I received an email from a dear friend in Indiana, telling me about a woman in her state, Elinor Ostrom, who received the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics. What caught my friend’s attention was this comment by Elinor: “The family is a governance unit. And the kitchen sink is a commons.” My friend is a journalist who wrote a feature story in the Los Angeles Times about Sidetracked Home Executive: from pigpen to paradise, the first book my sister and I wrote together. She is very familiar with my work helping homemakers get organized. That’s why the comment grabbed her. She sent me the article (which I read) and it linked me to Elinor’s talk at Indiana University (which I listened to).
Elinor tickled me with her brilliant mind, complicated charts and graphs (she was intellectually way over my head most of the time) and her exuberance and enthusiasm for what she and her colleagues figured out. It’s fun to listen to intellectuals! I have the utmost admiration for their gifted intelligence. (Eric my stepson is gifted that way and I remember my husband Terry and I visiting him at M.I.T. and once while we were walking on the campus another student came up to him wearing a t-shirt with x(5c ÷ 3-a⅜ + 2‰ x ⅞Ω+ y ≤97≥) + 6y = 10 (or something like that) written on it. Eric stared at the guy’s shirt for a few seconds and the guy watched Eric with great anticipation. Then Eric exploded in laughter! The two geeks were convulsed over the hilarious equation that was apparently wrong. When they were worn-out by the joke, both Terry and I knew it was useless to ask what was so funny. We just enjoyed the joy!
What Elinor’s Nobel Prize (as far as I could conclude) is really based on a quote I found and put in Sidetracked Home Executives. If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation there will be peace on earth.
When we find ways to be happy (righteousness in the heart) our character is beautiful. When we shine with a beautiful character we are kind to those closest to us and to those we meet outside of our homes. When we are not quick to find fault and show appreciation for our family members they are willing to take part in making our homes sanctuaries from the world. When our homes are peaceful and clean our family members, when they leave to go out into the world will reflect that peace and order to a world that needs each and every one of us. When each and every one of us is needed by each other there is peace.
Our kitchens are really the commons, but our kitchen sinks are a reflection of how we take care of the commons. Listening to Elinor it suddenly dawned on me that a dirty, slimy, smelly sink filled with mystery water and heaped with unwashed dishes is just a reflection of several habits that are in place at that time. Habits generate results. Good habits generate peace, joy and beauty; bad habits generate stress and frustration. Once a habit is in place we are either free to enjoy the bounty of the result or imprisoned in the effects of it. It’s up to us.
Now I’m not Swedish, I didn’t invent dynamite and I’m not on the Nobel Peace Prize selection committee, but I declare all of you who have discovered that peace begins with loving who we are and creating peaceful homes to reflect that love, the winners of the Nobel Prize for Peace 2014! Now go shine your sink!