Just the other day, I was out with a group of friends when someone commented that my shoes were orange in colour. ‘You are quite daring,’ he said. ‘I wouldn’t be seen dead in orange shoes.’ Another friend immediately retorted, ‘Oh, wearing orange shoes is nothing for him. He dares to do more than that. He dares to go about naked.’ The first guy then said, ‘I guess if you dare to go naked, you dare to do anything. You can have no more shame.’
The concept of shame has a long history in Chinese philosophy. More than 3,000 years ago, Chinese philosophers have been debating about the question of shame. The debate culminated in Confucius summing up in his own eloquent words his rather warped idea of shame. According to Confucius, shame is an essential human trait. A man who has no shame is no better than an animal. But to Confucius, a cultured man or woman must feel shame if he or she transgresses any one of the many ancient precepts. These precepts demand strict conformity to tradition and rituals.
The tradition and rituals include (among many things) how a gentleman or lady should be dressed. The idea of going about naked would be anathema to Confucius. Confucius scholars will no doubt declare that a naturist is the ultimate shameless being who is no better than an animal. This may explain why there are so few naturists among people of Chinese descent.
When my friends said that there was nothing I wouldn’t dare to do because I had no problem going around naked, they were merely repeating this warped concept of shame.
But they are totally wrong. It’s not true that naturists have no shame at all. I would be most ashamed if I told a lie. I’d be terribly ashamed if I were guilty of discourtesy or an act of unkindness. I would be overwhelmed by guilt and shame if I behaved in an unjust manner towards another human being. But I’m not ashamed if I’m nude because there is nothing in the human body that is evil or indecent.
The traditionalists have got it all wrong. It’s true that a good person should not be incapable of feeling shame. But he should only feel ashamed if he has done something that hurts or harms another person.