Monday, May 19, 2008

uniform

So I’m wondering this morning who exactly was it that came up with the very first uniform? What might the occasion have been to warrant such a distinctive look? What was the motivation for singling out one group from another by wardrobe choice? And who came up with the first little embroidered name tag? I’m wondering this as I sit here surrounded by them. There’s the barista look of the Starbucks partners. In the corner is the Port of Seattle Police uniforms, not to be mistaken with the Seattle PD. In walks the Metro uniform, not to be confused with Sound Transit. And of course, what Monday would be complete without the official uniform of the Northwest Native….. fleece, socks and sandals.
Who was it that first decided that it might be a good idea to functionalize our attire so that there might be little or no confusion as to who we are and what we are supposed to be doing. Take the military for example. When was it determined that each branch would have a different look? Why not just use a color? I mean really, in the heat of a battle, wouldn’t it be easier just to look for the “other” color?
I wonder why we can’t take this further and complete the thought. Why can’t everyone be outfitted to match, say, their personalities. The joyful people could be designated a certain look or maybe some bright color. The bitter people could where something else on the other end of the scale. The gothic people seem to have this system down. The people who seem to resemble a certain part of a donkey’s anatomy could wear “the uniform” and the rest of us could be forewarned . That way, one could always anticipate reactions and interactions and prepare or respond accordingly. This would certainly help me function on a different level in my community o’ faith. It would be like a visual caller ID, where you decide ahead of time whether or not you want to engage in this impending social interchange.
Lest you think that I haven’t thought this through, let me assure you that I do recognize some objections to this bit of social engineering. First of all, how would one outfit the cultural chameleons. Those are the ones that you can never really pin down. They change to meet their surroundings, and I don’t mean in a useful adaptable kind of way. They pander to the crowd and the polls. Oh sorry…….my mistake, that’s the politicians and they do have a uniform. You can always identify them as the ones usually inappropriately overdressed. They tend to go bowling in ties and shoot pool in pant suits.
The other short coming in this plan is that with certain uniforms, there come certain expectations. We’d have to live consistent to our designated place in life. I have certain expectations of people in uniform that are based on the uniform itself. I’d feel a bit more at ease walking down some dark streets accompanied by a Seattle PD uniform than if it were someone with the “barista” look. What happens when the uniform fails, either the Police uniform or the barista uniform. My day gets measurably worse with both accounts. My tribe of pastors has its own uniform, generally speaking. The pastoral uniform can be often be easily identified. It’s not always a good identification either, so I choose not to wear it. I’ve even resorted to creating my own designation as a pastoral artist. I made it up, but it is a much better fit. There is no uniform and so expectations are generally non-existent. I like it that way.
People get to experience me for me. They get it all, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I can ask for permission or forgiveness. I can adapt without pandering and I can lead without an agenda. So I’ll try to consider the same potential within the lives of the people who surround me. It’s easy to look at the uniform and make all kinds of assumptions. Don’t lose focus of the one wearing it though.