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“In order to exploit the environment all organisms adapt their bodies to meet specialized environmental conditions,”

wrote Edward T. Hall [1], the anthropologist and cross-cultural researcher, in his book “The Silent Language” [2], in which he analyzed “the many ways in which people “talk” to one another without the use of words”. He gives a few examples of adaptations:

“the long neck of the giraffe (adapted to high foliage of trees), the teeth of the saber-toothed tiger, toes of the tree sloth, hoof of the horse, and man’s opposable thumb”.

The adaptation of the body is not the end of the story. The author continues:

“Occasionally organisms have developed specialized extensions of their bodies to take the place of what the body itself might do and thereby free the body for other things. Among these ingenious natural developments are the web of the spider, cocoons, nests of birds and fish.” [italics added]

Fieldfare by Andreas Trepte

The man “with his specialized body” is not an exception. (The passage below is cited by Marshall McLuhan in The Gutenberg Galaxy [3].)

“Today man has developed extensions for practically everything he used to do with his body. The evolution of weapons begins with the teeth and the fist and ends with the atom bomb. Clothes and houses are extensions of man’s biological temperature-control mechanisms. Furniture takes the place of squatting and sitting on the ground. Power tools, glasses, TV, telephones, and books which carry the voice across both time and space are examples of material extensions. Money is a way of extending and storing labor. Our transportation networks now do what we used to do with our feet and backs. In fact, all man-made material things can be treated as extensions of what man once did with his body or some specialized part of his body.”

Farmer in rocking-chair reading The Progressive Farmer. “Farmer reading his farm paper” By George W. Ackerman, Coryell County, Texas, September 1931

This can be summarized in the table:

Function Body Body Extensions
Weapons teeth, fist atom bomb
Temperature control biological mechanisms clothes, houses
Rest, recreation, relaxation squatting, sitting on the ground furniture
Communication voice TV, telephones, books
Transportation feet and backs transportation networks

What I learned from this list is that one specialized extension of the human body stands out against the other developments. It is neither shameful nor illegal to squat or sit on the ground, to carry something on your back or to use your voice without touching the phone. But it is extremely undesirable to control your body temperature without clothes on even at comfortable ambient temperatures. It seems ridiculous, especially when one takes into account that the purpose of developing specialized extensions of the body is to free the body.

According to Edward T. Hall, “culture controls behavior in deep and persisting ways, many of which are outside of awareness and therefore beyond conscious control of the individual”. The rich experience taught anthropologists one thing, namely that

“culture is more than mere custom that can be shed or changed like a suit of clothes.”

References
[1] Edward T. Hall – Wikipedia
[2] Edward T. Hall. The Silent Language (Anchor Books, 1973)
[3] The Gutenberg Galaxy – Wikipedia

Today I’m posting links to the photos taken by Austrian photographer Alfred Georg Weissenegger. These images may be seen in his gallery on deviantART. If I was going to write something profound here, that could be: Art needs no comment.

lonely girl by alfred-georg on deviantART

lonely girl by alfred-georg on deviantART

ot47 by alfred-georg on deviantART

ot47 by alfred-georg on deviantART

Links
1. alfred-georg on deviantART
2. Alfred Weissenegger photo portofolio
3. ModelMayhem.com – alfred-georg – Photographer – Amstetten, Niederösterreich, Austria

Clothing alters the image and likeness of God possessed by people. At least Medieval friars were quite sure about that. Susan Haskins in Mary Magdalen: myth and metaphor (Riverhead Books, New York, 1993) mentions Augustine of Hippo, a Latin church father, who fought with vanity considered as one of the forms of the sin of pride. Women who donned their finery, and wore cosmetics were very unpopular in the Middle Ages, since expensive dresses and makeup were placed on the same footing as “idols and masks”.

It seems that Tertullian, an early Christian author, was the first to touch the subject. He opposed those who presumed to alter the work of the Creator – the body – with paints and the dyeing of hair were in fact criticising their Maker, and subverting Nature, which had been created by God, the “artificer of all things.”

That which He Himself has not produced is not pleasing to God, unless He was unable to order sheep to be born with purple and sky-blue fleeces! If He was able, then plainly He was unwilling: what God willed not, of course ought not to be fashioned. Those things, then, are not the best by nature which are not from God, the Author of nature. Thus they are understood to be from the devil, from the corrupter of nature… (On the Apparel of Women. Book I)

Of course, Tertullian didn’t stand for nudity, the state in which, according to the same logic, God ordered people to be born. He recommended the garb of penitence as a style of dress that should remind the Christian woman that the sin was introduced through her ancestress, Eve. Imagine what such a world would look like. Fortunately, we live in more tolerant times, don’t we?

Woman holding sign reading "?"

Woman holding sign reading "?" Washington, D.C., 1922

Sometimes I think that almost every contradiction may be viewed as The Conflict Between East and West.

Seventeen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the cultural divide between former East Germans and West Germans is being laid bare at beach resorts,” reported Claudia Rach, Bloomberg News two years ago (see also The New York Sun from September 7, 2006).

K. Bacher in his famous “205 Arguments and Observations In Support of Naturism” quotes Lee Baxandall, according whom

“almost every town on East Germany’s coast has an FKK beach, some 90 sites serving 200,000 campers/lodgers annually; more FKK than textile beaches. A GDR poll found 57% of the population approving of nude recreation, 30% had no opinion, and only 13% opposed.”

FKK-Strand am Schwielochsee. Bild 183-1985-0817-002

FKK-Strand am Schwielochsee

Even, if the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was “Unrechtsstaat” (”unjust state”), while now East Germany is “free,” many of its beaches aren’t. The West is blamed for exporting to the East both pornography and beach restrictions.

Nowadays according to the estimations ascribed to the DFK (German naturist federation) as many as two-fifths of beaches previously used by nudists since Germany reunified in 1990 has lost their nudist statuses.

Claudia Rach wrote that

Since communism’s collapse in 1989, Baltic resorts have added new hotels and restaurants, renovated boardwalks and cleaned up water pollution.
That led to a surge in western tourists, with visitors to the Baltic coast jumping to 5.06 million last year from 1.98 million in 1992, according to the statistical office for the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
Property prices in Germany’s Baltic region have risen 25 percent since 1995, more than the national average, according to a study by the GEWOS Institute for Urban, Regional and Housing Research in Hamburg.
“When people with money holiday in freshly renovated resorts, the last thing they want are naked bodies on their doorstep,” said Wolfgang Weinreich, head of the International Naturist Federation.

The reporter quotes Urs Wagner, the German naturist and Berlin retiree, 57, who said, “It’s a really intense feeling of nature that everyone should experience. But who knows for how much longer. We’re a dying breed.”

One of the most popular Ukrainian internet news resources has informed about some strange object in the sky. Yesterday in the evening many witnesses supposedly observed  an unusual cloud over Kiev, Ukraine. Today in the morning new photos of this extraordinary event appeared at the site. Worried people used all the power of their digital cameras to capture the object.

Cloud over Kiev

Cloud over Kiev

It is notable that a cloud of almost the same form can be found in Wikipedia in the article about cumulonimbus clouds.

Thunderstorm cloud - Cumulonimbus

Thunderstorm cloud - Cumulonimbus

This case shows, of course, how small is our knowledge about the usual events in nature and how easily we can be frighten or perturbed. And, in the case if the event was nothing but a Photoshop effect, how easily we can be manipulated. It is sad, but one cannot believe digital photos today.