Monday, August 16, 2010

Body Art the New Beach Wear

Modesty is always an issue when you take a family to the beach; there is no escaping it. The human body is available in all shapes and sizes and, unfortunately, all varieties of exposure. The beach we chose in North Carolina is very family oriented. That's not to say that there weren't bikini's on the beach, of course there were. But, there were very few thong bikinis on the 30-40ish crowd of women there. And, the younger girls, even the teens to 20 types, seemed to be attired in less revealing beachwear.

The beach in St. Augustine, was slightly different. Perhaps we just needed to do a little better research next time, but we were apparently in the land of less is more with regard to beach apparel. I think what was even more striking than the many tanned cheeks that we got to witness was the level of ink and its prominence on the male and female canvas. In that regard, more was fashionable. And, of course, if you were going to brandish all that ink, you would need to wear less and less so as not to cover it up.

I know plenty of people with tatoos. I don't like them -- I believe that they are akin to graffiti on the temple of the Holy Spirit -- but, even on those folks I do know who sport them, they are typically not obtrusive. What we were witnessing was a "find the person under the pictures" scenario.

While it didn't hamper our enjoyment of the glorious shoreline, it did make me think about whether I needed to talk to my girls about the behaviors that have become accepted, the norm, in society. It was a short talk -- just enough for the kids to hear that what people think is acceptable in body art and lack of clothing is actually their reliance on their own will. Our society has decided it doesn't need God, and what flows from that decision is man's own recklessness. It manifests itself in confident stupidity, that often results in regret and remorse.

Now, I'm not sure that people with tattoos will ever regret getting one, but those with 20 or 30 of them may someday. As the body ages, muscle mass diminishes and the skin becomes less taut causing the ink skin etchings to become more of a blur than a masterpiece. I have witnessed this first hand on an elderly acquaintance, and unless physiology has changed between his passing and now, the same thing will happen to all those who don massive amounts of ink creations on their flesh.

I suppose the negative behavior of others can be an opportunity to shine light on what is good, true and beautiful. But, as St. Jerome noted:
Either we must speak as we dress, or dress as we speak. Why do we profess one thing and display another? The tongue talks of chastity, but the whole body reveals impurity.
What we do and display with our bodies shows reveals what we hold important and would profess to believe. If we try to say something other than what our behaviors display, we cause contradiction and sometimes even scandal. It creates situations where, especially in the arena of parenting, one must formulate a plausible explanation for what you do, and what has been done; for what you didn't once know and now believe.

The sense of modesty and a proper reverence for the human body is essential for a renewal of our culture. Families have this task, whether they have signed on for it wittingly or not, to restore the culture through their behaviors. Hopefully, we will all learn to live by the words of JPII in his encyclical Familiaris Consortio:
In a society shaken and split by tensions and conflicts caused by the violent clash of various kinds of individualism and selfishness, children must be enriched not only with a sense of true justice, which alone leads to respect for the personal dignity of each individual, but also and more powerfully by a sense of true love, understood as sincere solicitude and disinterested service with regard to others, especially the poorest and those in most need. The family is the first and fundamental school of social living: as a community of love, it finds in self-giving the law that guides it and makes it grow.
The beach creates opportunities to be witnesses to modesty, family and love of God in our behaviors. One family can make an impression on a shoreline full of objectionable choices. Culture should not shape who we are; we are tasked with shaping the culture to be what it was meant to be.

(Info on the Church's teaching on body art and piercings can be found at CUF)

1 comment:

Allison said...

I have come to the conclusion that the tattoo obsession of late is not going to "fade away" as a fad. It seems to be an accepted "norm" of this culture we are trying to shape/reshape. We're vacationing out west in a couple of weeks. Very interested to see what the "norm" is out there.