Why Aren’t You Naked?

I’m curious as to why man is in the habit of wearing clothes, when no other animal has been spotted with even the smallest, most insignificant of socks.

We could say it’s the fault of the cold, but humans wear clothes at the Equator.

We could take a Darwinian tactic and argue that clothes are hygienic — and thus the people who wore clothes outlived and out-reproduced those who ran young, wild and free — but this assumes too much. A soiled rag around the crotch seems far less healthy than a lifetime in a birthday suit. Even if dressing was significantly life-saving back in our lol-what-is-a-hygiene days, an appeal to hygiene still doesn’t answer why clothe-wearing began. It can only describe how it succeeded after its genesis. (And we’re after a genesis, not an exodus. (Somebody, please, laugh.))

We could argue that going around naked makes a man vulnerable and ashamed, which is experientially true, but veers from science and into religion, claiming man as animal-embarrassed-of-his-genitals, he-who-covers-what-every-chimp-and-dolphin-flaunts, putting dead animal skin between him and his primary drive to reproduce, and bringing to center stage one of the most terrifying existential question we can ask: What is wrong with human nature, that we feel an obligation to cover it?

We could make an argument from necessity, something like “thanks to natural disasters, human beings had to move to new climates, and the wearing of clothes allowed them to do so”, but this will only ever be a decent guess, in that it could be equally true that humans first wore clothes, and wearing them allowed for movement to new climates.

All any explanation after the few we’ve mentioned can hope for is mystery and guesswork, for we find ourselves wearing clothes, ashamed to take them off, having done so as far as we can look back. We can’t even point to where the absurdity began. As Gilbert Keith noted:

The other day a scientific summary of the state of a prehistoric tribe began confidently with the words ‘They wore no clothes!” Not one reader in a hundred probably stopped to ask himself how we should come to know whether clothes had once been worn by people of whom everything has perished except a few chips of bone and stone. It was doubtless hoped that we should find a stone hat as well as a stone hatchet. It was evidently anticipated that we might discover an everlasting pair of trousers of the same substance as the everlasting rock. But to persons of a less sanguine temperament it will be immediately apparent that people might wear simple garments, or even highly ornamental garments, without leaving any more traces of them than these people have left.

You see the conundrum. So in the face of the question of why we’re so embarrassed to be naked – regularly dreaming of the situation occurring to us at our old high-school — two answers diverge in the woods.

The first goes a little like this: Science tells us that the human being is merely an animal. Presented with the fact that he acts strikingly unlike other animals, we must explain this difference as merely quantitative. So what is the difference between man and the other beasts? Man is simply more intelligent.

In his intelligence, he chose (well not chose, that implies free will, a thing no animal exhibits, and thus a silly opening to an argument that holds man as no more than a smart animal. (Allow me a second attempt. (Oh, and drink.)))

Man happened to wear clothes out of necessity, driven by his own survival instinct, in response to migration, climate, disaster, or some other, unknown agent. First he lay under a dead animal for warmth, then he tried to take the animal with him, then he cut its skin, and thus forth. Perhaps, over time, this “happening” became a taboo. The idea that “it is good to wear clothes, it is bad not to” was enforced by a herd mentality, which sought the survival of the species, and “knew” — in that fur-wearers survived longer to pass on their genes — that fur-wearing aided the species survival. The shame we experience in nakedness today was born, a product of evolution, and has remained with us ever since.

It’s not bad, and I’m certain my pitiful attempt could be polished by some one versed in the language of anthropology and speculative darwinism. The problem is that it will always be a guess.

Another guess, one that has the value of being experienced every day, is that man is not just quantitatively different from the beasts, but qualitatively. Because clothes are a uniquely human phenomenon, man can be described as an animal who wears clothes. It’s not that he happens to wear clothes, which, as discussed, is only ever a guess. He is a creature who wears clothes, as a pelican is a creature that flies. If this is the case, it tells us something rather remarkable: Innate to the experience of human existence is the experience of shame, expressed by the fact that man is ashamed to be exactly as he is born –naked.

Now shame is something no human being desires to experience. At the very heart of human existence then, there is a thorn: Something-that-should-not-be-but-is. This is all rather odd, for a something-that-should-not-be implies desire for a something-that-should-be, namely, a world without shame. And if we contain within ourselves a desire for a world without shame, while living in a world of shame, then the simple fact of pulling on a pair of pants in the morning expresses a truth illustrated in the creation myths of every religion the world has ever put up with: The Fall, that bold and obvious proclamation that things are not as they should be, and that there is a better world to be attained.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

At times, the religious impulse seems frightfully natural.

  • Mark

    I think you are underestimating the argument of the necessity of covering one’s genitals for the purposes of both survival and natural selection. (1) It hurts to be stricken in the genitals if you’re a guy, or to have anything unwanted enter your vagina, if you’re a gal. (2) It certainly benefits a man with small or unsightly genitals to keep them covered if he seeks to attract a mate using other means…. so I’ve heard.

    • Victo

      But then what about bras ? (I’m not sure I want to google « The History of Bra » or I might fall on website talking about underwear conspiracies).

      • DTMcCameron

        There’s actually a long and storied history to that.

    • Ruadhan

      hmmm interesting point Mark. But I guess that begs the question: why and how could we evolve to a point where clothes are necessary? or to put it in another way, why the jump between our closest ape cousins who are ‘naked’ and let it all ‘hang loose’ so to speak, and then our own dependency on an external material thing

      Furthermore, your point doesn’t actually address the shame nakedness provokes or the compunction modern man has for clothes.

      I guess another point not addressed in this article is the fact that shame of our nakedness comes at puberty, and so seems inextricable from our sexual drive. I recall an interesting study on the children of nudists, who even when raised in a household which intentionally avoided negative connotations around nakedness and in fact encouraged it as ‘natural’, those children would find themselves feeling shame anyway when they hit adolescence.

      Hope some of that made sense.

      • Mark

        I wasn’t trying to address every reason for clothing. Only to say to Marc that perhaps he dismisses the survival/natural selection reason(s) too quickly. And to attempt to be funny and flippant.

      • Hangingout

        Shame does not naturally come at puberty. It is taught as the child grows. My daughter and her make cousin were born within months of each other. When they were young and we would visit they would play in the little wading pool in the back yard. Often he would take his swim suit off. Someone would inevitably say, ‘put your bathing suit back on because Kaitlyn will see you naked’. So, we teach our children that nudity is shameful. We often visit a local naturist resort. I can assure you that teenagers brought up as Naturists are not ashamed of their nudity.

        Here is a link to an excellent audio blog called The Naturist Living Show. These episodes are on nudity and the human body. It is discussed in three episodes. If the link does not work just Google The Naturist Living Show. These episodes are from December 2009.

        http://www.naturistliving.bareoaks.ca/search?updated-min=2009-01-01T00:00:00-05:00&updated-max=2010-01-01T00:00:00-05:00&max-results=11

      • Tanya

        the study you are referring to suggested it was EMBARRASSMENT not shame. and it was about penises or braests, because the children were comparing their stature to the adults.

        As was stated earlier, “size matters”. in breasts for women, in penis for men.

    • SomeoneHadToSayIt

      The idea that larger genitals are better is a relatively modern idea. Consider ancient Rome or Greece. Large genitalia was regarded as unsightly and grotesque. This is still the state of affairs up into the Renaissance.

      • Mark

        I bet that’s what you tell all the ladies *thumbs up!*

        • James H, London

          Somebody’s on form today. Oy!

    • David Thane

      (1) good point. however, why haven’t the chimps and monkeys figured out to protect their balls? if that really was the reasoning behind it, then we wouldn’t be the only animal to wear clothing.

      (2) survival of the fittest… the men “with small or unsightly genitals” would die out and no one would have to worry about hiding. evolution explains a lot about the natural world, but humans are always exceptions to its laws.

      • avalpert

        Not if they developed successful techniques to hide or distract from it in the sexual selection process – like introducing clothing and even using ornaments as indication of selectiveness.

        Humans aren’t nearly as exceptional when it comes to the laws of nature as they like to assert.

        • David Thane

          right but how do you “develop” this? evolution? see my response to Nick. i find that there is a long gap between the science behind evolution, and what it tries to explain.

      • Nick

        Monkeys and chimps are a) not as smart as us b) don’t walk upright, so their genitals aren’t as exposed c) have tails (in the case of monkeys) and d) have fur.

        survival of the fittest doesn’t work quite like that. If a man with small genitals had a bigger brain, his brain would cancel out the undesirableness of his genitalia and he’d still breed.

        • David Thane

          you speak of evolution like some offspring of the particular species magically have what they need for the next step in getting smarter or whatever.
          what causes evolution? mutations, or changes in our DNA.

          so at the DNA level (where all mutations and changes that will affect the organism occur) things happen INCREDIBLY slowly. once in a VERY LONG while, a single cell makes a mistake in the nucleic acid chain and a “mutation” occurs. most of the time it is bad for the cell, it starts producing the wrong protein at the wrong time and the cells around it kill it off because its being weird (if i remember correctly its like 99.9% (but since i can remember my sources we’ll pretend its less for the sake of argument)). then in tiny fraction of the mutations it does nothing, the slightly different code still codes for the same amino acid and/or another one that does the same thing. THEN what ever is left of mutations not covered by these two categories is a “good” mutation, it helps the cell somehow (i.e. the protein does its job better/faster/strong/less mistakes whatever).

          (oh, sidenote, DNA is really simple, yet WICKED AWESOME. kinda like morse code with two extra characters. “A T U C” and these code for the 20 or so amino acids need to create EVERY protein in the human body. and that’s all it does. codes for proteins. nothing else. the difference in proteins is what makes my body different from yours “genetically”. wicked cool)

          Awesome right? so this only goes to show how seldom mutations that are beneficial occur. so what? they occur right? then they are passed on and eventually add up to a better species, right? wrong. for the mutations to be passed on they MUST occur in the reproductive cells, i.e. the sperm and the egg. so what if i have a single cell in my arm doing its job better then the rest of the cells? how does that help my kids? that cell in my arm has NOTHING to do with making babies. so the mutations, which rarely occur, and when they do, rarely are good, to be any use to the next generation have to be in my sperm? odds for that are astronomical.

          so what are the odds that good mutations, occurring in sperm and eggs, adding up to evolve enough men to think clothing is good? don’t forget the power of peer pressure, even if this man thought wrapping his naughty bits in other animals skin was a good idea, the rest of the men would probably just killed him for being different. so that amazing leap in evolution was killed because his ideas were just too good.

          it makes more sense to say, God made us, and when we opened our eyes to the sin we had committed against him, we were ashamed.

          • avalpert

            This demonstrates a misguided understanding of evolution. At the most basic, your assertions regarding mutation rates are quite wrong – mutations aren’t that rare at all (for a technical discussion on it see Drake et al’s Rates of spontaneous mutation in Genetics 148). Second, most mutations are not bad, most are neutral and beneficial mutations occur much more frequently than you assert and are easy to observe like in the case of rapid development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Finally, your story of peer pressure and the unfortunate death of the first person to over his genitals reflects a misunderstanding of how adaptations can happen in social animals – it doesn’t require a single individual to be hard wired to wear clothing all of a sudden anymore than a single fish egg suddenly hatched one day as a frog

            “it makes more sense to say, God made us, and when we opened our eyes to the sin we had committed against him, we were ashamed”

            Only if you aren’t interesting in actually understanding why humans (or other social animals) interact as they do. It makes no more sense to say that than it does to say God made lightning and uses it to enforce justice or announce he is pissed at you.

          • David Thane

            “easy to observe like in the case of rapid development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria.”

            Yes! Bacteria are one of the best examples of evolution. virus also evolve but then again there is debate in the scientific community over whether they are living. the difference between bacteria and humans is huge though. we are a multi-cellular organism. they are singe-celled. mutations in their genes affect their entire being and are immeadiatly passed on to their daughter cells (asexual reproduction will do that ;P). As i said, evolution due to mutation is not applicable to organisms as complex as mammals. Now, i totally agree with survival of the fittest and several other theories that are attributed to evolution and/or darwin. but there is no evidence to suggest that mutations of the gene code in cells within humans affects their offspring. so just because you remembered bacteria (single-celled, short life, lotsa kids), does not mean that you can throw out all that i said.

            the peer pressure thing was more of a joke than an example of actual fact. but still, humans do hate to stick out…

            “It makes no more sense to say that than it does to say God made lightning and uses it to enforce justice or announce he is pissed at you.”

            well, i assume you are referring to pagan mythology or something there. and i take offence at that. i am not ignoring facts or explaining something none of us have knowledge about. i am looking at the facts (as are you) and having a logical discussion.

            the people who hold your position seem to find that one example that seems to go with their theory and go “HA, you’re wrong”. though the fact you’re reading catholic blogs and taking the time to argue in the comments, you are pretty keen on truth. thatsz a good thing ;)

          • avalpert

            “but there is no evidence to suggest that mutations of the gene code in cells within humans affects their offspring”

            Like I said, this just reflect a completely misguided understanding of evolutionary theory and modern biology. I’m really not interested in educating you in the comments of this thread – which is why I only addressed some of your most basic errors. I’m going to do that again here because this is a blatantly stupid thing to say – there is plenty of evidence showing mutation impacting offspring one good example is the Apolipoprotein AI-Milano mutation of the Apolipoprotein AI gene which leads to lowered risk of heart attack and stroke in the individuals who have it.

            “well, i assume you are referring to pagan mythology or something there. and i take offence at that. i am not ignoring facts or explaining something none of us have knowledge about. i am looking at the facts (as are you) and having a logical discussion.”

            Was referring to mythology in general – whether it is Pagan or Catholic mythology matter not when it amounts to an argument from incredulity. I don’t mean to offend but as I point above, you aren’t looking at the facts you are looking at a deficient understanding of the actual facts and assuming that, despite how much our understanding has advanced in the past, it is impossible for us to continue to advance in our understanding of human evolution.

          • Carrie

            You were doing so well with the scientific part but then you added in your last paragraph. I think the one who decided to wear some clothing would have probably stuck around with a mate or a group of mates/family members (As done with bonobos and chimps now) and likely, this group would have encouraged each other to do the same things. I watched a documentary on chimps and how some families will teach the babies to hunt with sticks and stand upright and sleep in caves, etc, and I imagine this would have been a similar thing, just a little later in the evolution of the species. Females likely were the ones to start it, perhaps for warmth and encouraged the babies to do it as well, which males would likely carry on with their lives and females would pass on to their own babies. Obviously, I don’t know for sure because I wasn’t there, but that is my hypothesis. Plus, humans are not genetically programmed to wear clothing. We are born and then wrapped up to be kept warm as infants and then trained socially that it is unacceptable to do otherwise.

    • Mike M

      Other mammals seem to do just fine with their genitals exposed.

    • AM

      I don’t feel like your first argument adds much as an opposition. I’m sure it hurts for other animals when they experience pain in their genitals. It would make sense for them to wear something around their genitals then as protection from this pain, but clearly none do.

  • http://twitter.com/CDInTechnicolor Carlos D Villamayor

    It’s a dumb question, but how does Adam and Eve’s “nakedness” in the physical sense relates to their nakedness as in being stripped of Grace (an explanation I’ve heard before)?

    • Eve

      The idea I believe is that once they were aware of sin they were aware of their nakedness as a shameful thing whereas before it was not a thing to be ashamed of. Once sin entered into their minds they saw the naked body with a different mind and wanted to cloth themselves.

      • http://twitter.com/CDInTechnicolor Carlos D Villamayor

        So, nakedness without Grace becomes shameful?

      • http://www.facebook.com/christina.heath.125 Christina Heath

        Hmm.. i dont think so. You remember , it said they ate the fruit and their eyes were opened? They knew about sin, all of it. They woul have known, too, that there was nothing to be ashamed of when it was only a man, his wife and God. The problem, then, was WHAT THEY NOW KNEW. If you were in there place and now knew about all the sin that could ever be, all the perversions, what wpuld you be feeling? Your nudity being the most obvious thing, youd freak. Youd now be acutely aware of sexual sin, of the temtation to objectifiy your spouse, and the horror of being objectified and treated as a toy. You would cover youself up, especially while this knowlage was so new.

        • Eve

          my new email is evemartyn@shaw.ca

        • avalpert

          Really, I would think you would start enjoying it

        • Claude

          Remind me of the part where Adam and Eve now knew about all the sin that could ever be, all the perversions (oh my!). Their response to consciousness that “I’m naked and going to die” would more likely be: “Let’s get it on!”

          • http://www.facebook.com/christina.heath.125 Christina Heath

            I didnt say that they knew all the evil that would happen could happen. The tree was called “The Tree of Knowlage of Good and Evil.” So after eating, they became capable of knowing, when before their minds were capable only of knowing God and his grace. God had fitted them with many graces including long life and extreme inteligence, their minds handt been clouded by sin. But still, they had only known enough about sin so that they sould understand God’s command to not touch the fruit. But after eating the fruit, they understood the *nature* of good and the *nature* of evil, they now had knowlage of it. And, being naked, the knowlage of sexual evils would be one of the first things they learned, and it scared them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/michael.poston1 Michael Poston

      The shame associated with Adam and Eve’s nakedness post-Fall is associated with the very point several people are making about equality (clothing showing rank etc). Since after choosing envious pride in the sinful act Adam and Eve embraced the privation we call concupiscence, they saw each other on unequal terms–in other words, lustfully. They failed to unite the other’s body with their inherent goodness; but rather reduced the other to an object for sexual pleasure. Therefore, the lustful thoughts led to the soul–being rightly ordered toward the good–to experience shame. This is at least what I learned in my graduate theology studies (which does not serve to boost my ego; rather, give a bit more credence to my opinion).

      • DTMcCameron

        Might it be said that, clothed so fully in grace, the need not fear immodesty?

  • http://twitter.com/EdmundMitchell Edmund Mitchell

    Fantastic

  • Claude

    Because that woman made me feel self-conscious dread.

  • Obliged_Cornball

    One important function of clothing within many societies is as a symbol of social status. If I had to give a strictly **Darwinian** account of clothing, it would almost certainly include a reference to status. Even those who wear cheap, “low-status” clothes are still in a sense proclaiming themselves a part of society, and those who are wealthier or more powerful can use it to display other things as well. Come to think of it, I can’t really think of any societies where people of every demographic wear the same types of clothes. In any case, it’s strange to me how a supposedly shame-based phenomenon gets used by so many people to show off.

    Yet I think it’s a mistake to expect there is necessarily One True Reason™ why people wear clothing. Universal phenomena are the strongest candidates for universal explanations, but it is not necessarily the case that there must be a universal explanation for every universal phenomena. It could well be that there are a number of good reasons to wear clothing, and that they affect different cultures in varied numbers and degrees. This is yet another “guess” in your own language, but it’s not something that I can immediately rule out.

    ** Please refrain from using the term “Darwinism” in future articles, unless referring specifically to the ideas of Darwin himself. The theory of evolution by natural selection has been refined and expanded upon so much since Darwin’s time. The findings and speculations of modern anthropologists, biologists, and psychologists don’t just rest on that one crude proposal. Add to this the fact that “Darwinism” is a term often used by creationists in the pejorative sense, and you’ve got a label worth avoiding. **

    • http://www.facebook.com/balf11 Brian Formica

      It remains a strange phenomena indeed. Sorta like our fixation with money, another thing that – so far as I’m aware – only mankind uses (and is a large influencing factor towards the importance of social status). Your take on social status is insightful, but I feel it’s incomplete (only insofar as it lacks an answer to *why* clothes mean anything for social status). Shame still needs to be reckoned with, because social status is the last thing on my mind at the thought of public exposure.

      • Obliged_Cornball

        I certainly wouldn’t discount shame from the equation altogether, but I don’t think it exists as the sole explanation for why we clothe ourselves. I suspect it is somehow causally related to clothing though. Though social reinforcement makes it difficult for me to determine how much shame is the *origin* of clothing. I imagine both of these factors are at play.

        Money is exclusively human, though one might be able to conceive of certain reciprocal animal interactions in economic terms. Using money requires a good deal of abstract thought because it doesn’t represent any immediate gain. Only animals that can remove themselves from the present could even theoretically conceive of the concept.

        • DTMcCameron

          Do you suppose there might be something to trophy taking, or even possibly, that clothes evolved from jewelry? I suppose that unlikely, in the end. It must be that man simply thought himself spiffy when dressed, and so began the tradition.

  • avalpert

    You forgot about those shameful cloth wearing hermit crabs… maybe they are truly the reason God created Earth

    • David Thane

      more of a house than clothing. ;P

      • avalpert

        The animal world’s RV?

        And what’s with the downvotes folks – afraid of realizing humans aren’t all that special?

    • Tim

      I agree. I also think it’s incorrest to say that no other animal wears clothes. Primates and other animals have been observed finding shelter from rain. Elephants and similar large animals use mud to cool and protect themselves. In a very basic form I think this can be linked to a basic need for shelter from harsh elements, which is what clothing is. The embarrasment and shame from being naked came much later…

  • Rosie

    Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.~Mark Twain

    • http://www.facebook.com/balf11 Brian Formica

      Why is that?

  • David Thane

    discovered your blog last night via a facebook stat of a friend and i have to say, im hooked. as a 19 year old it’s nice to see my generation ain’t as screwed as i thought. your insight and humor gives me hope. keep it up!

  • http://www.themonthebard.org/ Themon the Bard

    I’m curious how much time you’ve spent naked with other people.

    I live in society as a normal person, so I wear clothes. But I’ve been in any number of “clothing optional” environments, and I strip ship pretty easily. Here’s my observation:

    Clothing is about power. It’s a social thing, like language, facial expressions, and gift-giving.

    The first thing that happens when you get naked with other people, particularly strangers — after the first moments of horrified confusion, of course — is that everything becomes a lot more egalitarian, and a whole lot less guarded.

    You know the old rule about speaking before a distinguished crowd: imagine them all naked, and magically, anxiety melts away. Without clothing, you cannot tell a Pope from a brigadier general from a janitor.

    My guess is that all clothing is an outgrowth of symbols-of-rank. Only later did people discover that it’s kind of nice on a cold night.

    • http://twitter.com/DoubleIngram Francis Ingram

      So the prehistoric man thought that wearing a loincloth to cover his genitals made him a higher class of man than his naked friend? I don’t buy that.

      • http://www.themonthebard.org/ Themon the Bard

        Well, not ALL clothing. Even dedicated nudists say, “Don’t cook bacon without an apron.” The loincloth is obviously to keep one’s sensitives from bouncing around (painfully) when one runs, and makes them harder to grab when in a heated dispute.

        I think anyone would be hard-pressed to find a non-social explanation for this item of clothing: http://www.rhymer.net/New%20Folder/gourd1.htm

  • Cole

    “If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” -C.S. Lewis

    • Hyacinth

      That’s not even slightly the most probable explantion.

      That you’ve missed out on an experience that would satisfy it is more likely. No-one has or can experience everything this world has to offer.

      So is the explanation that your desiring mechanism is broken.

      Or that you have unreasonable expectations about what satisfy a desire means- most satisfaction is temporary. If I eat a good meal and then get hungry again later, it doesn’t mean I need food that’s out of this world to satisfy me. It means desire for food is something that can only be satisfied for a little while.

      People frequently desire things they can’t experience. I want to win the lottery, for example. Now, even if I bought a ticket, the odds are tiny that I would ever win, but that doesn’t end my desire for it.

      • Scott H

        Hyacinth: Cole’s statement is taken out of context. The line is actually the culmination of a long thesis by Lewis, and is its conclusion. Lewis is using the logical ‘cannot’. He shows by argument (and you can agree or disagree with it as you like) that there is a desire within humans that _cannot_ be satisfied in this world. This isn’t like ‘wanting to win the lottery’ or anything else.

  • James H, London

    “And we’re after a genesis, not an exodus. (Somebody, please, laugh.)”

    OK: Ba-doom, tsshhh!

  • James H, London

    A priest went to visit an acquaintance. He knocked on the door, but there was no answer. He left a message on a post-it, saying ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock! (Rev)’.
    The next day, his friend left a post-it on his door, saying ‘I was naked, so I hid. (Gen)’.

  • Vision_From_Afar

    “a truth illustrated in the creation myths of every religion the world has ever put up with: The Fall, that bold and obvious proclamation that things are not as they should be, and that there is a better world to be attained.”

    Read any Greek or Norse creation myths lately?

    • http://twitter.com/DoubleIngram Francis Ingram

      Greek myth includes an analogue to the Fall, in that Cronus ate his children, something which is obviously wrong. While it does not directly deal with man’s fall, the gods are more or less just superhuman humans, so the faults of the gods would certainly be present in man, who were created by the gods. For the Greeks, man was created imperfect and thus in no need of a fall, which had already occurred for their creators. This still addresses that “things are not as they should be”.

      I’m not quite so familiar with Norse mythology, so I cannot speak to whether such a concept lies therein, although I would wager there is since it is common to human experience, as Marc states boldly.

      • Vision_From_Afar

        Cronus was a God, and one of the first, not a “superhuman human”. Eating his children was a “logical” method of maintaining control in an environment that was hostile from all quarters, including his own kids. Implying that this is analogous to the Fall and the removal of Grace is misguided, I think.

        True, the action is “wrong”, but the problem with the Fall for Christians is that they attempt to return to the Grace that was lost. I doubt the Greek Gods or the Greeks would wish for a return to Cronus’s rule. If “things are not as they should be”, in the Greek sense, does this mean that the creation of man by the Gods was an imperfect act that must be corrected? If so, to what end? Perfection in it’s own right was something that, according to some, eluded the Gods themselves.

        You’re comparing something that was one held, then lost and forever searched for to something that was never held in the first place. Too much effort trying to fit a square Christian peg into the round hole of Greek Lore.

        By the by, I am familiar with Norse mythology, and no there isn’t.

        • http://profiles.google.com/arkanabar Arkanabar Ilarsadin

          Pandora caused the Hellenic pagan fall. If you like, it was humanity’s fault, for accepting Prometheus’ gift of fire, which is cited as the gods’ motivation for sending her among them.

          • Vision_From_Afar

            “You’re comparing something that was one held, then lost and forever searched for to something that was never held in the first place.” Same problem.

            Besides, the Greeks got both Fire and Hope out of the deal, despite the troubles that came with it. Christians/Jews got…clothes and shame?

          • AttentionDeficitCatholic

            Don’t forget Jesus!

          • Thomas

            I would suggest the Greeks did not believe in a catastrophic Fall, but they certainly believed the world had declined since the Golden Age and would continue to do so. At least in my opinion, I always hear Hesiod expressing a great pessimism about his own age as opposed to that of the gods and heroes. That being said, the Greeks had a very realistic – and glorious – view of the world in general wherein man was capable of great things only to be frustrated by the Fields of Asphodel. On the contrary, though, when I read Aristotle’s Politics describing the semi-mythical age of kings and heroes, he seems to hold them in great esteem but nevertheless believes things are done much better in his realistic present.

            Regarding Pandora, I would agree with Vision here. Prometheus and the theft of fire was certainly a good thing in the Greek mind, the Fall being a step up to becoming independent from the capricious gods. Now, I do believe these myths are related. I’m thinking of the Epic of Gilgamesh wherein the “fall” of Enkidu via the town harlot and realization of his nakedness is depicted positively as entrance into civilization. For the Biblical writers who idolized Abraham’s pastoral days, civilization – the polis – and its travails were literally the result of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil – that is, knowledge of everything. It’s interesting the Bible and the Epic both use the same words, “like gods who know.” In Genesis, however, the sacred writer adds the Tree of Life as a counterpoint – the path to becoming gods the right way, which is why Lady Wisdom is depicted as the Tree of Life in wisdom literature.

    • AttentionDeficitCatholic

      While I will agree that that statement was a rather sweeping generalization, I believe that an argument can be made for the idea that in Greek mythology, the “generations of man” (the Gold Generation, the Silver Generation, the Bronze Generation, and the Iron Generation (the last of which being the “modern” Greeks of the time)) can be considered analogous to a fall. Granted, “decline” would be a better term than “fall”, but it’s there.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    While this is an interesting discussion, certainly, I think you’re taking the notion that humans “are ashamed” to be seen naked as too much of a universal. Clearly, many tribal cultures that still exist don’t have as much of a hang-up about this as we in the U.S. do; many Asian countries have far fewer hang-ups on this than we do; and, many European countries in the modern world have far less hang-ups about this than we do. The latter, with their shared largely Christian heritage, really provokes the question as to why people in the U.S. are more worried about this than not.
    Even laying aside the issue of total nudity, both in public and in private, think about this: a guy in speedos on the beach in the U.S., unless he’s either a model or a professional athlete, is considered to be risque and even taboo, and even if such a swimsuit covers most of the buttocks, many Americans still refer to this attire as a “man-thong” when that’s very far from the truth. (And there are actual thongs designed for males…but you never see those in public!) Go to almost any other country in the world, from Canada to Mexico to any South American country, or any European or Asian country, or Australia, and speedos on men–whether they are old and saggy, overweight, thin, or have those rare perfect bodies–are not only common, they’re expected and often even required at certain swimmin pools.

    So, I think you’re clearly writing from not only a normative Christian viewpoint, but also a normative U.S. viewpoint. There are other cultures in existence today that don’t have these hang-ups, and there have been many cultures in the past that have not shied away from total nudity in certain public contexts without any difficulties.

    • Sir Louis

      You can’t just “lay aside the issue of total nudity.” That’s the core point of the post. And when you mention total nudity “in certain public contexts” you are only saying that there are exceptions to the rule.

      Some people are born mute, therefore it is not true that man is the animal that uses structured language. Some primitive tribes don’t dress, therefore clothing is not a peculiarly human characteristic. Neither inference is valid.

    • Hangingout

      What are you talking about? I live in Canada and I can tell you first hand that the tight little speedo’s are definitely not expected or required at any pools, beaches or backyards. They haven’t been in vogue since the 80′s.

  • kalimsaki

    Is it at all possible that the Munificent and Compassionate Creatorwould accept the insignificant wish of the tiny stomach and its supplicationthrough the tongue of disposition for a temporary immortality by creatinginnumerable delicious foods, and not accept the intense desire of allhumankind, which arises from an overpowering innate need, and itsuniversal, constant, rightful, just prayer for immortality, offered throughword and state? God forbid, a hundred thousand times! It is impossible thatHe would not accept it. Not to accept it would be in keeping with neither hiswisdom, nor His justice, nor His mercy, nor His power.

    Since man is most desirous of immortality, all his perfections andpleasures are dependent upon it. And since immortality is particular to theEternal One of Glory; and since the Eternal One’s names are enduring andimmortal; and since the Eternal One’s mirrors take on the hue of the EternalOne, and reflect His decree, and manifest a sort of immortality; for sure thematter most important for man, his most pressing duty, is to form arelation with that Eternal One and to adhere to His names. For everythingexpended on the way of the Eternal One receives a sort of immortality. Thesecond “O Eternal One, You alone are Eternal!” expresses this truth. Inaddition to healing man’s innumerable spiritual wounds, it satisfies the intense wish for immortality inherent in his nature.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Evans/1017276335 John Evans

    Kids aren’t ashamed to be naked until we teach them to be ashamed of being naked. Nudity taboos are cultural. Consider the extant places in the world, or England in the Victorian era, where showing your ankle was considered terribly scandalous. Existing at the same time are cultures where wearing no more than a loincloth – for men or women – is normal. I am not an anthropologist – but do we even know if these tropical, tribal societies even consider nakedness shameful, or merely impractical?

  • Bob

    One of the reasons we need clothes and closely related species like chimpanzees don’t is that sometime in our evolution we lost our fur. Fur protects animals, bot just against the cold, but also against the harsh light of the sun. It also offers some protecting against getting your skin scratched or bitten, especially if the fur is thick.
    Clothes serve the same purposes in humans.

    I doubt that ‘wearing clothes’ was directly selected for. It’s more likely imo that making clothes is an offshoot of the general increase in intelligence that human ancestors went through after they split off from apes. Better intelligence means better tools, which means more efficent hunting and gathering, more food and less starvation.

    I don’t think you can claim that shame when naked is a human universal. Even in Western societies, there are naturists who enjoy doing things naked and are not ashamed. There are tribes in Africa and in the Amazon where most of the women will be bare-breasted most of the time, and that’s seen as normal.

    It’s true that most of the time the genitals are covered. That might be because they’re fragile- you can get a nasty infection or irritation if something gets in your vagina, and balls are easily crushed-or it might be because they tend to be the dirtest part of your body because waste matter and various secretions come from there. It can’t be because of some apple in the garden of Eden. Genetic analysis of the human genome doesn’t support the idea that we came from one pair of humans. There were never less than around 10,000 humans on the planet. Some of our DNA is Neanderthal in origin as well. And the evidence for our evolution from apelike ancestors is good; good enough for the Pope, even.

    • ForsythiaTheMariner

      Nonsense! And remarkably unpersuasive. You are merely alleging that somewhere in the course of evolution we “lost our fur.” May I ask how would natural selection lead to a change that is harmful to us by decreasing our protection from the elements? Are you suggesting that we accept your argument as an article of scientific “faith” that this is what occurred? Did anyone ever observe this happen, or is it even conceivable that anyone could have observed this happening over long ages?

      You are simply offering a reductionistic explanation of a profound aspect of the human condition. Even if evolution is true, and it plays a role in the human need for clothing, this would not explain the fundamental and uniquely human phenomenon of shame.

      As for your example of tribal women exposing their breasts, this doesn’t seem to relate to shame over disordered sexuality since breasts are not sexual organs. As Pope JPII (who seemed to accepted macroevolution) explained, scientific and theological explanations for human behavior are not mutually exclusive. Reality is big and can be viewed from a near infinity of facets. It cannot be viewed from only the narrow vantage point of a single disciple, such as evolutionary biology.

  • jose

    “He is a creature who wears clothes, as a pelican is a creature
    that flies. If this is the case, it tells us something rather
    remarkable: Innate to the experience of human existence is the
    experience of shame, expressed by the fact that man is ashamed to be
    exactly as he is born –naked.”

    Nope, shame is learned. Raise kids in a nudist family, they’ll have no shame except the one imposed on them by other people. This is common knowledge.

  • slae

    Wrongo. The sense of shame we feel over nakedness is entirely cultural. Go down to New Guinea or certain parts of Africa, and they will show you how completely cultural your sense of shame over your naked body is.

  • rumitoid

    I can understand why you missed this: GQ started in 80000 B.C.E. In 4000 B.C.E., the look changed, effectively ending Neanderthals as a fashion, or existence, model. It was not brute strength or superior intelligence that led to homo sapien supremacy but the introduction of the rhinestone by HS, which the Neanderthals viewed as totally gauche.

  • rumitoid

    On a serious note, scientific research shows that we carry up to about 3% of Neanderthal genes. A Chimpansee has just short of 3% homo sapien genes. What can we conclude? Britney Spears is over-dressed.

  • Sven2547

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance

    ‘I don’t know, therefore Goddidit’

  • Michael

    I’ve seen chimpanzees holding big leaves over their heads to act as an umbrella, and I’ve seen orangutans drape hessian bags over their shoulders.

    Humans probably started just as casually, but we were smart enough to figure out that if we sewed the ends together, the bag (or leaf or whatever) would stay in position – and we were dexterous enough to actually do the sewing.

    After that, our competitive spirit would have encouraged people to invent newer, better looking, items of clothing.

  • Alastair

    Many human cultures walk around naked where the climate is suitable.

  • Jeremy

    Somebody’s been reading “Love and Responsibility”…

  • CD

    Everyone keeps talking about clothing protecting the male genitals, etc. etc. Honestly though, since when has being kicked in the testis hurt any less because you were wearing clothes? Also, since when have clothes deterred a rapist…or venereal diseases?


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