Monday, 8 April 2013

Sweat Pants and God

I was in the bank today waiting for the teller to be finished with somebody who was apparently managing the takeover of RIM through this one beleaguered teller.  As I was filling the time not cursing under my breath, I noticed that roadblock to my banking satisfaction was wearing flip flops and sweat pants two sizes too big for his skinny…  well, you know, waspish frame.

I looked around and noticed that most of the customers were very casual in their dress: It looked like breakfast in University Freshman residence.  I am not being judgmental… I was wearing old jeans, disguised Crocs (don’t tell my wife that I wore Crocs out in public!), and an old zippered hoody  (I may or may not have been wearing underwear).  Maybe it’s because I watched Madmen early this morning (thank you PVR), or because I had nothing else to do as I waited my turn for the teller (another account?? Come on, buddy!)… but do you remember when we used to dress up? 
Not just for weddings and funerals.  People used to dress up to get on an airplane, to go out for dinner, to go shopping… Men wore hats and were never seen without a jacket and tie.  My grandfather would wear a tie to chop wood (which might have got him fired, because really nobody appreciated him bringing all of that wood into work).  But we don’t dress up anymore.

Shopping in sweatpants… I think it was on Seinfeld that it was declared that sweatpants were a declaration to the world that one has given up!  I think that there may be something to this.  

Now, to be clear, I am a casual person: I wear jeans to work, I rarely tuck in my shirt and only recently bought ties after reading Fifty Shades of Grey… so, I’m not looking to get on Blackstone’s fashion list.  But I wonder if maybe this “casual” attitude to haberdashery isn't part of a great casual trend:  We don’t make things as well as we used to… many of us don’t work as hard or work to achieve the same excellence as we once did (good enough for them… close enough for jazz… ).  We’re relaxed and casual about it all.  

Including our faith and beliefs.  How many people really know what they believe?  How many are willing to contemplate, converse, wonder and strive to achieve a philosophy or faith that is actually of some value?  I’m not talking about a jingoistic repeating of phrases or a knee-jerk reaction that automatically disagrees with everything that contains a key word (your choice:  God, Spiritual, Catholic, Scientific, Atheist, Conservative, Liberal, Ke$ha).  I’m talking about a faith in something more than you… something worth working for (or dying for).  Something that challenges you and also comforts you – because you know that what you are working for matters; that what you believe in has value.   I find such a faith in the God that I recognize in Jesus… but that’s me.  I can respect other faiths… but it seems that many of us have donned the sweatpants of belief and declare to the world: I've given up.  We don't want to talk about what we believe.  Sometimes because we don't want to create conflict, but more often than not, I think that it's because we are insecure - we don't really know what we believe.  We have a couple of stories from childhood that we remember, maybe a couple of hymns or folk songs (Kumbaya, anybody?) and couple bumper stickers or FaceBook posts.  But anything with real depth??  Brother, that simply won't tweet!

Please, I ask of you:  Don’t give up. 
Look up.  
Speak up. 
Talk it up.  
Dress up… put on a hat… try a cravat... talk to somebody about what you believe, not in an effort to convert them or to prove your beliefs to be the best… but to engage together in a journey of discovery.  Try an idea on for size and see if it works for you. If it does, add it to your intellectual wardrobe; if not - take it in a bit here and there, bedazzle it... or toss it out and try something else on.  Talk and listen to another person about your philosophy of life, so as to show them respect… the respect of actually sharing something that matters; something that you have spent some time on creating - offer them the respect of listening and considering what they have to say.  You don’t have to be a published theologian… you don’t have to be a blogger (although, let’s be honest, bloggers are so cool!!  Really… that’s what my mom said…and she said that you all non-bloggers are just jealous).  You don’t have to have any experience in theologizing (wondering about God) or philosophizing (loving knowledge), you just have to be prepared to listen and learn.

And maybe... just maybe, we can find a way to grow together. 
Maybe... just maybe, we discover that faith and science can actually get along  
             - even inspire each other.
Maybe... just maybe, we find a place for reason and humility in some of our "religious" pursuits.
Maybe... just maybe, we can stop being puppets of the hate-mongers, the fear merchants and all of those people who insist that there is nothing that we can do about the world. 

Whatever happens... I am convinced that it begins, by getting out of our sweatpants.
   (at least in public)


  1. Norman My Friend I have a dream. In that dream gentility is banned and people actually say what they are thinking. They proudly say I am a Jew, Iam a Christian, I am A Buddhist, I am a Muslim. I am Gay. You are Rude, You are wrong , You get the point I hope. Then Norman maybe just then this world will find its way to embrace each other and the differences that Unite us. Oh I am wearing seat pants, I know that is a mental picture that could be disturbing. TOO BAD

  2. I've seen you in a speedo... the sweat pants are sweet relief! I feel the same way - I am proud to believe and live as I do, and very happy to respect, engage and love people who have a different way of seeing the world. There are places where I will draw lines - some things are too much for me to abide - but silence only isolates me, conversation and openness creates connection. Nobody can take my beliefs away from me, all they can do is help me see and understand more... but now, I'm just repeating myself. I shall now retreat into my mind and try not to imagine you in the red speedo... or sweatpants... : )