Monday, April 9, 2012

Body Art

"What about body art?"

Well, that's not quite the question that came in, but is really just the essence of it. How do we feel about body art within the Baha'i Faith?

Now you may remember, dear Reader, an article I did a while ago called Show it to Me, in which I talk a little bit about tattoos, and how many in the Baha'i community think they're not allowed. As you know, it's just a myth. Nothing has been found banning tattoos in the Writings.

There is, however, at least one quote from Baha'u'llah that offers us guidance on this issue. In the Kitab-i-Aqdas He says, "...make not yourselves the playthings of the ignorant." This is the quote hat many have offered me when I have asked about the tattoo issue. As you may note, though, it doesn't say anything about  tattoos, and I therefore think that the connection between the two is personal interpretation.

Aside: That extract is very interesting to me, because it comes in a very odd place. Here is the full paragraph:

It hath been forbidden you to carry arms unless essential, and permitted you to attire yourselves in silk. The Lord hath relieved you, as a bounty on His part, of the restrictions that formerly applied to clothing and to the trim of the beard. He, verily, is the Ordainer, the Omniscient. Let there be naught in your demeanour of which sound and upright minds would disapprove, and make not yourselves the playthings of the ignorant. Well is it with him who hath adorned himself with the vesture of seemly conduct and a praiseworthy character. He is assuredly reckoned with those who aid their Lord through distinctive and outstanding deeds.
So what does all this tell me about body art?

Not much yet.

I guess the first thing is that it warns us to not be silly with how we dress, not to fall for the lure of what is popular in society at the moment. I mean, let's look at it another way. How often have we laughed at the pictures of the people in times gone by who were wearing those shoes that were ridiculously long and had the curling toes? Those things were nothing more than fashion designers having a laugh and trying to con the rich out of money, all in the name of fashion. How many of us had a snicker at the outfits our parents wore long before we were born? (Sorry Mom, but its true.) Do we really want to be in that position with our own kids?

I think the basic principle here is to be moderate. Moderation in all things, remember?

But then there is another point that must be made. Over and over again in the Writings we read that God does not really care what our skin colour is, or our gender, or anything else except our heart. In the Kitab-i-Iqan, He says, "The understanding of His words and the comprehension of the utterances of the Birds of Heaven are in no wise dependent upon human learning. They depend solely upon purity of heart, chastity of soul, and freedom of spirit." They don't depend on our hair style, or the colour of our eyes.

I like to think of it as a gift. The purity of our heart is like a gift that we offer to God. How we dress, what our racial background is, how we style our hair: these are all the gift wrapping.

We know that when we give a gift to someone we love, we want to wrap it nicely so that they can appreciate the care we put into it, but in the end that the gift wrapping is secondary to the gift itself. And after the gift is opened, we won't really give much more thought to it.

This is what I think about body art: I love it. I appreciate it. There are many fine examples of it that I truly admire. But in the end, it's just wrapping for the soul that is contained within.

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