But it was all black.
A good friend of ours had unexpectedly passed away. The funeral was going to be in the middle of the afternoon, in the midst of the workday. So while I don't normally dress up for work, this day I did. Because I was dressing to go the memorial service.
And as I was dressing up I pondered the holiness of pain.
As I've written about before and discuss at great length in Unclean, the psychologist Richard Shweder has suggested that three main moral codes regulate human experience. One of these codes is the divinity code which is experienced as movement up and down a vertical dimension. As we move higher on this dimension we experience sacredness and holiness. As we move lower on this dimension we experience degradation and defilement.
Dress, as I've also written about before, is affected by the divinity code. Specifically, we try to dress in a way that is commensurate with the sacredness, honor, respect or holiness of the situation. Dress is a form of showing respect and meeting expectations of dignity and decorum.
And even secular people recognize this sacred hierarchy. Even secular people dress up for funerals. Which is interesting. The world is still very much enchanted, with certain places and occasions higher on the divinity dimension. And funerals are one of those locations.
As I tied my tie that morning I thought about the post I wrote about visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the memorial that honors and remembers those killed in the Oklahoma City bombing. In that post I'd noted how loss had made that ground sacred and holy. There I wouldn't have felt comfortable spitting on the ground or littering. The place was holy because of the amount of suffering that occurred there. And I think something similar is going on with funerals. Human pain and loss creates a sacred space. And so we dress up.
Suffering becomes the territory we call holy ground.