15 09 20

Doing the dishes is not like freedom. Freedom is whatever we notice because it isn’t like doing the dishes. The ordinary is ordinary because it ordinarily repeats : taking care lacks freedom’s entertainments and its exceptions.
For any author of doing the dishes, the best part of the story would be the story of missing out on everything else while the dishes are being done. Or a person could be a modernist of the dishes and make a stream of consciousness account of an attempt to flee dish-sink reality. But it would be easy for any of those accounts of doing the dishes to miss what is important about doing the dishes, which is that it is not interesting or remarkable work in itself, but that it is the work on which everything else depends.
An ongoing necessity like dirty dishes needing to be done doesn’t produce narrative. It produces quantities, like how many dishes were washed. It produces temporal measurements, like how much time was spent washing them and when. Narratives end. Quantities, hours, and dishes don’t. Maybe dishes produce categories and distinctions.
Maybe one kind of dish is washed but not the other, one kind of technique used and not another. To study the dishes could result in an account of spaces, of technologies, of tools and instruments, or infrastructures, economics. A work like that could demonstrate the crisis that occurs in its absence : the dishes have piled up, the smells and cockroaches have come. Or it could result in an account of class, race, and gender—who, in the current arrangement of the world, does the dishes and who does not.
Doing the dishes falls inside a larger set of relations made up of necessity. We have physical bodies. These exist inside and among the larger bodies of the world. All of these bodies—ours and everything else’s—are adhered to decay, are always ruining or on the verge of it, never evade entropy or collapse. The ordinary ongoingness of our existence, like every time we do the dishes, is every time we try to block ruin’s path.
There is the work of making the world, which is the world that’s good to look at, and there is the quieter work of keeping the world okay once it is here. Making the world is a concrete pleasure, but the nature of the rest of it has yet to be determined. It’s hard to make a judgment of the senses regarding the sometimes invisible and necessary efforts we exchange between us. It is hard to read, for beauty, the everywhere space we are always making around the always manifesting world of the world.

Anne Boyer The Undying Penguin 2019 p. 107–109 corvée division du travail domestic labour improductif monde productif production travail domestique travail féminin vaisselle