The Natural Mind â€“ Waking Up alan macmillan orr
Grooming 1. Care for oneâ€™s external appearance
ome of us like to make sure we are dressed nicely, and look well cared for, whereas others don’t care at all. They dress slovenly, have dirty or torn shoes, do not shower often, let their hair get matted, let their fingernails stay dirty and ragged, and wear creased clothes. They may have no money, or they may just not bother with external appearances, thinking that there is more to Man than just nice clothes! Unfortunately, people judge us on how we look, how we smell, and how we carry ourselves. What I want to discuss with you today is how we got to this point; how early Man, who came down from the trees, has turned into city man, and what, if anything, have been the benefits? If you think Man has existed as he is since the beginning of time, you better start thinking again. You don’t really have to imagine your ancestors very hard, you could just stop grooming for a couple of weeks and you would find out, because you would quickly become them. You may not believe me, but when you throw away your shower gel, razors, aftershave, and stop cutting your hair and your nails and stop washing your clothes, it’s will be like stepping back hundreds of thousands of years. First, your hair would start to grow longer and get more tangled. Your beard (if you are a man) would start to grow, and within a week you would have quite an impressive facial covering. Women would find they actually do have hair under their armpits and on their legs when they stop waxing! Dirt would start to accumulate under the finger and toe nails, and they would start to grow; and without doing physical exercise to file them down, they will get longer and longer. It’s just like your pet dog, if he walks on abrasive surfaces enough his nails will stay neat, but if he doesn’t, they just keep growing. So here I am, city man, starting to look more like ape man. I’ve got long hair, a long beard and dirty long nails. I still wear my pinstriped suit to work, but people are beginning to talk. It doesn’t matter that my mind is the same; they are only looking at my external appearance. Now I have stopped using shower gel, deodorant, and aftershave, my smell has become different. I don’t smell “expensive.” I now have what we call body odour (malodorousness resulting from a failure to bathe). It’s not that I don’t wash. I do shower in water, but the bacteria in my sweat is attached to my clothes now; and whereas in ancient times the sweat would evaporate into the air, it is now trapped. Because I don’t wash and iron my clothes, they are beginning to look more and more creased. There are marks on my underwear from failing to pay enough attention whilst urinating, stains on my shirt from food I dropped, and dirt on my shoes. Pretty soon, people are staring at me at work. Maybe they think I have suffered a nervous breakdown, and maybe they feel sorry for me, but my bosses aren’t pleased, and they call me in for a meeting. “Now listen here, alan” they start, “you know we all think you’re doing a wonderful job here, but we just can’t have you going around looking and smelling like that, it’s disturbing everyone, and we can’t have you going out to see clients like that – you’ll scare them off! So go home, have a shave, have a nice soak in a fragrant bath, trim those nails, have a hair cut and we’ll see you in the morning. Oh, by the way, buy some new clothes. If you decide not to, don’t bother coming back to work.” This scenario could happen to any of you. In less than two to three weeks you could find yourself out of a job, because you have allowed yourself to show the world who you really are underneath all that grooming. It really amazes me that the human race is so shallow. When I go back into work the next day, everything is back to normal. People shout across the office “nice to have you back alan!" or “you smell nice,” or “you look nice, that’s a nice suit.” That is a fictitious example, but if you try it out in real life you will see that this situation will play out almost exactly as I have written it here!
It’s a long, long way back to the trees, you think... If you ask anyone why we place such a high importance on grooming, they will tell you it is because Man is different to the animals, that we live in an advanced civilisation; but you only have to look at the previous example to know we are much closer to our ancestors than we thought. The problem is that human physiology has not kept up with the development of the human mind. We want to distance ourselves from the idea that we could ever have been like the apes we see in the zoo, and so we put on false scents, and paint our nails. Women wax their legs, dress in fine silks and walk tall in high heeled shoes. The signal we are giving out is that we ain’t no ape, baby! We are a human being, who has nothing in common with the natural world. And of course we don’t, as we sit dressed in our finest in restaurants and cafe’s sipping cappuccinos, with
our humour and charm, scented with the exotic, hair coiffed just so, nails clipped, do we? But this isn’t who we really are, this is who we have been able to pretend to be thanks to advances in technology and the harnessing of electricity. Think about it. If there wasn’t a company to make shampoo what would you clean your hair with? If there weren’t companies making combs, brushes, gels, mousses, and hair-dryers how would you style it? If there weren’t companies making shower gel, and perfume/aftershave how would you smell nice? If there weren’t factories making clothes, or companies making washing machines, washing powder, fabric softener and oh, how about an iron, how would you be able to dress nicely? If there weren’t any companies making underwear or socks or companies making shoes what would you do? Who would you be? If we hadn’t invented razors you would all look the same, hairy! Don’t worry it’s nothing to be afraid of! It’s who we really are, fairly hairy big brained apes! Does that shock you? It shouldn’t, because despite our desperate desire to leave the past behind, it keeps catching us up doesn’t it?
The mirror does lie Unfortunately, we all live in a bit of a fantasy world. We actually believe we are not descended from hairy apes, and we have had to invent all sorts of things to keep the pretence alive. It has been said that the mirror doesn’t lie, but when we look into it, we are seeing the result of thousands of years of desire. Desire to separate ourselves from nature. It makes me laugh to see all the people walking around in their fashionable clothes (especially women) wearing some oil paint on their face with their hair immaculately coiffed, and perhaps dyed, having spent ages in front of the mirror to achieve this look. If we were all just to “let ourselves go” for four weeks, maybe we would start to realise something about ourselves – something quite profound in fact. What that something is, I cannot tell you, but you could find out for yourselves in a short space of time. All I can tell you is that what you are seeing in the mirror right now is not real, it is not your authentic self, it is a projection of your mind. You are seeing thousands of years of cultural conditioning reflected back at you. If you do not wash, or trim, or comb your hair, or cut your nails, is it really you thinking you look bad, or is it the psychological bolt-on of comparison? If I leave my nails to go dirty, am I truly worried about the nails, or am I wondering what other people will think of me? If I fail to shave and let my beard grow, or fail to shave my legs, am I truly concerned with the beard or the hairy legs, or am I concerned with how others will see me? This is important, so please go into it with me carefully. The key word here is conformity. If everyone had long hair and hairy legs, would you be concerned with removing the hair? Of course not! In fact people would look strangely at you if you did remove the hair. You wouldn’t fit in, and actually that’s all this topic is really about, fitting in. It doesn’t matter how you look, if you are healthy, until you start to compare yourself with others. Man has decided, using his big brain, to wear make-up and to shave the hair off his body. It is for no practical purpose, except cultural. The rich and powerful wanted to look different to the poor workers, so they used their minds to separate themselves. They created clothing, grooming techniques, and accessories, they knew the poor could never afford. They wanted to be looked up to, respected, and if they looked the same as everyone else, that could never happen. After all, who’s going to respect you if you look the same as them? It is still the same today. Everywhere we look we see celebrities looking amazing don’t we? They’re wearing the most expensive jewellery and clothes, things we could never afford thereby psychologically asserting their status in society.
The suit vs. The overalls Thinking back to when I worked in business, I remember noticing how the office staff divided themselves from the factory workers. We would come to work in nice suits, ironed shirts, and nice ties with polished shoes, whereas the “workers” would be wearing overalls or something similar. They looked different to the office staff. They weren’t immaculately dressed, they didn’t smell of expensive scent, and they didn’t need to worry about shaving. Why would they? The work they did was dirty and there was no one to impress. They worked on machines that didn’t care what they looked like, but in the office something different was going on. The office was the place where status was vitally important, where
ambition reigned, and outward appearance was part of the game. Every time I had to go to the factory for something I felt more important, safe in the knowledge I wasn’t one of them. I was someone who was going places! I can remember standing next to a machine worker in my elegant suit and polished shoes, smelling of cologne and comparing myself to him. Here was a man twice my age, who smelt of oil, unshaven, with unkempt hair, who did a “menial” job, and here was I, young and important (or so I thought), and I was sure I was definitely more intelligent than him. My personal appearance was speaking volumes about who I was. Looking back, it all seems so stupid now, but at the time it was of the utmost importance to me. My appearance meant I was above him, and that’s all that mattered. Think about how you look now, how you feel when you are nicely dressed. Try to observe what is going on in that mind of yours. What processes are taking place under all the grooming? It is sad to think we gauge human beings based solely on how they look, but I don’t think anyone wants a return to nature where we all look the same, and have long hair, scruffy nails, and beards! Grooming has become a part of asserting ones individuality in the world, even though it is just conforming; but in order to truly know ourselves we need to develop an awareness that accepts we are not the grooming. It is just another bolt-on accessory to make us even more psychologically removed from the natural world we inhabit. I like to look “nice,” and smell “nice,” but it does not make me more human, just more or less like everyone I compare myself to. Think about it, and maybe for just one day in your life, don’t look in the mirror, it’s not who you really are.