Sunday, 2 March 2014

Muse


The chance meetings are those that sometimes bring about the most inspired thinking… The pleasure of such moments is what has guided my own narrative process. This week, I was given the lovely gift of a story. I would like to share as it brought back some of my own happy childhood memories…

“Mommy, why is the cat naked?”

It is one of those rare moments from my earliest flashbacks of childhood, where I have more memories of the story’s retelling than the actual event itself.

According to family lore, I dashed around the house, cherry-picking garments of various shapes and sizes from plush animals, toy boxes, and the back of the chest-of-drawers. Everyone had a good laugh watching me try and coax the mystified feline into a fashion show. Growing up, the tale was told and retold around the dinner table, or on long family outings. The laugh at my expense was softened with the implication that I had always been an outside-the-box thinker. Yet, when I reflect back on the story now, I wonder if I was actually staring into the box, rather than outside of it.

The box, in this case, is an assumption that is so obvious that it is rarely discussed: The biggest difference between humans and animals is our lack of nakedness.

When we make lists of our simplest needs, we always include clothing with food and shelter. Yet, we are born naked into this world - a trait we share with every animal. Adam and Eve frolicked in the nude, of course. That was one of the virtues of the Garden of Eden. But if a reality check is needed, a simple flip through an old National Geographic magazine - or a stroll through a nudist colony - will quickly dissolve any sentimentality for the days before our ancestors found the fig leaf.

Children love to play dress-up. They understand that all clothes are costumes. They see them for the symbols that they are, and the signals they communicate. Because adults are simply children with independence, empowerment, and money, we continue the act of playing dress-up throughout our lives. Fig leaves aside, the earliest pieces of clothing were probably the skins of animals. To wear fur in pre-modern times was actually conservationist in its symbolism. Just as native peoples would ceremonially sacrifice the animals of the hunt in order to honor them, so would they have lasting remembrance by donning the skins of their prey.

In a postmodern world, most of us find the idea of wearing fur antiquated and socially unacceptable. But, as humanity becomes more removed from the natural world, as our planet loses its ecological diversity, as societies continue to value short-term profits over long-term sustainability, I could foresee a surging interest in wearing animal skins. This will not be framed as copious displays of wealth, but a natural extension of the organic movement. Just as the ingredients, locality, and farming practices of one’s food has become part of the narrative of one’s political identity, I anticipate the textile market moving in a similar direction.

And, perhaps, that most succinctly answers the question of why people wear clothes and animals don’t.

People are political animals.

Like everything else in life, it seems you can blame it on politics…;)


~Dan le Magique Man

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