Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My barber is a secular humanist

Hair culture in Colombia is something men take very seriously. While the euro mullet has made its impact on Medellín, it isn't the end-all of haircuts. Men here keep it short and trimmed, with barbers often spending more time on sideburns than on the entire haircut. For this reason, haircuts are extremely cheap, often no more than $2-4.

I'm always quick to specify my desire to avoid the "business in front, party in back" style,  which this time, elicited a large smile from the elder barber who told me "those kids look like little rat gangsters anyways." He then proceeded to ask me about where I was from, what I was doing, etc. Then the conversation turned to religion. When asked about religion, I always say the religion of my family (historically Protestant), just because Catholicism is so important here and I'd hate to be figured for some Godless gringo. "So what are you protesting?" he chuckled, before quipping some ancedotes about the Pope and Martin Luther.

I asked him if he was Catholic and he laughed, asking what makes one Catholic, appearing to be dissolusioned with mainstream Colombia's interpretation. He then started to talk about the "Pachamama" or Mother-Nature spirit of all living things: "The most true spirits that I have observed are with the indigenas (indigenous peoples) and their ceremonies. They have a profound respect for all things living and a strict adherence to a set of codes that is existent virtually nowhere in Western religion." My barber said he attempts to embody the indigenous respect for nature, while at the same time, deriving morality from history and his own personal experience. "Un humanista secular!" I proclaimed, sharing some of this world view. "Well son, I wouldn't say secular, because whether you think it's one God or twelve, there is a little bit of it influencing the things that are beyond our capacity to comprehend." Not what I was expecting for a $3 hair cut.

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