A Punk lesson in Chizonius and Penimius

Looking back on some of the bands I listened to in high school, I learned a valuable lesson in the importance of chizonius (external emphasis) and penimius (internal emphasis) in regard to who I am. It was, however, a lesson that I really didn’t absorb until I graduated back in ’89.

I was fully entrenched in the whole hardcore punk/alternative music scene during my younger years. I, ironically, showed my individuality by dressing mostly in black (like everyone else). That was what most of us did. How we presented ourselves was a reflection of what we listened to, it was the external reflecting the internal. There were, of course, those who expressed what I can call now “punk frumkeit”. They looked the part, had the right band t-shirts, had their hair the right way, yet were much more into the fashion that the philosophy. Back then we called them “posers”.

Some of the musicians that made up the soundtrack of my youth such as Bob Mould, Henry Rollins, and Greg Graffin held by a different philosophy. They were all in some of the fastest and loudest band out there at the time. They also dressed like your average person in their early years. I was struck, even then, that they were so “hardcore” without looking like they were. That was much more impressive than my closet of black clothing and a jacket with band names written on it. They had mastered the art of making a statement by not making a statement (interestingly the trend among some Torah observant Jews to wear ‘white shirts’ is basically the same statement).

A few years after high school I read an interview with Lee Ranaldo (from Sonic Youth) and he was quoted as saying, “Sometimes the most radical people or ideas outwardly seem very conservative”. That made sense to me. An emphasis on the internal, what’s below the surface, requires more than a casual glance.  That what I aim for these days.  I can’t help but be identified as a Torah observant Jew, but I try to be tzinius in my actions.  Is that punk?  It doesn’t matter, this is who I have chosen to be.

4 thoughts on “A Punk lesson in Chizonius and Penimius

  1. frumpunk

    You’re right, I did like it. 🙂
    I absolutely agree. Its the reason I don’t bother looking the part. I’m in it for the music. If I tried the fashion I’d end up looking like an emo kid who shops at Hot Topic anyway.

    But its also a great lesson not to let outward appearances judge someones tastes or character.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *