In the Meantime,
February 9, 2022 – From an airport.
Once again I am writing from an airport. Today I am going back to MI to support Wendy. Things are going as well as could be expected, but that is still far from usual. She has gotten her cancer tonsure these past two weeks. For centuries those entering monastic life would have their hair shorn, which you have doubtless seen in paintings of saints with their heads partly shaved. But even today those entering Buddhist monasteries are completely shaved, men and women.
Hair has been symbolic for a long time. Only in the last three centuries have European women showed their hair. Before that their hair was veiled as any Islamic woman. Those from the Middle East to Southeast Asia still cover their hair more often than not – Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, and Jain. Hats were the norm for both men and women until the 20th century. Be it the strength of Samson or the tresses of Rapunzel, hair has been treated as important for most of human history.
No wonder that hair still defines us personally. We note with dismay that first grey hair showing the end of youth. Men study for evidence of incipient baldness. Women decide between gray and blonde, though I remember vividly the Japanese matron at a Ryokan I visited who decided to color her grey hair pink. Thumbs up for her. For men, beards factor in to our sense of self. I do not sport one because I have little beard and when I grow it out the result is mange. Considering they are now the norm, I sometimes feel a little less manly around all those bushy beards and robust mustaches.
Hair is worth a whole sermon, now that I think about it. But this is just my weekly wondering. I guess the point here is that even small things still have symbolic and thus spiritual power. Our UU tradition has so focused on grand abstractions that we may not consider hair, or clothes, or food, to` be religious matters. But for most of the world they are. Are they all wrong? – FW