Monday, March 19, 2012

7 Reasons Why Human Beings Love The Beach

Why do human beings like going to the beach so much?


I've been asking myself this question because the whole Tillerman family, myself and all nine Tiller extensions, have been making plans over the last few days to spend a week together at a rented beach house this summer. We all like the beach. Well, we don't quite know whether Isabel (four months old) likes the beach. She hasn't expressed an opinion on the matter yet. But the rest of us do. Most human being do, don't they? But why?


On Sunday, seven of us drove down to Cape Cod to check out the house where we will be staying and, most important of all, to check out the beach. We all loved it, although perhaps for somewhat different reasons. My son's wife seemed to be the most enthusiastic. Her love of the beach seems to be almost visceral. I just looked up the meaning of "visceral" to see if I had the right word there. "Related to deep inward feelings... instinctive... felt in or as if in the internal organs of the body... deep." Yes, that's the right word. But why do human beings have such a visceral attachment to beaches?




This is a beach. Indeed it is the beach where we will be spending a week this summer. It is wide. It is flat. Those little dots on the left are some of the Tiller extensions. Why do we love places like this so much?


1. One theory, proposed by the zoologist Desmond Morris in his book The Naked Ape (and by others), is that homo sapiens is descended from apes who lived on the shore. We spent a lot of time in the water. We dived for shellfish. As a result we started to adapt to life in the water and this explains a number of features that are unique to our species among the apes, such as our lack of body hair, our poor sense of smell, and our ability to swim underwater. Hence our visceral attraction to spending time on the beach and frolicking in the water. It's what we were made for. It's more than visceral. It's in our genes.


2. Another theory, advanced by Christian Lander the author of the blog Stuff White People Like, is that white people like living by the water for a number of reasons including that it enables us to pursue many of the activities that we like such as "swimming, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, and it’s a perfect place to read next to." He also points out that "on the East Coast, many white people dream of owning ocean front property in New England, where they can make their lives as close as possible to a J. Crew catalog." Can it just be a coincidence that, after our visit to the beach yesterday, my daughter-in-law is now dreaming of saving up to buy a house on that very beach? Perhaps I should buy her a J. Crew gift card for her birthday?


3. In search of more expert opinions on this question, I asked my 6-year-old granddaughter Emily why she enjoyed the beach. She answered that she liked searching for hermit crabs and other sea creatures in all the tidal pools.


4. To the same question, my 3-year-old grandson Aidan said that he liked building sandcastles.




5. My 20-month-old grandson Owen (that's him in the photo above) seemed to be having a grand old time on the beach yesterday. When asked what he liked about it he replied, "Granddad... water... bucket... digger... more water... Grandma." I think this is the best answer yet. Then he sat down, fully clothed, in a little pool.


6. Speaking purely for myself, I like beaches for long runs by myself, long walks with Tillerwoman, playing with my grandchildren, flying a kite and, of course, launching my Laser. (Although I will not be taking my Laser on our beach vacation this summer.)


7. Sometimes the ultimate wisdom on the great questions of life can be found in poetry and music. The question of why human beings love the beach so much is addressed by the famous beach expert, Zac Brown, in his composition Toes.



I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand
Not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand
Life is good today, life is good today


I think that about sums it up.

15 comments:

R W Rawles said...

It does sum it up. Like I always said, you just have to find your beach and then it all flows!

Joe said...

Let's not forget the wahines.

Tillerman said...

Joe, listen to the song. Mr. Brown does reference the "pretty senoritas."

Joe said...

4 minutes and 23 seconds of a Jimmy Buffett clone! Thank you, but no thanks. I ran out of the room screaming in agony after 2 seconds into the song. I think instead, I'll hang out with my pal, Mr. Bourbon.

By the way, great post.

bonnie said...

very very nice!

Tillerman said...

Sorry Joe. I do sometimes wonder when I post a music video if my taste in music won't appeal at all to some of my readers. But hey, it's my blog, and you don't have to listen to the music if you don't want to. Joe likes Mr. Bourbon; I prefer Mr. Scotch. It takes all sorts.

O Docker said...


At the beach, we learn that time is something man invented.

Baydog said...

“I have the worlds largest seashell collection. You may have seen it, I keep it spread out on beaches all over the world.” Steven Wright

Tillerman said...

Oh, I should have mentioned. Tillerwoman's favorite thing to do on the beach is to collect seashells... and then she usually spreads them out on the beach again for other people to enjoy.

O Docker said...

On a beach of 10,000 shells, my wife can always find the three best.

I've never understood how she does it.

Pandabonium said...

It is the ocean I love. The beach is great because it is next to it and offers a place to hang out when one is not on, in, or under the water. I've never lived more than a few miles from the ocean and can't imagine what it would feel like to live far from the sea. Right now we live two miles from the Pacific and one mile from Lake Kitaura.

I think it is very deep. Going back to when sea life dragged itself ashore to make a life on the land. "We" have a part of us that wants to go back.

Tillerman said...

Well said Panda. Of course the "Naked Ape" theory is that our ancestors returned to the sea (or at least the beach) much more recently than when life first dragged itself ashore. They were aquatic apes that spent much of their time in the water and started to evolve to be more like other mammals that lived in the sea. Then, for some reasons we went back to living on land but still have some physical features of aquatic mammals, and a mysterious longing to hang out on the beach again.

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

Panda, I like what you say. But I really have to add that what really tops off a seascape for me, what makes me slow down and really look at is a modest anchorage. If there is at least one anchored sailing yacht, that raises everything the scene a notch. I don't know how to explain it. (I'm afraid to ask Tillerman what he thinks that might be.)

Tillerman said...

Doc, I am with you. One house under consideration for our vacation was in a location where I would have been able to sit on the deck at the house and watch boats, anchored and otherwise. And you could see a lighthouse!

I thought this was perfect. I was outvoted 9-1 by those who felt that a beach two miles wide at low tide was infinitely better than a view of boats and a lighthouse. Oh well!

John in PDX said...

"There was a grandeur in everything around, which gave almost a solemnity to the scene; a silence and solitariness which affected everything. Not a human being but ourselves for miles; and no sound heard but the pulsations of the great pacific."
-Richard Henry Dana

What about the FOOD????? A crab doesn't taste as good when it sits over an hour. Fish must be cooked within 3 hours. Clams and oysters a little longer (got to get the sand out.

Salmon can last a day but must be cleaned immediately. Fatty Chinooks are the best. Halibut the same.

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