Sometimes, especially as of late, my fellow human beings frighten and disgust me. In those moments when I feel hopeless and doomed, I make an effort to shift perspective and take a minute to focus on how remarkable humanity truly can be. The examples are all around us—diseases cured, discoveries made, art made for art’s sake, people looking out for each other and showing compassion to the underprivileged, the weak, the old, and the infirm (at least doing a better job in this arena than meerkats, if Meerkat Manor is any indication).
Humans are inventive, determined, creative, expressive creatures that, yeah okay, pretty much ended up being the worst nightmare for the planet and all the other species that inhabit it.
But dammit, we have the potential to do so much good. I mean, it was a human who invented Braille, and calculus, and gluten-free croissants, and cat litter made out of wheat.
Those are the obvious wins though. You know what amazes me? When I see someone wearing a scarf in South Carolina in the summer.
It reminds me that humans are the only species to invent clothing to help us survive the elements. But we weren’t content to stop there. Not by a long shot. We created this whole intricate system called fashion with its complex, ever-changing rules that extend across vast reaches of space and society. These seemingly arbitrary dictates regularly trump the laws of nature and, in the case of scarves, can turn the very notion of season-appropriate attire on its head.
Let’s look at another example. Cowboy boots were invented for utilitarian purposes: keeping ranchers’ feet warm, their calves protected from rattlesnakes, providing a pointy tip for stomping scorpions and a thick heel for attaching spurs. Colorful cotton sundresses were designed to keep women cool in warm weather and to mimic the beauty and delicateness of the wearer.
Slap these two diametrically opposed garments together and wear them to an October football game in the South, when it’s neither warm enough for a sundress nor cold enough for boots, where there are neither snakes nor scorpions nor horses within a 100-yard radius, and what do you get? An outfit any sorority girl would proudly don (so long as the dress colors match the team she’s pledged her fealty to).
We are Americans. We value our freedom. We won’t be told what to do and what to wear by the weather, or common sense, or tradition. No, we leave that up to a small number of loud, opinionated, privileged, fickle, manipulative people known as the fashion industry.
When I think of the audacity of humans, our refusal to do what mother nature tells us to, the endless inventiveness of the clothing manufacturers and marketers and ad execs in coming up with new things to sell us that they know we don’t need, and we know we don’t need, but they somehow get us to buy anyway–it honestly brings a tear to my eye.
The more you stop and think about human behavior, the more you will see how truly incredible we are.