The naked truth…

…is that the naked ape seems to have a problem with his own nakedness. Sorry, it’s not his nakedness but her nakedness that everybody seems to be bothered about. Society, religion, culture, everywhere they’re stubbing their toes, big & small, on this one, all-important issue of what & how much or how little a woman can or should wear. Among the 5,000-odd mammal species on earth we are the only ones who are effectively naked, which means without fur. And the only thing that’s hindering our progress is the lack of a proper dress code, it seems.

Six to eight million years ago we began to get rid of our fur because we came out of the virgin (!) forest to live in semi-aquatic regions & open savannahs. We retained some of our fur, such as on the head, as a protection against the sun, whereas the rest of the body hair was retained presumably for sexual purposes such as enhancing pheromones.

The moment we’d got rid of the fur, we started ‘borrowing’ the skins & the fur of other, far more clever animals to make up for our lack of – and why just skins & furs? Fig leaves, borrowed feathers, the barks of trees, we used everything to hide our nakedness because – yes, because nakedness got irrevocably & inextricably entangled with sexuality & sexual selection, where we again have to diffentiate between the state of nakedness and the quality of nakedness – what?

Shut up? Okay, I shall.

To begin again, the sight of nakedness arouses sexual desire – about the first programme that Evolution wrote. A smooth, hairless, unblemished skin is taken to be a sign of health. The female wishes a strong & healthy male partner in the (subconscious) hope that the progeny will inherit the genes of the father. The male prefers a healthy female partner so that she will be able to carry, give birth to, have enough milk to feed and generally rear the child – including running away from other predators, both animal and human! – with greater speed & agility.

And then came property, power & authority, on the one hand, and inheritance, succession & primogeniture, on the other. The male wanted to hand over his territory & his possessions to his own progeny – hence the nature & duration of the bond between the male and the female, or marriage, in other words, began to play a role. Not just a role but the most incisive & divisive role in mankind’s attempts to control & regulate the nakedness of womankind.

From the cuckold to the cuckoo’s egg, what causes all the Misery for Man? It is the sexual attractiveness of the woman which is like a private birthday bash announced on FB that has gone public & viral through an inadvertent post by – Evolution, who else, eternally worried about not getting enough bees to pollinate its flowers. Bees pollinate flowers and human beings have children even in the midst of war, drought, famine & the bubonic plague, if necessary – that’s something Evolution should have known.

Clothes can enhance or diminish the sexual attractiveness of women. We see two schools of thought here: women are all for clothes which enhance their sexual attractiveness, even to the point of removing some/most/all of the aforesaid clothes if deemed strategically necessary and/or effective. Men are also for clothes which enhance the woman’s sexual attractiveness – but only in a one-to-one situation; one man, one woman – or maybe one man, more than one woman, why not? – but always one man, if you get what I/we mean. Otherwise we – by which I mean mankind – are in favour of restricting the disturbing & harmful & excessive attractiveness of women. If evolution made a mistake, overdid it, in a certain sense, then it is up to civilisation to exercise damage control – since there is no way of ensuring (a) that women will be born entirely without sexual attractiveness in the future and (b) get their fashion tips from the nearest nunnery.

Somehow it brings us back to Adam and Eve. ‘You need three fig leaves while I need just one,’ Adam was teasing Eve. ‘Let’s go the beach, there I’ll wear just one – it’s called a figini, I believe,’ Eve was telling Adam. ‘From fig?’ ‘No, from figure, something you won’t have much longer if you keep eating like a pig. In any case, I need a proper suntan,’ Eve declared. ‘You know what suntan means in Sanskrit? A child, or a son. Wonder how they make one?’ Adam pondered. And then he turned serious again: ‘Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden and chop down all the fig trees. They are the root of all evil, I’m convinced.’

‘Now, that sounds like human logic,’ God remarked en passant & sotto voce to the snake.

‘No fig tree, no leaves. No leaves, no…’ Adam had continued.

‘Yes?’ Eve said.

‘You’d look rather nice in a figini, you know.’

‘I know.’

‘You do?’

‘I asked the Tree of Knowledge.’

‘What did the ToK say?’

‘‘I’m off. Just google it, will you?’’

Wasting one’s life

One tries to make sense of life either when one is very young or when one is very old. Being neither an adolescent nor a geriatric, I do not really qualify. But I do tend to think about Life at times, the one with the capital ‘L’. Don’t you?

Why are we called human beings, for example? Why the humble & lowly present participle? There are human has-beens, of course, which is present perfect though the individuals in question were far from ‘perfect’ even in the past. Then there are the would-be humans, that’s future conjunctive – just watch the hooligans at the next Euro football championships and you’ll know that evolution is far from complete. And what about the (gramatically) imperfect ‘used-to-be-humans’? I could name any number of polticians past & present who’d fit into that category. All in all, except in the narrow biological/anthropological sense, shouldn’t most of us be called human becomings instead of human beings?

It seems to me that just as the child grows into an adult, the human becoming has the possibility of metamorphosing into a human being – but only the possibility, not a guarantee. Most of us remain half-hatched & half-baked. God’s poultry or pottery will have to close down one of these millennia if it goes on like this.

Okay, so we know that waste is a principle of Nature. I was standing with a forester friend of mine among fifty metre tall beech trees in a grove on one of the slopes of Siebengebirge, the Seven Hills of Bonn. The forest floor was littered with fallen leaves and tiny seedlings, each with a stem and a pair of leaves. Some of those seedlings were already in the process of turning into saplings. My forester friend asked me if I knew what kind of plants they were, which I did not. Those seedlings were all children of the mighty beech trees whose smooth, elephantine trunks rose like waterspouts all around us – my friend said, cocking his hat. Each of those seedlings carried the potential of turning into a majestic arboreal monolith, given a hundred years or so. As for the rest of the seedlings, they’d go waste, or most of them. The rest would make up the beech grove of the future.

I once saw a whole bunch of apple-cheeked tiny tots spilling out of a kindergarten and thought, there goes the humankind of the future. I greet every baby in a pram as a future taxpayer and hence a future contributor to my pension fund. That baby is my future reader as well as Shakespeare’s. Without that baby or such babies Michelangelo’s David is an oblong, funnily carved piece of stone with nobody to look at it.

Waste? I’m absolutely convinced that unless there are millions of us trying to paint and failing miserably, you do not get a Monet or a van Gogh. Do we really want to know how many John Lennons and Paul McCartneys ended up as garbage collectors in the Liverpool of the ’sixties? Genius is like a human lottery, a human jackpot, with the whole of the human race as the winner. Think of the number of suckers who go empty for someone to win the lottery. And yet there wouldn’t be any lottery winners without us suckers. In every race and every competition, think of the number of losers for that one winner – and I say ‘one’ advisedly. I was the runner-up, a pretty girl told me once, while marrying a handsome friend of mine.

So have I wasted my time, worse, have I wasted my life in trying to – ahem – ‘write’? It was Bulwer-Lytton of The Last Days of Pompeii fame who coined the phrase The Great Unwashed for the lower classes. I belong to The Great Unpublished of the lower middle classes. There’s millions of us ‘writers becoming’, would-be writers, striving like those beech seedlings for their bit of space, air & sunlight.

Until Time with a capital ‘T’ relegates us to that very special limbo reserved for writers who-have-never-been.

Have we never really been? I seem to remember amateur singers pumping away at their harmonia and trying to sing Tagore songs who’d have made Tagore wish he had stuck to writing poetry. I have known poetasters whose rhymes can cause nausea as well as vomiting, though there’s no statutory warning on the back flap. I know painters I wouldn’t trust to do the bathroom door. Yet all of us are convinced that we are creative, that we are doing good work, even great work.

And then I met the Almighty and was about to congratulate Him on Creation when He said: ‘I botched it up so badly that the debris is still flying around after 14 billion years. But there’s this little planet that I made, a perfect little thing with fire inside and water outside, and a bit of green as well, with everything from ants to featherless bipeds crawling around on it – this was after somebody threw a meteor and broke all my dinosaurs. It’s still a cosy little nook compared to the mayhem that’s going on in the rest of the universe, that’s why I call it…’

‘Tell me some other time,’ I excused myself. The Almighty might have all Eternity, I didn’t.

‘Or you can read about it in my –’

‘Book?’

‘No, in my blog, I was going to say.’