Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Hedgehog

“They didn't recognize me," I repeat. He stops in turn, my hand still on his arm. "It is because they have never seen you," he says. "I would recognize you anywhere.” ―

Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog

This is what love for humanity is for me. Because there really are no true enemies or 'others'. We are all on this journey together, and it is in seeing each other, really seeing, that we allow compassion, empathy, and love to flow from us to them. I'm grateful for those in my life who 'see' me. And I endeavor to work harder at 'seeing' others.

(I highly recommend Barery's book, and the movie that followed, The Hedgehog, for more wonderful gems like the one above.)

My search for images of a hedgehog led me here, and this line jumped out at me: "Hedgehogs teach the value of friendship with those who are different from you." All of my life I have had friends of all types, and a variety of different persuasions of religion, politics, or backgrounds, points of view, and vastly different experiences. I'm the person that maintains friendships for decades, honoring the connection to my past as well as the lessons learned over the years, and open to what we might be able to learn from each other to this day (the decades long friendship with my childhood friend, Rani, is a good case in point.) I credit this in part to moving around a lot in a Navy family, both as a child and as an adult.

I have almost always been able to find value in each person I meet, even if I don't necessarily agree with them about one thing or another (or a lot of things...) I realize that this is what makes it difficult for me when someone cuts me out of their life. Where I accept differences and disagreements as a natural part of being in relationships with others, some people feel more comfortable cutting out those people who rub them the wrong way or present a different perspective or point of view. Not everyone wants to bridge the gap, but rather prefer to burn the bridge. I have always found this difficult to accept. I prefer to have a conversation and clear the air, because I value people in my life. I realize that we, all of us, when confronted with a difficult relationship, are often responding to an aspect of ourselves we see in others. We choose to acknowledge that aspect of ourselves and, in doing so, accept it in both us and them; or, we deny relationship with that other, and in doing so, dishonor that part of ourselves.

Funny how a prickly little animal and a book led to this train of thought. Thanks, hedgehog.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fashion Matters

So, recently I posted the following photo on Facebook. Supposedly it is meant to illustrate the differences in values of the two women, based on the cost of their outfits.

Understandably, a friend's response was, "WTF difference does it make what they were wearing?" And the answer, of course, should be that it shouldn't matter. And I've been thinking about it ever since. What is the obsession with first ladies' (or potential first ladies) styles, and what difference (if any) does it make?

My brief search on First Lady Fashion (FLF from here on out...) reveals a long history of following what they were wearing. Indeed, society columns 'then and now' made a point of describing in detail the clothing of the ladies of the time at various high society events. Yes,the ladies. Men's fashion really doesn't change that much, although these days men on the red carpet at the Academy Awards do get asked, "Who are you wearing tonight?" Still, it remains true that it's what the ladies are wearing that we really pay attention to.

FLF has a place in history...specifically, the National Museum of American History. But why does it matter? From the NMAH site: "Clothing, especially on mannequins, can give a sense of a person’s physical presence. It helps make even the most distant historical figure feel closer. Clothing and accessories illustrate the personal style of a first lady or the official style of a presidential administration. And they can represent the events to which they were worn—from inaugural balls, state dinners, and public appearances to everyday life in the White House." And political conventions.

Right. And you and I both know that a lot of thought goes into the outfits in FLF, for the very reason that the individual wearing the outfit is representing so much. Which brings me back to the above photo and whether or not it really matters what they were wearing. I say yes. And even though I had a difficult time articulating why it matters at the time the photo was circulating, I knew then and I know now, it matters. Because I know that each individual had a strong say in what they wore, who designed it, what colors would be involved, and what statement they wanted to make. In each case, the image presented is a combined result of personal taste and desired reaction.

Whether we like it or not, fashion matters. Fashion represents cultural and fiscal values. "Fashion is born by small facts, trends, or even politics, never by trying to make little pleats and furbelows, by trinkets, by clothes easy to copy, or by the shortening or lengthening of a skirt." (Elsa Schiaparelli) And in politics, like it or not, FLF matters.

To listen to the story that re-sparked my interest in this topic, click here.