Thursday, April 30, 2020

Hair gestures

During these traumatic Covid-19 months of quarantine and loss, I was struck by Rev. Thomas Yang's thoughts about about expressions of grief, lifestyle changes, and hair gestures (Rev. Yang is a founding member of the Seattle Progressive Asian American Christians organization SPAAC. His remarks on grief and hair start approx. 19 minutes in.)

Making a hair gesture in a time of grieving goes back millennia. In the Hebrew Bible, the prophet Jeremiah says the Israelites should cut off their hair as a sign of mourning. In the Hindu faith cutting one's hair or shaving the head after the death of an elder is an age-old custom. Why?
In Hinduism, the underlying concept is that hair is a symbolic offering to the gods, [so cutting/shaving one's hair represents] a real sacrifice of beauty. Hence shaving your head shows your grief for the departed soul. From Quora
Therefore, cutting off your hair is a sacrifice showing deep grief for the departed soul.
The cutting of one's own hair is also a part of Buddhism, specifically something done by Siddhartha himself early on in his path to enlightenment. ...
In the Confucian tradition, hair ... may not be damaged without good reason. (TV Tropes Important Haircut)
Cutting one's hair can also be an act of rebellion. For instance, in the animated movie Mulan (1998). Spoiler alert -- in the live action film Mulan, coming soon, the all important hair-cutting moment has been ... wait for it ... cut. More at Cinemablend (The film's release, originally scheduled for last month, has been postponed to July 24, 2020 due to the Coronavirus outbreak.)

One last thought on grief and hair gestures: The book Indian Sign Language (2012) by William Tonkins is a dictionary of hand gestures "developed by the Sioux, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and other tribes." Below is an apt gesture for these sorrowful times:
MOURN (meaning: cutting off the hair and crying) With extended separated right 2 hands make as though to cut off hair horizontally just below the ears, then make the sign for cry.