Is clothing crushing us? Are we trapped in tomb-like textiles, exiling our flesh from experiencing the environment? Are we atrophying our epidermis, our senses, our neuro-intelligence?
According to IEET readers, what were the most stimulating stories of 2012? This month we’re answering that question by posting a countdown of the top 16 articles published this year on our blog (out of more than 600 in all), based on how many total hits each one received.
The following piece was first published here on Mar 14, 2012 and is the #5 most viewed of the year.
If you put a plaster cast on a broken arm the skin starves for Vitamin D, the muscles weaken due to strangled range of motion, the nerve synapses depress to a whimper of their former joy. Twenty-first century hominids? We shroud our entire skin palette except for face, neck and hands - we obliterate symbiosis with the planet.
We hide in cocoons, when we could be free as butterflies.
History reveals many cultures that were not clothes-minded. Spartans were basically bare and their victories in pan-Hellenic sports competitions enticed all neighboring Greeks to exercise nude, creating the word “gymnasium” (Greek gymnos = naked). Romans mingled in magnificent bathhouses, enjoying dense communal nudity as they drank, dined, defecated, bathed, read books, argued politics, and watched theater. Adamists — naked heretics — performed stripped-down church services in North Africa, Bohemia, the Netherlands, and England. Pre-Hitler Germans were avid adherents of Freikorperkultur(“Free Body Culture”) with 70,000 attending co-edNacktkultur schools.
There’s naked Japanese in hot springs, naked Finns in saunas, “sky-clad” Jain monks in India, plus millions of nudists worldwide going to “Nakation” camps, beaches, and resorts. They’re still sporty as Spartans, eager to hike naked (“free bush rambling”), canoe naked (“canuding”), bicycle naked, ride horses naked, run naked, play volleyball, badminton, ping-pong and chess naked, swim naked, dance naked, do Naked Yoga, Naked Tai Chi, Naked Gardening, Naked Bowling, and of course, many of us, perhaps you and I, dear readers, are NIFOC — Naked In Front of Computers.
Many famous figures were bare-all aficionados; too many politicians to name, so I’ll just list sci-fi and scientists: Leonard Nimoy, Alexander Graham Bell, Robert Heinlein, and seismologist Charles Richter. Nudism is prominent in Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld books and John Varley’s Steel Beach. Celebrities? Many movie stars skinny-dip at the French Riviera, trying to elude paparazzi seeking pix of Bruce WIllis’ willy or Natalie Portman’s port side.
Here’s evidence suggesting that skin-only can be superior:
Born Free. Pediatricians agree that infants thrive with a daily dose of “naked time” because the unhampered range of motion aids brain development, stimulating neuron growth. Recent discoveries reveal that the “plastic” brain changes and develops throughout our entire lives. Neuroplasticity pioneer Michael M. Merzenichbelieves, “Everything that you can see happen in a young brain can happen in an older brain.” Doesn’t this imply that “naked time” is equally valuable for humans of any age, especially the elderly?
Weakened Bodies. A 2003 University of Reading study entitled “A Naked Ape Would Have Fewer Parasites” posits that “humans evolved hairlessness to reduce parasite loads, especially ectoparasites that may carry disease.” Unfortunately, the garments we wear can be a breeding ground for filthy fungi and bad bacterium, causing yeast infections, urinary tract infections, rotting toenails. Lyme Disease deer ticks can grab onto our sweaters and sea lice can sneak into our bathing suit crotches. Cinched-up belts, ties, and clothes impede breathing. Men’s snug pants raise testicle temperature, lowering sperm count and fertility.
Barefoot Medicine. Going shoeless is now recognized as an anti-Alzheimer’s, brain-boosting activity because the sole sensation entices your brain into growing extra, efficient neuron connections. Dr. Norman Doidge (author of The Brain That Changes Itself) believes skipping shoes increases brain flexibility and youthfulness, and many podiatrists now advise going barefoot as much as possible. Bare feet are today’s prescription. Will tomorrow’s elixir take the next step: Bare Body?
Superior Socialization. Self-actualization proponent Abraham Maslow believed “Nudism… is itself a kind of therapy.” Health benefits of social nudity include stress reduction, satiation of curiosity about the human body, reduction of porn addiction, a sense of full-body integration and developing a wholesome attitude about the opposite gender. Research at the University of Northern Iowa discovered that nudists have significantly higher body self-acceptance. Another study concluded that teens at a New York nudist camp were “extraordinarily well-adjusted, happy, and thoughtful.” It’s also excellent for children to grow up free of shame about the human body.
Tolerant Views.A University of Central Florida 2008 study of 384 participants concluded that pro-nudity students “were significantly more accepting of other religious groups and gays and lesbians” when compared to the anti-nudity students. They were also “less prejudiced towards ethnically dissimilar others.”
Soothe Away Your Crazies. Massage is recognized as a therapeutic treatment for mental health issues like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolarism, borderline personality disorder, learning difficulties, and low self-esteem. The skin stimulation of massage — improving blood flow and detoxifying the lymph system — is duplicated by the warmth, freedom, and improved circulation generated in nakedness.
Soak Up The Rays Vitamin D deficiency iscurrently soaring, with up to 75% of USA teens and adults receiving insufficient amounts of the “sunshine vitamin.” Lack of this essential health aid is a factor in numerous ailments, including cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes. Anyone who bares all outside as a “naturist” harvests larger amounts of Vitamin D in a quicker time span.
Financial Liberation. Clothes are a huge money and time-suck with shopping, laundry, closets, dressers, and gazillions of hours wasted wondering what so-and-so looks like with their garments removed. The global markets for swimsuits alone is expected to reach $17.6 billion annually by 2015; our carbon footprint would shrink like a wool sweater if fabric was no longer manufactured.
Longevity (just joking!). Have you noticed that the furry Norway Rat only lives 2-3 years, while the Naked Mole Ratsurvives to be 28?
So… is the future going to be full frontal? Will the post-Singularity planet be stripped? Will everyone in a climate-controlled tomorrow choose to be nude, strutting around like the Nuba dancers and boxers of Leni Reifenstahl?
Trends point to an era where there won’t be a stitch to worry about. Many resort areas are are now offering nudism to increase tourism, and American naturist clubs claim their enrollment is growing 20% annually. The German airlineOssiUrlaub.de offered nude chartered flights to a Baltic sea resort, and today’s lengthy luggage searches at airports are steering travelers to destinations where they only need carry-on towels and sunblock. Twenty million Europeansalready go to nude beaches and spas.