugliness and pain. They are willing to clean
up the past. They are willing to forgive and they are willing to move on, leaving a clean
slate for the next people, giving them a chance to live once again in scenario #3.
WHO ARE YOU?
We all have to ask ourselves what kind of person we want to be.
Ideally, of course, most of us would like to live in the paradise of
scenario #1, with no pain, no suffering, no harm, no ego, no sin, nothing ever getting
dirty and everything just perfect. We at least tell ourselves we'd like to live that way.
History shows us that, in all probability, we lie to ourselves. Anytime that things get
too good on this planet, we begin to become very nervous and do whatever we can do to set
things wrong again.
We obviously know that there are many people in this world who are
living scenario #2. They are in absolute and complete hell. Things have become so clogged,
so polluted, that there is very little hope for their lives. They certainly are not
interested in helping any others, and the screens which they have inherited are so filthy
that they have little hope of living a decent, wholesome life. At least not without a
complete renovation of their entire system. And those are truly the tragic ones.
They most desperately need the saints, the saviors, the forgivers to
come in and sacrifice their own lives to try and make things a little bit better for those
trapped in the scenario #2 hell.
Most of us find ourselves trapped somewhere between scenario #3 and #6.
We are able to live healthy relationships and clean up after ourselves, and that's nice.
But what do we do when we run across a thief? What do we do when we run across someone who
has left their mess for us? What do we do when we find someone who is not treating us
fairly and honestly? Do we want to pay them back? Do we want to treat them unkindly? Or
are we willing to help forgive and absorb their pain and move forward to be a more
forgiving and loving person?
Certainly we can do better than living in scenario #5 where we do our
work but dump our garbage to the next person. There are better ways to live.
I hope that you can find within yourself the power to clean the lint
screen, no matter how dirty it is left to you.
And I hope that you find within yourself the ability to always clean
your own screen and leave it beautiful for the next person.
A FINAL THOUGHT
I would like to leave you with a parting thought of a somewhat higher,
broader nature, pertaining to the redemption and salvation which is in Jesus Christ.
The vast majority of people see the redemption of Jesus as being a
scenario #5 redemption. Mankind sinned. This offended God. What God then had to do was
vent his wrath and his anger, dealing out divine retribution, passing along His pain to
Jesus. God poured out, they say, His wrath upon Jesus in a manner so as to finally pay the
penalty for our sins. That having been done, God no longer held against us our own sin.
I present to you that this is false. God did not effect a scenario #5
redemption, because that is simply nothing more than retribution. God, in fact, presented
a scenario #6 redemption. God fixed the problem. He actually cleaned things up. He did not
force His wrath upon Jesus. But rather, the redemption which He effected through Jesus fixed
the problem and left a clean slate for the rest of us.
You can find much more detail on this in my writing, "In the
Yes indeed, everything we need to know about life we can learn from a
lint screen. It's up to you what kind of a life you want to live. If you want to bask in
someone else's cleanliness, or if you want to merely be sucking up someone else's filth.
And if you find that someone else has done you wrong, I hope that you
can find the strength you need through the almighty empowering breath of God. Do not leave
a mess for the next person, but have the strength to help be an instrument of forgiveness
May we all come closer and closer to a lintless world.