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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 down.

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 scenarios.

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 clean.

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 life.

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 of lint.

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 down.

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.


THE BREATH OF GOD

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 happen.

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 function.


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 the past.

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 #4.


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 person.

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 Garden."


CONCLUSION

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 and healing.

May we all come closer and closer to a lintless world.

Happy drying.

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