February 28, 2012 4 Comments
Illustration by Clayton Mednick
As you know, I am not a person who goes looking for the hand of god in everyday events. I believe everyday events, by there very nature, are beyond god’s management. I don’t ascribe meaning to random incidents, accidents or unusual combinations of numbers.
Much is made of so called miraculous recoveries from medical maladies but as a matter of statistics they fall well within the curve of possible outcomes. In fact, most of the “miraculous” part is added by people and media looking for the hand of god in otherwise ordinary outcomes. It just goes to show, if your always looking for something to confirm your belief system, then your going to find it.
For instance, people talk about the miracle of childbirth. And you know, if it weren’t for the eight billion people crawling over every square inch of the globe I might be inclined to agree. But really, with over 380 thousand kids born every day and the very function of life being continuity, there doesn’t seem anything remotely miraculous about it. If anything it seems commonplace, even inevitable. Practically mechanical.
Survived a plane crash? So did most of the other people who have ever been in plane crashes. It is rare to the point of miraculous when everyone on a plane is killed.
The Virgin Mary’s profile on a potato chip? You want it? You got it!
9-11? Everywhere you look. Same as it ever was. You’re just looking for it now.
It’s called Confirmation Bias. People tend to seek out, focus on, and remember information that supports their ideas and beliefs while ignoring or downplaying information that contradicts or undermines their beliefs.
Why is it that people thank god for the recovery of a desperately ill child but they don’t blame god for trying to kill the kid in the first place? Confirmation Bias.
It’s why professional athletes thank god for the big win but they don’t blame god for the crushing defeat. Also because cursing god negatively impacts the bottom line of product endorsements. Simultaneous Confirmation Bias about both god and money. Not exactly a shocking revelation.
However, even I have to admit that once in a while my thoughts turn to god when there is a sign with clearly inescapable religious significance. The sign in question was seen by my own self in the sermon case outside of St. James Episcopal Church, 865 Madison Avenue at 71st Street, founded 1810. It read:
Does God Really Give Fashion Advice?
A sign from god? I like to keep an open mind so here we are giving it a little consideration.
It seems to me that before you ask the question of whether or not god gives fashion advice you would want to consider if you would even trust that advice. Sure it’s god but still, you have to be a little skeptical, right?
God and fashion?
(1) Is it Possible? I suppose anything is possible.
(2) Probable? Well, on first blush it doesn’t seem like a great fit.
(3) A good thing? Hard to imagine really.
The question of god being a good source of fashion advice is, admittedly, not the kind of thing one considers very often. I haven’t read the bible but I’m a big fan of religious radio shows. It is no small point of pride with me that I was listening to Harold Camping of Family Radio predicting the end of the world years before the end of the world didn’t happen. It seems to me that Family Radio’s byline “Feeding the Sheep” should have been the mother of all neon signs warning that anything coming across their airwaves was tongue in cheek, hand in wallet bullshit but did I mention Confirmation Bias?
My sister used to have a housekeeper named Ella Mae. Ella Mae summed it up this way; “I don’t know why everybody make such a big deal about the end of the world. Every day it’s the end of the world for somebody.” True Dat!
In all my years of listening to Brother Camping’s gravely voice peel the proverbial onion of scripture I never once heard him comment on the benefits of, or god’s preference for, florals versus checks, pleats or no pleats, wide lapels or narrow. One assumes that god prefers a necktie over an ascot but that’s just an assumption. Collar or no collar? Two button, three button or four button dress suit? In fact, although I know it to be a mortal sin to wear White Bucks before Easter, I don’t believe that rule dates from the Roman Empire.
Tunic and cloak? There’s just nothing eternal about those threads.
Ok so let’s get back to the source of this conundrum. I’m not familiar with the Episcopalians so I had to look them up. It turns out they are the Americanized Anglicans. When the American colonies seceded from England it was necessary for the churches here to secede from the Anglican church because the Anglicans swore an oath of loyalty to the crown. So if the Episcopalians are basically an English order you have to figure any fashion advice would have to touch on the basics of English taste; namely Paisleys and Cross Dressing. Of course that also casts doubt on the Necktie versus Ascot assumption. Religion is so vexing isn’t it?
But doesn’t this all skirt the issue of expectation? What is it that we want from a god anyway? Is fashion really a good use of the almighty’s time? Isn’t god busy with something else? Anything else? Everything else? As it turns out, not really.
The physical universe is governed by physical laws. These laws are unbending both backwards and forwards in time. Using even our imperfect knowledge of these laws we are able to make accurate predictions about future events as well as accurate predictions about what the past will hold as we unravel every story of creation. It is these immutable laws that make accurate predictions on the macroscopic and microscopic level possible.
So, within the principals of uncertainty, the universe is a predictable system that runs itself. God doesn’t really need to bother with it. In fact, god can’t bother with it. The universe is itself beyond tampering with. That’s why we don’t see phenomena that don’t conform to physical laws. In other words, if it can’t happen, it won’t happen. Weather, while notoriously difficult to predict, does not happen in a way that is beyond explanation. It doesn’t rain cats and dogs. It doesn’t rain money. It may rain on your parade but it doesn’t rain rare scotch or cheap wine. It only rains water. That’s all. The fact is, many of life’s mysteries are not actually all that mysterious. You can see that the realm of god is actually a pretty narrow set of possibilities.
So what does god do with all that free time? When we complain of something taking an eternity, it’s only a metaphor. For god, it really is time without end. God must have been bored senseless.
Then along comes fashion. It is unfathomable. Truly unexplainable. And in that regard it seems like fashion may be an appropriate place, perhaps even the best place, for god to exercise the old creativity. Certainly it offers us a plausible explanation for Kilts and Burqas. On the other hand, while I suppose there’s something alluring about a nuns habit, these are not examples that inspire faith, for lack of a better word, in god’s capacity as a go to source for fashion advice.
Still, god can only work within the limits of his public and the tolerance of shareholders. The market is fickle and even god cannot afford to alienate followers or tamper with the brand image. You know, I’m starting to see the lines converging here. Maybe god really is an arbiter of fashion. But fashion in a really broad sense. Timeless, classic, refined, transcendent. That’s it! Transcendence! Of course! Art is a reflection of its creator and if the creator is, THE CREATOR, what else would you expect? Religious crackpots (that seems like a redundancy) are always shouting “god is great” but maybe the reality is more subtle and nuanced. Maybe god is not simply great, but more importantly, god is graceful, majestic and elegant. Maybe god is, dare I say it? Fabulous!
So I think we’ve got a pretty good handle on the question now. It seems like god probably does give fashion advice. God’s tastes run to the restrained side. For the most part god eschews flash except for production numbers involving Pharaoh, at which point god is not above a little flamboyant ostentation though always steering clear of garishness. A certain austerity pervades god’s best work. God prefers an earth tones palette and traditional materials; flax and wools; silks for special occasions. Mantles and headdresses are common accessories and light footwear is a must. And jewelry. God simply loves a little sparkle. But tasteful; always tasteful.
God’s advice, like so many before, well not actually before, but like so many since, is likely to be about the fundamentals, while emphasizing brand authority.
“I am thine God.”
“All powerful and not entirely displeasing to the eye. Yea even fetching in the right light. Thou shalt know that thine god’s couture is original and copyright; sovereign and inviolate.”
“No knockoffs or else. Do not tempt my wrath.”
“Thine god loves you and blesses you with this fashion tip which truth is eternal.”
“It is not what thou weareth. It is how thou weareth it.”
“Now I, your god, command you to go forth and be your ravishing self.”