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Religion Column: Fashion fantasm

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

Even a cursory examination of what constitutes beauty in ourselves, leaves an extraordinary amount of emphasis on the exterior. Billions upon billions of dollars are spent on clothing, makeup and attendant accessories each year; for both women and men. Of continuous rabid pursuit is the ostentatious handbag and the garish sneakers; in which neither which will be purchased for regular use.

A lot of verbiage has been, is, and will be spent upon the necessity of some item, or another. Each is supposed to make us something other than our ordinary selves. We are, by these solicitous incantations, to be transformed into an object of awe, admiration and respect. Of course, this is what all of the marketing is telling us. All we have to do is buy into the message and then buy whatever it is they are hawking, saying, “Oh golly gee, I’ve joined the club!”

Should we take a moment out of our far-too-busy lives and take a deep look at what we really need to exist, our tally will be rather short. Putting away the discussions about what we feel we need, or what we feel we are entitled to, then the list becomes elemental. Yes, we do need food, clothing and shelter; for these are the elemental needs for survival.

Most of us eat a far richer diet than we need to support ourselves and could exist, quite well, without the weighty poundage of excess. Our clothing, while not as haute-couture as at present, could be animal skins, or dead tree bark. Certainly, our shelter could range from a simple mud hut, to the even more prosaic Neanderthal-type cave. In essence, we could get along reasonably well living on nuts and berries, wearing the hides of available beasts, while squatting by the fire in a dugout. Lifespans might be a bit shorter, but our basic needs would be met, and things would be simpler; as in we would be spending all of our time surviving and less time worrying about “stuff.”

However, we have chosen to live our lives at a higher standard and with greater complexity. With God’s gift of free will, we have chosen to use the many gifts he has given to us to enrich ourselves and our societies. Yet, this gift has its responsibilities and consequences; both for good and ill.

As we dress our exteriors, we are also called to dress our interiors. Saint Paul, in his Letter to the Colossians, tells us to put on, “as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering and forbearing one another. Above all things, put on charity…” Here we may find the gentle admonition to replace the superficial with substance; to replace the transitory with the eternal.

If we dress our interiors with only what comes to us from our earthly lives, then we are condemned to perpetuate the status quo. Should we choose our designs to come from the Biblical closet of Christian finery, and reflect the foundational belief of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, then our hope springs eternal.

How we dress, in every sense, says a great deal about ourselves. The oft used expression about “leaving a good first impression,” has become increasingly a quixotic standard, rather than an aspiration. Far too often the emphasis is put upon the exterior construction’s coverage and leaving the interior construction derelict. No matter how much we try to paint over our exteriors, and cover them with fancy bunting, our God knows all of our imperfections and less-than-beautiful selves. He knows us this day, and each day, warts and all, naked as the day we were born, all of our wrinkles showing the consequences of gravity and decision, as we shall be known on that day we stand before him.

Consider, he also knows us by how we dress our minds and souls. Perhaps, it is our desire to give a different impression, after a closer reflection.