“Dear God,” the child’s letter read, “I bet it’s very hard for you to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only 4 people in our family and I can never do it. ”
Loving all of everybody in the whole world is a challenge indeed. But, as I write this on June 13, a day after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, it’s a mountain worth climbing.
How can we possibly do it? Of course, we can’t love everyone the way we love our child, our parents, our best friend, maybe even our pet. That’s a different kind of love, a warm bond of intimacy shared by those united by blood, kinship, or both. No, the kind of love I refer to is known in Greek as agape, a love based on principle. It’s the love we show by being humane, compassionate, kind and thoughtful. By showing common respect. It’s the guy who offered to let me cut in line in front of him because I had only one item. It’s the elderly lady who made humorous small talk at the doctor’s office, even though she was probably in some pain, just because I happened to be a nearby human being. It’s the little things we do every day to show our fellow man that he deserves our care, our attention, our concern.
That’s where style comes in. Because, as Tom Ford says, dressing well is a sign of good manners. No matter how slovenly our attire, we all appreciate seeing a well-turned-out person. It makes our day, just a little. That’s because beauty, in all its forms, quickens our heartbeat, opens our eyes and makes us feel alive. We were born to crave it. So if we appreciate it in others, it’s only fair that we at least make an effort ourselves.
And that effort matters. We used to know that. People would dress up for dinner. At home. They would wear suits and ties to baseball games. People went to all that trouble to let their fellow man know that there’s something bigger in the world than their own comfort and convenience. There’s real value in that.
Now, I’m not advocating wearing suits to baseball games. I spill way too much beer for that nonsense. But we, as a society, can do better than we’re doing. I work in a courtroom, and every day I see people walk into court wearing shorts, raggedy tennis shoes, even house slippers. One young lady had on a full set of pajamas. She couldn’t be bothered to change clothes after getting out of bed. I was hoping the judge would sentence her to life in her bedroom. I understand that many of the people who appear in court are poor, and I am in no way blaming them for their condition. But the problem extends beyond the poverty-stricken. Fact is, the person who dresses appropriately for a court of law has become an exception, not the rule.
It seems some actually take pride in being sloppy. This represents a gross overestimation of their appeal. They are not charming or good looking enough to be uncaring about their appearance. No one is. Period.
There’s something really juvenile about this attitude. It’s ok for a three-year old to run around with his hair uncombed and shirt out, but not for a grown man. Adam Sandler made a living playing immature slobs, and maybe people think that works in real life. It doesn’t. It doesn’t even work for Adam Sandler. His schtick grew tired long ago, and his popularity has waned. But we live in a juvenile society in some ways. See the current Presidential race.
Now I realize that being stylish can be expensive. Dressing well may be a sign of good manners, Mr. Ford, but no one can afford your damn clothes. And, quite frankly, being well turned out is challenging. It requires one to understand such niceties as appropriateness and balance. Most importantly, to dress well you have to know yourself. That’s why the British will say when they see a finely attired individual that “she looks smart.” Because style does require, and betray, a degree of intelligence.
Hopefully, this blog will help in that regard. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to look good. As Cary Grant said, “Simplicity, to me, is the essence of good taste.” Well-fitting, clean, appropriate attire is all that is required.
Of course, a person can go overboard with concern for their appearance. That can signal the same narcissism and self-absorption that being underdressed conveys. And please, don’t go out and buy a couple pair of $1000 Manolos and think that you’re saving mankind. You’re just saving Manolo.
But, ultimately, taking care to look nice every day is a gift to the world. It’s one of the little things we can do to show agape. It won’t stop crazed madmen from shooting at crowds of people, but it will show that we’re better than him. That he doesn’t represent us. Because we love all of everybody in the whole world.
Now, I can’t help you with your family. That’s for a smarter person’s blog.