Burqa, Miter, Cowl, Veil

Burqa, Miter, Cowl, Veil
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"Apparel oft proclaims the man." --Polonius to Laertes, Hamlet

It may be that both the burka and the bikini were devised by men as solutions to a male problem, the problem of male attraction to the female body. Which parts of the female body? Every part--from the toenail to the spire of the head.

One man offers a solution with a bolt of cloth that covers the female body tip to toe. The woman asks, 'How will this help your problem?' The man responds, 'Don't worry, it'll help.'

Another man presents a sliver of fabric to cover the essentials. The woman asks, 'How will this help your problem?' The man responds, 'Don't worry, it'll help.'

That's one way to look at it. Here's another:

Let's establish first of all that anyone should be able to wear anything they want in clothing, barring clear clothing where law forbids it. It would be wonderful to see a population attired in interesting outfits instead of eyeing packs of people padding along in five-dollar t-shirts, six-dollar flip flops.

Style is art and suggests some consideration for the eye of the beholder. Except for the morning mirror, except for the pane's reflection, except for the public restroom mirror, we do not see ourselves in our clothes most of the day. We dress for other's thoughtful gaze. We are entertained by people in stylish clothes, and we are somewhat injured by slovenliness in others.

Personal style broadcasts only that a person has flair and says nothing about the character of a person. But religious attire would seem to announce that a person is holy and moral--perhaps holier, perhaps more moral, than thou. But chances are, the body and soul beneath religious garb is no holier and no more moral than most.

Can we keep personal piety to ourselves without flagging it in fashion? Can we not dress so as to proclaim ourselves spiritually lofty? Can others witness and confirm our piety and morality in our speech and behavior alone? Must we prejudice the matter by arriving in holy clothing?

Consider also judges in courtrooms. Do they need those robes to broadcast their sagacity? Might they dress like the rest of us to indicate that they are indeed like the rest of us? Won't we see their wisdom soon enough, even in their street clothes?

All other uniforms are necessary declarations, not of superior interiority in the wearer but of function, of occupation: cops, forest rangers, nurses, surgeons, athletes, soldiers, flight attendants, school children, fast food employees. None of these outfits indicate superior morality or spirituality. And costumes? They're just fictive hyper-indicators of whatever they proclaim: prince or princess, dragon or civil war veteran.

But clerics, ministers, ecclesiastics, prophets, preachers, priests, mystics, monks, lamas, popes, nuns, rabbis, powahs, yogis, imams, ayatollahs, avatars, rishis, shamans, gurus, holy men, holy women, saints--spiritual models all--are all adorned in religious clothes that they need not wear.

Might a person dress in style, perhaps even modestly, without Ready-To-Wear Piety, sans le Piété du Genre Prêt-à-Porter?

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