I live in a part of Chicago that has a large Orthodox Jewish population. This means that every Saturday (or shabbos), there are Orthodox families walking to or from their religious services. And the most distinctive element of their dress, as far as the men are concerned, is the hat that they wear on their heads. A hat can top off your look, and tell the world something about who you are.

I named my blog after a form of a hat, but I don’t actually wear it because it does funny things to my hair. Since I’m lucky enough to have all my hair still in place, a hat can provide cover on the days when it’s  just doing its own thing. I wear baseball hats a lot, either for the Cubs, or Northwestern, or Jack Daniel’s (which has taken on an ironic twist since I gave up drinking), and I find the backward look suits me just as well as the more traditional look.

But the hat I like best, and the reason I’m writing this post, is the Cubs floppy hat that I’m wearing right now. A floppy hat makes a statement, in its own way. People might see it and wonder if I’m heading off to a beach somewhere. Even though it’s a warm, sunny day here in Chicago, the beach is not on the agenda. But the beach mentality will be, and so the hat is still appropriate.

What is the beach mentality, you might ask? Well, if you’ve been to a beach before you know what it is, but for the purposes of this post I’ll try to put it into words. It’s the belief that:

  • Life is short, and the best way to find enjoyment is to go to a happy place. Get there physically, or get there emotionally, and you’ll be much better off for it.
  • You have to appreciate nature for the beauty and continuity it provides, but also understand that every wave is temporary and fleeting.
  • Every wave washes shells ashore, which are proof that life comes and goes and, if you’re lucky, you will leave a little something behind when you’re gone.
  • The day won’t last for very long, but as long as you’re at the beach you can either find a spot you like and set down roots, or keep moving around to see how the view changes.
  • Beach toys, like all material possessions, can add something to the enjoyment (if you have kids along), but they aren’t so important that leaving something behind would be a disaster.
  • Nothing that goes on at the beach is terribly important, since ten minutes from now our attentions will be focused on something else, anyway, and
  • Leaving the beach doesn’t make any of these statements less true.
So I often wear a hat that’s probably meant to be worn at the beach–even when I have no intention of going there–because it helps to keep me in the right frame of mind. If I have any religious convictions at all, they’re all laid out in the statements above. As stupid as it sounds, my hat honors these beliefs, just as the Orthodox wear a hat to honor their beliefs.

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