Monthly Archives: April 2009

Trapping the Fabric

I’ve been curious lately about the phrases, “the trappings of society” and the “fabric of society.” Are they the same?

What are the trappings of our society today? Dictionaries define trappings as adornments, external decorations, outward signs. The word comes from the Middle English, trappen, to trap, which in turn comes from the Medieval Latin, trapus, which means cloth, or fabric. So are the trappings the cloth itself, or those things, which adorn it, cover it up, trap us from seeing the truth of the stuff from which we are really made?

If it’s the adornments, what are they? A Beemer in the garage? A nice house in the suburbs? A nameplate on your desk that includes a title? I’d really like to know. I’d really like to generate a list of what makes up the trappings of today’s society. Help me out. Please.

I know that the trappings of a good hippie were long hair, colorful clothes, weed, and a funky van. If we stripped a hippie of those things, we’d be left with a human whose only covering might be a threadbare cloth. Long hair did not a hippie make, nor tie-dyed shirts, nor a split windshield, air-cooled VW van.  But stripped of the trappings, the threads were love, peace, tolerance, justice, and respect for the earth.

If we strip away the trappings of today’s society, are we left with the bare cloth, the fabric? Are we afraid to look at it without it’s adornments and decorations? Are we afraid to inspect the threads, which make up the cloth? Would we tear asunder the fabric by removing a thread here and there? Perhaps replace it with another. Thread by thread, can we reweave a new fabric for our society? Do we have time to do it gracefully? Maybe if we had started 40 years ago. Now, we must act quickly to repair holes in the cloth, maybe with the same patches we used to cover the holes in our jeans.

We may have to yank a few rotten threads out altogether. Will the cloth hold up? Is it possible to replace a piece of fabric thread by thread? Do we have a choice? And if we succeed, what will the new trappings of our society be like? Maybe if we think about how we would like to be decorated and adorned, how we would like to be seen by others, it will give us a clue as to the kinds of threads we should be using in both our national warp and weft.

Action Items:

  1. Name some of the threads that make up the fabric of our society.
  2. Identify the trappings that currently exist.
  3. Tell which ones you think need to go, and which ones can or need to stay.
  4. Describe what kind of trappings you’d like the rest of the world to see adorn us.
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