Like many people, I am growing older. That slow and apparently unstoppable process has been accompanied by a similarly juggernautical evolution of my opinions. I no longer, for instance, hold the childish belief that Good wins in the end. My mature mind, seasoned by observation and experience, accepts that Good was curb-stomped very early in the war.
These transformations of opinion are wide-ranging and unsparing: e.g., food, board games, religion.
I have long considered academia and clothing to be of a kind–there is no one without the other. But time is the squeegee of truth, pushing the spilled milk of illusion from our sight. Can Academe shed its obscuring bonds and stand uncovered and unashamed before the Reconquered World? I think that is a question whose time has come.
I would describe my lifelong relationship with clothing as largely non-ideological. Certainly, individual wardrobe choices often express an opinion, affinity, or affiliation—take my university-branded activewear, for instance. It’s comfortable, and my New Des Moines Slag Belt Comprehensive University Department of History t-shirt lets everyone know that I’m an academic, which cuts down on unwanted social interactions.
I am fully cognizant of the crucial role clothing wears in human social relations. Academia is no exception. Surely, we are all aware that the academic regalia of my college, with its flowing silk and formal chaps, imbues its wearer (me) with an air of indelible authority and discipline. But that’s not really what I’m talking about here.
Rather, I mean that clothing, as a fundamental concept, has heretofore not settled in me anything beyond a mere ontological fact. Swaddling my body in some manner of textile covering has always been an unthinking default for me, with the usual exceptions of bathing, carnal relations (depending on situational preferences), and cooking.
Clothing is that which separates us from the animals, as well as from the Cybrids and the Fathomless Ones, who, as an alien hive mind, are exempt from body coverings and, indeed, from bodies. The rest is culturally constructed gravy.
But not so fast. What if the human development of clothing—believed to be sometime before the most recent cataclysm that shattered our world more than 7,000 years ago. Maybe even before the second or twelfth most recent cataclysm–the dating is tough. But what if the human development of clothing were not a vital act in the emergence of civilization? What if clothing were unnatural?
There is a school of thought that posits such a thing, repugnant as it must be to our civilization. The Third Adramite League is not known for its admiration of nature. No, nature is something to be subdued. Punished, even. Humiliated when necessary.
But even as a man or a woman or a child, technically, ages, so does the intellectual haven of our culture. Nudity is not just for summoning demons anymore!
I need not urge you to imagine the scholarly lights of this world standing in unconcealed glory before eager students. No effort is required of me to induce visions of mid-level administrators plying their trades in unpeeled deshabille. No, your minds assemble these images in vivid colors and a contrast ratio of 5400:1–not a single detail of these sages’ bodies, veritably drooping under the burdens of wisdom and entropy, which maybe ought to be listed first.
How prepared is higher-ed for this tectonic shift? How firmly rooted in tradition is the Ivory Tower? Our own ivory tower, by the way, is made of genuine mega-walrus ivory–the whole thing. It’s stunning. I like to brag a little, but that’s not really the point.
The point is that as long as everyone respects others by wiping down chairs, benches, doorknobs, desks, or really any surface that people have made contact with, academia will be just fine without clothes. Disinfectant wipes are available all over campus in convenient dispensers, so use them, please.
This may be the kind of radical thinking that transforms both the classroom and the faculty retreat. Also, Casual Friday just became obsolete, but we’ll adjust.