Saturday, July 18, 2015

Elementary Friends Program

Hat and Glass

I'm with the elementary school aged kids.

They're learning about pronouns in the Bike Farm sense i.e. starting a meetup saying who wants to be a "he", "she", "they"... One kid, not clear on the concept of second person pronoun, said "awesome" -- they're in elementary school, not big on grammar yet.  We're not to dispute one another's choices i.e. it's up to each person what pronoun they pick, which they may tie to character or persona more than to DNA.

"I like to keep 'em guessing as to my gender" one of the mentors said, pretty funny.  But since that can get awkward she'd settled on "she".

I'm not here to talk about gender though, I was invited by Glee to talk about my hat.

I'm sporting a black Stetson, much smaller than the one in my closet.  Both are hand-me-downs, and in my possession thanks to Glenn Stockton.

My earlier beaver felt hat, with my name embossed, also black, with horse hair band, was lost (by me)... twice.  The second time, it didn't come back to me.

We chatted about important hats in kids' literature:
  • The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
  • the man with the Yellow Hat in Curious George
  • the talking hat in Harry Potter
  • the bowlers sported by Thompson & Thompson in Tintin comics.  
I passed my hat around.  I also mentioned a pronoun for me could to "he" but also "it" as that made me more a genderless robot (machine) at the core, with gender features added to the basic chassis.  In being mechanical in nature, I was not giving up on the Light within, which I also see as gender neutral.

Historically, the Quakers of classist England were anecdotally opposed to hat doffing, the practice of signifying one's lower social position vs-a-vis a deserving individual with a title, say some Lord or a Bishop in the Church of England.

Obstreperous Quakers were anti others "Lording it over" them based on what they regarded as essentially false or phony credentials (e.g. "Bishop").  They would flaunt their disdain for "superiors" by being rude, which landed them in jail over and over, their reward for bad behavior.

George Fox, a co-founder of our religious society, was hauled before a judge on at least one occasion over this hat business and he demonstrated his practice of not doffing for the benefit of the judge, saying Scripture said nothing about doffing, so what up?

The judge retorted that people in Biblical days were not hat-wearers so duh, of course hat doffing is not mentioned, so not a good excuse.

However Fox, literate and self taught in the Bible, responded that in the Book of Daniel they mention throwing some people into a fiery furnace wearing their cloaks and hats, so there!

I'm sure it was quite a spectacle:  George Fox, reportedly intense, in a battle of wits with a judge, testing each others' mettle.

Then I brought up other forms of headdress besides hats, thinking of crowns and what chiefs wore at pow wows -- lots of eagle feathers.  And what about bonnets?  Why do hats keep coming into vogue but not bonnets?  One kid theorized that bonnets had become full-bodied i.e. bonnets and morphed into burkas, which are indeed still popular in some circles.

Glee steered the discussion back towards the style of hat the Quaker men wore.  She had a lesson plan in mind, that involved making brimmed hats out of paper.  The brim itself connoted "working class" whereas brimless hats were "indoor hats" like the Bishop's miter, meaning they were mainly for people too high and mighty to get their hands dirty working outside, where brimmed hats prevailed.

So was the time where Fox refused to doff his hat the same time he refused to swear on the Bible?

Joe said to me later this oath stuff likely happened quite a bit later, after the Restoration when they brought the King back, post Cromwell.  Courts were more nervous about Quakers' loyalty to the crown at that point.  Cromwell and Fox were good buddies.  Life got harder for Friends after 1660, before things got easier again in the 1700s.

Anyway, I connected those dots in our discussion, saying George didn't wanna swear on the Bible to tell the truth to the court because (duh) that implies other times he's likely to lie, all part of the corrupt classist England that had yet to see how Quakers did business; truthfully and accurately as it turned out.  Quakers thereby verily invented socially responsible Capitalism (e.g. the utopian "company town" wherein everyone is cared for, people before profit), now in vogue in the early 21st Century and somewhat consistent with Islamic values.

Thanks to this second insult to the established order, not swearing on the Bible, individuals today are free to "affirm" rather than "swear an oath" in a court of law within the US jurisdiction.

In another addendum, in connection with the Truth Testimony, I emphasized that Quakers also keep silent a lot and that being truthful is not inconsistent with keeping secrets, per Underground Railroad lore.  Friends need not be blabber-mouths, though some of them are.  I've been known to blab on occasion, but it's the exception that proves the rule:  discretion is the better part of valour.

A highlight for me is I showed the kids how a "Spanish ambassador" might have shown respect to the Queen by doing a swirly hat doffing combined with a bow, lots of arm motions.  Then when Joe Snyder walked in later, also with brimmed hat, he did the same "Spanish ambassador style" doffing without any cuing from me (then I asked him to do it again to make sure everyone appreciated the segue twixt me 'n Joe).

Speaking of Joe, I was also in his Bible Study breakfast table this morning (he sat right in the middle of a long table, "very last suppery" I remarked in good humor, wish I'd taken a picture).  His study session yesterday inspired me to sling Bible quotes around on QuakerQuaker last night, in some thread with other scholars.

Glenn Stockton with Rubber Snakes