When FiveThirtyEight authors start writing articles titled ‘Math Wants Us to Commit Genocide,’ then I’ll worry about them exceeding their intellectual remit. Until then, it seems long overdue that in a media world overpopulated with fluff projects, ideological anvil-pounders, outrage porn, and a million and one precious niches, one little corner would dedicate itself to numerical investigation, train some of its journalists in statistical programming languages, and run some data visualizations.
In the last few weeks, the fashion segment of the Internet has gone all a-buzz over new term “Normcore.” Normal, everyday, clothing is apparently showing up in downtown Manhattan—gasp! Like many trendy terms, it’s not really so new: back in the nineties and early oughts, Gap ruled the retail…
Some thoughts on this:
First, if you follow any men’s style blogs (for example), you find that men’s fashion, at least, aspires toward timelessness: that there shouldn’t be much difference between the clothes your grandfathers wore and what you’re wearing today, with the possible exception of your math humor t-shirt from SnorgTees (!). My own thoughts on plainness in the Quaker tradition have moved in this direction, looking for patterns and styles that will serve me well now, tomorrow, and thirty years from now. Getting to that timeless condition, I hope, will have the benefit of making room in my mind for other, more spiritual, things.
Note that I’ve been talking about men’s fashion, because plainness for men is rather easy to pull off. Guys tend toward a uniform mode of dress anyway, Steve Jobs and Barack Obama being two high-profile examples. Plainness for women, on the other hand, is a different story. Trends move faster in women’s fashion, and women are frankly judged more for their looks than men are. An old post on Martin’s old blog put it well: If you’re a woman who wants to dress plain and you’re not interested in looking like a Mennonite or a fundamentalist Mormon (with the gender roles those faiths imply), what do you do? As I’m not a woman, I can’t really offer an answer, but I do like the way some Muslim women have embraced fashion in the context of their faith, so perhaps they could serve as an inspiration for plain-dressing Quaker women.
One other thing: the whole normcore discussion comes from a report by some collective called K-Hole, which I’ve blogged about before. Normcore comes up in the context of a much broader discussion that includes this quote:
Once upon a time people were born into communities and had to find their individuality. Today people are born individuals and have to find their communities.
This is a question that people everywhere, Quakers included, would do well to consider.
The passage is from Hell’s recounting of an early ’80s dinner with Susan Sontag: “The was one thing [Sontag] said that I didn’t understand at all until many years later. She said that she ‘hated opinions’ and that she’d rather not have them. I thought she was being like [host] Victor [Bockris] in contrarian incitement. I took it for granted so completely that opinions defined a person, that one was the sum of one’s opinions and that the point was to have interesting ones, that I could only think she meant something else, like prejudices rather than opinions. Wasn’t her whole identity the opinions she spun out in her essays? No, she meant opinions, and that lately she’d been thinking that she wrote the essays to get rid of them, to make ‘space for other things.’ In a way, I was right, because opinions will solidify into prejudices that substitute for perception. Over the years I’ve come to realize that once arrived at, opinions dry up and die, and you have to sweep them away, like she said.”
If God is owned by a faith community then they can assert their proprietorial rights over God over against others. That’s the root of dogmatism: We have God and you don’t. God is for us and against you. God is here experienced as a possession. […]
If, however, God is received as gift then the faith community can never possess God…. And if God is outside the boundaries of the faith community then the faith community has to wait on God. The faith community is always looking for God outside of herself. And this expectant searching keeps us looking for God in the world and in the Other. It’s a Matthew 25 orientation. God is always showing up in unexpected places and faces.