Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wisdom and Guidelines

This morning I was greeted by a wonderful Lenten quote posted by several of my friends via Facebook. The quote was from a Huffington Post article written by Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine Sister living in Erie, PA. Here is the gem:

"Lent is not about penance. Lent is about becoming, doing and changing whatever it is that is blocking the fullness of life in us right now. Lent is a summons to live anew."
How beautiful! The use of the word "becoming" here connotes, for me, Buddhist wisdom and the notion that we, and all things, are all in process--organically changing and beautifully impermanent. And, we are all interconnected, yes? Therefore, when one thing "is blocking the fullness of life" for one, it truly is blocking the fullness of life for all in some way. When I think about it in this way, wearing the hijab takes on a deeper meaning.

Along with being a practice in mindfulness, wearing the hijab is also a practice in compassion, understanding, and, ultimately, love. Through my experiences I can grow to "live anew," to live with a clearer insight to the lived realities of my Muslim sisters. I am convinced that this deeper understanding can only be achieved through life-altering, tangible, and meaningful experience. [As much as I am tempted to go off on a tangent about the psychology of meaning-making and self-narrative, I will resist. Perhaps another time...]

I am also tempted here and now to proclaim my fascination with and appreciation for monastics from a variety of faith traditions. Nuns and monks from Catholicism to Buddhism truly are the keepers of wisdom. Morris Berman in his book The Twilight of American Culture encourages his readers to consider the role that monastics have played in the preservation of wisdom throughout history, and the role that they will need to play in the future. All this to say, thank you, Sister Joan Chittister, for your wisdom today.

I went to work this morning in my hijab, and felt relatively comfortable. I work in an academic setting, and my office is in a quiet corner of the building. There isn't usually much traffic near my office, and it was especially still today, as most students are on Spring Break. Monday should be busier. I did get one double-take from a female professor whom I was walking behind at one point during the day. I just smiled at her. I also made a quick trip to the grocery store and was cheerily told by the young man ringing up my purchases that I looked nice today. That also made me smile. I thanked him and answered him later in our brief conversation that no, I didn't know his friend Iman.

I mentioned some guidelines in my previous post. I've tried to be thoughtful, and some of these came second-nature to me, but here they are:
1) I will wear the hijab in all public places.
2) Along the hijab, I will also wear long sleeves and long pants. (Jeans are acceptable, excluding my skinny jeans and my one pair with the holes at the knees.) I am also considering long skirts (floor length) as acceptable.
3) My neck and chest will be covered (Technically, if the neck and chest aren't covered, it isn't hijab. A little redundancy to cover all bases--no pun intended.)
4) Shoes -- anything goes, even flip-flops.
5) I am also not going to verbally tell anyone that I am conducting an "experiment." Even if I am directly asked, I am just going to tell the truth--I enjoy wearing the hijab. It is what I decided to wear today. Of course there is more to to it than that, which I would be happy to discuss. I suppose I am just preparing for human curiosity.

It's a thing full of wonder, isn't it--human curiosity? I hope you keep curious about this "living anew," this becoming in which I am participating. Live fully,


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