Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dressing up

An acknowledged cultural tradition is to dress for the occasion. We might wear our comfy and tattered clothing while lounging about the house but when we go out we dress up to be more presentable. This is a reasonable social convention and the result of that convention is that we all expect certain conformity for the smooth operation of social cohesiveness.

The norms of what’s acceptable change over time. When I was younger the norms were different. It was expected that when you were going to fly on PanAm you would dress up. Everyone did. Now it’s rare to see anyone traveling in style. The same set of expectations prevailed for going to church. Everyone wore his or her Sunday best. No longer.

When we see a police officer dressed in uniform we expect something. A military uniform likewise carries a certain message. We have many such uniforms that convey messages and that’s helpful. We say that you can’t read a book by its cover but we do so nevertheless. What’s on the outside is more times than not considered more important that what’s on the inside and if we aren’t willing to go that far we at least assume certain things about the insides based on what we observe on the outside.

Styles change and our expectations change accordingly. Some styles change less frequently and we call such styles “classic”. But are there styles that never change?  Probably not. Even our sense of beauty changes. If we had lived in Europe during the time when Rubens painted, female beauty was considered to be portly, buxom ladies. Now young ladies want to be pencil thin.

Masquerades and pretense are common where duplicity is the standard and our culture is fundamentally duplicitous; divided by oil and water ideologies. We swing around like monkeys on a vine from one preference to another. The question is why? Perhaps the answer is that we’re dissatisfied and tire of things that eventually stop working. Life becomes boring after wearing the same old clothes day after day. But maybe the answer is a deeper matter of not having a settled mind, constantly searching for, but never finding ourselves. In such a state of mind churning is inevitable, no lasting stability.

Some people spend their entire life looking for and never finding stability, peace or a genuine self-knowing. It’s a sad thing to never discover your own solid ground floor. I know. I spent most of my life in such a turbulent state of mind, always questioning and never knowing. And then I found Zen (or maybe it found me; I don’t know) and the constant harangue of questioning lead to the answer of who I am, have always been and will never stop being. My true identity is no identity and so is yours. Here there is no dressing up or changing styles. This is the place of continuous tranquility, peace and contentment. So what sort of dress is expected of Zen? Whatever I choose but now the outside is simply a convenience to facilitate social glue. The inside of me just laughs at the game and goes back to sleep.
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