Indecent Exposure

Indecent Exposure July 1, 2011
In which I demand atheists defend the wearing of pants.

I might just be depressed, or maybe I’m a dark-minded and morbid Catholic, but I can’t help but agree with Robert Browning: “There may be a heaven; there must be a hell.” I can enter into some solidarity with today’s atheist, that it’s difficult to know if there’s some absolute good in the universe, but we part ways totally when he claims that there’s no absolute evil. We may or may not be destined for great heights, but it’s painfully obvious that we’re fallen.

Why this confidence? It arises primarily from the fact that I am covered in various mixtures of cotton, polyester, and wool, and I have absolutely no secular excuse for it. This ‘being clothed’ business is largely ignored as an inexplicable phenomenon, accepted with a blind and blissful faith. There’s some good reason for wearing clothes, we just can’t think of it at the moment.

If I were to approach a lady on the street and ask her, as sternly as I could manage, “Ma’am, why are you wearing clothes?” there are only a few answers that she could give. One is that it’s cold outside. This, really, is the best answer to avoid the tricky business of being a fallen race. Clothes are merely a physical answer to a physical need. But all the many civilizations that live near the equator, in temperatures too hot or just right, have their own garb to sweat in. In fact, the natives of San Diego seem to spend more on clothes than anyone else. And the fact remains that, even if the weather were just perfect, the lady on the street – bless her heart – would probably not revert to nudism.  So why the clothes?

One could then turn to culture, to society, and say it is inappropriate to go around naked. But all an appeal to culture achieves is to make the appealer a representative of her culture. The claim “humanity has always done it and teaches everyone else to do it” simply puts the personal question – why are you wearing clothes? – on a larger scale – why is everyone wearing clothes? Culture, society and humanity are not answers to questions. They are an assumption of the voices of everyone who does what you do. So the sensible would drop that argument, shake me warmly by the hand, convert to Catholicism and live happily ever after, while the particularly tenacious might take an entirely new route, and deny that everyone wears clothes.

They’ll pull out their National Geographic magazines, point at a few bare-breasted women and turn on me, triumphant. Now while I sympathize that the fact of bare-breasted women often leads men to feelings of triumph, I must point out that the nakedness shown there is one of degree, and not of rule. One culture might bare their breasts, another may not, but both gird their loins. One culture might say it is fine to be naked during certain dances, another when you are a small child, another when bathing, another when swimming, another when ill, but all agree that these are exceptions, not rules. There is no culture that takes the opposite tack, as far as I am aware — we should always be naked, but it is fine to wear clothes when going to the shop. There are nudist colonies, to be sure, but these are artificial cultures. They do not develop naturally, but in reaction to the surrounding culture. They bond and come together over common ideology, as did the Adamite heretics, not over the simple fact of being human. Thus they are no more a natural culture than Republicans are. The nudist chooses not to wear clothes, and thus he is called a nudist, for he is defined by his choice. The man who wears clothes is not a clothesist, he’s simply a man, and his development was not intentional.

Eventually it would come up, that the lack of clothes would be embarrassing in public. If anyone denies this, invite them earnestly to take their clothes off and go about their day. They will not.  We are ashamed of our bodies, or rather, we are fearful of other’s glances at our bodies. We are ashamed, and this shame is evident across every culture. It is a common human condition.

But what stupidity is this? What animal is sheepish about his genitals? Darwin is useless here, because — and as an attendant of a public school dances, I can say it with scientific confidence — clothes inhibit sex. And lest we forget our fearful dreams of going to school naked, this shame isn’t exactly sexually charged. It wouldn’t explain the situation away, to say that we wear clothes because we fear rape and lust and objectification. Indeed, it would be grasping at straws, because our previous lady’s fear of being naked on the street is not just that others will find her attractive, it is that others will find her ridiculous. And this shame is illogical, in sharp incongruity with the natural world. What animal fears its own self?

The only answer, though there are many more objections that might be brought up and equally refuted, is that human beings are inherently aware of being imperfect. There is a perfection — nakedness without shame — and we do not live it. We are fallen.

Say what you will about the Bible. Let be an old, contradictory, oppressive text. But its claim that the first response to the Fall of Man is the Clothing of Man is — at the very least — remarkably perceptive. If there was a Fall, and that which was Perfect was soiled, than a Great Clothing would make sense.

But here’s my real point: If the atheist is going to deny that there exists an Ultimate Perfection which every one of us strives for, what the Christian might call Heaven, then he must deny that there is imperfection. For imperfection only makes sense in relation to perfection — It is the lack of perfection. If there is no perfected state of man, no Heaven and no glorification, why on earth are we so aware of man being imperfect, to the point of wearing clothes?

In the end, this is can only be so depressing, because if we are fallen, it only means there was something to fall from. And it is my belief that Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God, became man so that we might be lifted back up to, and even higher than our long lost state of glory. The real question goes out to the atheist, the materialist (are there any left?), and the agnostic: Why are you wearing pants? If you have no adequate answer, is it possible that there is more to human beings than animal tendencies, darwinian drives, and big brains?

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