Empire Builders vs. Empire Cleaners

Image by anncapictures from Pixabay

The story of a little boy who wanted to become “a cleaning lady”

When I was a kid, maybe 6 years old, I stayed at home one day because I was sick. My parents were at work, and our cleaning lady was there, Mme Botto (God Bless her Heart). At one point, I got up from my bed, and went to observe what she was up to:

She was meticulously cleaning up the mirror and the sink in the bathroom. I declared:

“Moi, quand je serai plus grand, je serai femme de ménage ! »

(“ When I grow up, I’ll be a cleaning lady ! ”)

She replied, amused:

“Non, je ne crois pas!”

( “No, I don’t think so !” )

She told me that story, about two decades later when she visited us a some time before she passed away.

Something happened in that moment, that my Soul could see but not my ego:

I was fascinated with cleaning up, and leaving things tidy, neat and orderly.

I love cleaning up.

Humans love to build (and be governed by) Empires

Image by Walkerssk from Pixabay

Humans have a large history of building and being governed by Empires. The first human Empire known to History is the Akkadian Empire, that sprung from 2350 B.C.E. to it’s fall in 2150 B.C.E, and there exists more than 280 other empires that spanned from 2 years to more than 2200 years (list here).


“An extensive territory under the control of a supreme ruler (typically an emperor) or an oligarchy, often consisting of an aggregate of many separate states or territories.” (Oxford Dictionary Online)

The etymology of Empire which is the latin word Imperium: to command, control, dominion, sovereignty, a dominion, empire. In French, it is close to the world “emprise”, which means to have a hold on somebody, a stranglehold.

Empires had their time for more than four thousand years. Yet today, I believe that from the 21st Century onwards, humans have reached a Stage of Consciousness which allows them for new forms of social organization, such as holacracies, sociocracies, participatory democracies, and new forms yet to be created and to emerge in the collective consciousness in the near future. For these forms to fully emerge, we first need to Clean Up the mess we created with all these empires. That is when Empire Cleaners come into play.

The Time for Empire Cleaners has come

I am not an Empire Builder. I was reading through Robin Sharma’s 5AM Club (highly recommended read), and was reading about “Empire Builders” and how to become one. It dawned on me that it didn’t resonate at all with what I want to do in this world and in this life.

I don’t want to build an Empire. I don’t want to rule. I want people to self-govern and to rule themselves from a place of Wisdom, Knowledge and Love.

When I walk in Nature, I love to pick up trash so that I leave the place cleaner than when I arrived.

I like to set things up in perfect order, and I feel bad when I don’t.

When I think about Empire Cleaners, I think about people like Boyan Slat, who founded the Ocean Cleanup Project. His organization develops technologies to carry out the largest Cleanup in History by cleaning up 90% of Floating Ocean Plastic Pollution. They have already removed 465 Tons of plastic from rivers and oceans across the globe over the last 15 months (source). (You can support them by investing in these cool designer classes 100% made from recycled plastic from the Pacific Garbage Patch). Boyan Slat emphasized that often, the problem is that we think too small. For instance, think about the effects we can create if we focus on a large enough problem. (Notice I don’t use the term “impact”. An “impact” is what a bullet makes when it hits something or someone.)

When I think about Empire Cleaners, I also think about people such as Aviram Rozin, and the teams and volunteers of Sadhana Forest, and other reforestation organizations around the world, who are transforming arid areas into lush, green, vibrant and alive forests such as here:

I think about places where we (humans) could facilitate the cleaning up of what “civilization” messed up, such as in Tchernobyl for instance.

Here are various places where Nature has taken back over after humans messed up.

I think about places where we can create Peace, and clean up where Empire Builders once brought war and conflict to extend their power.

Cleaning up is also part of Deep Inner Work necessary for the healthy development of any individual as pointed out in Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory (more on Ken Wilber here). That is when we dive into Shadow Work, and reclaim the parts of ourselves that we have disowned, repressed, or left behind. Until this work is done, we cannot feel whole nor complete.

In this world, there are still Empire Builders.

And there are also a few Empire Cleaners.

Do you resonate more as an Empire Builder or an Empire Cleaner?

What scale do you want to play at?

What does Cleaning Up mean for you?

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