Instructions On How To Put On A Shirt
In "Art and Nothingness" I have stated that we know the environment with the
whole body. I based myself on an extraordinary book by Maurice Merleau-Ponty.
Someone asked me a little puzzled: How can one know with the body? In reply,
I said, consider the following guidelines.
Giving instructions for putting on a shirt turns out to be one of the trickiest of problems. A spoon, on the other
hand, is much simpler as it never loses its form and one can look at it and see that it is what it is, but a shirt
is an object in process. To make a shirt, patterns are used which must be folded by well-defined seams. The
resulting shirt, however, which starts off being an object in process, difficult to envisage, can now be placed on
a table, however you must be careful because it could easily be mistaken for a rag. So, many people have gone
out of their way to develop methods of ironing that allows it to be folded and put away, acquiring a semblance of
order. So my question is how do we come to know a shirt? How do we know something that has no form?
Drinking soup is a difficult problem for a child, but for a different reason, as the spoon is a simple object in
that it keeps its shape and allows one to study it visually. The problem arises in the transport of the soup with
the spoon so that the liquid ends up in the mouth. However it is not necessary to use the body to know its form
as occurs with putting on a shirt.
The shirt, as a concept allows us to recognise the many shirts that we own and those shirts that other people
have; we can also distinguish our shirts from those that are in the shops, but we still call them all "shirts".
The first shirts we ever saw were surely those that our parents showed us and they probably explained to us
how to use them and almost certainly helped us to put them on. In my case, I remember that it was not easy. Nor
was it easy to put my children's first shirts on them; it was especially difficult for them to have to perceive
the shirt not with their sight, but with their bodies.
One takes the shirt and one has to study it first in order to put the right arm in the right sleeve. Children are
often confused because they do not perceive well with their hands. The right hand and right arm is that which
explores the inside of the right sleeve, while the left hand must hold the shirt by the right shoulder and pull
while the right hand moves through the inside of the right sleeve. Etcetera. People experienced in putting on
shirts already know this procedure well and it seems as natural to them as eating soup with a spoon.