I am sitting in my tiny camping trailer while a gentle rain falls outside. The temperature has fallen to single digits and the breeze is brisk. It definitely isn’t the most pleasant situation for me to go out for a nude walk. I tried and the walk was shortened as I hurried back to my warm, tiny trailer. There is no Internet here at Green Haven, so I spend most of my time writing, taking occasional breaks to read. Having had the foresight to have loaded this page into my browser when I had Internet access, I can build this post to give to you later. As I mentioned earlier in my previous post, I am reading Living an Examined Life, by James Hollis. Today I returned to that book to begin reading the first chapter – The Choice is Yours. Hollis begins with a tough challenge:
“Whether you show up as you in this brief transit we call life or are defined by history, or context, or shrill partisan urgencies substantially depends on you. No greater difficulty may be found than living this journey as mindfully, as accountably, as we can, but no greater task brings more dignity and purpose to our lives.”
It is all about a choice, making decisions rather than abdicating our authority to others who would rush in to make choices for us, others who avoid finding their own dignity and purpose in life.
Naturism is one of those choices for me. Needless to say, almost everyone in my world, my face-to-face world would rather I didn’t make that choice. Making this choice creates tension with all relationships. I could pull back, in effect turning the power of my “choice” over to these others, but I don’t. In spite of going against the collective who resist being authentically individual, I have made the choice to stand naked in front of the world. I know that I am not a “fine specimen” of muscle-crafted, masculine power; and I realise that my body shows the ravages of time. However, it is my body and I have finally let go of the collective-induced shame of having a naked body that the collective tells us to keep hidden at all costs.
The dignity does show up in attitude. An example comes to mind. One bright, warm, late summer day I was trimming the bushes in my back yard. While I was busily engaged with the task, a neighbouring woman entered my yard with the intention of borrowing a tool. She was late in registering my presence, my nude presence. I had noticed her, but kept on with my task. I didn’t try to hide the fact that I was naked, nor did I try to make myself more visible to her. When she finally saw me, she apoligised for interrupting, for invading my privacy. She didn’t protest my nakedness, nor hide from it. She accepted it for what it was. In the process, we both maintained dignity. In case you are wondering, my neighbour isn’t a naturist. I made a choice to continue working naked in my yard, and she made a choice to continue with her task – as Hollis tells us – “the choice is ours.” But he goes on to qualify that statement:
“We survive in this life by adaptation. We learn from our world – families of origin, popular culture, world events, religious training, and many other sources – who we are, what is acceptable, what is not, and how we have to behave, perform, in order to fit in, gain approval from others, and prosper in this world …”
Now obviously, this world really doesn’t want us to be present as naked people. Nudity is not acceptable unless there is an economic benefit to be made which renders the nudity to be objectively defined, rather than a subjective experience. Rather than approving human nudity, society goes to great lengths to censure nudity and those who adopt a lifestyle that includes being clothing free. Hollis goes on to say:
“We become too often a servant of our environment, given our need to fit in, receive the approval of others, stay out of harm’s way.”
Becoming a naturist or a nudist has a person, at least for the moments he or she is clothing free, make a choice to not fit in, to stop being ruled by the fleeting approval of others. And as long as we hide our nudity behind privacy fences, or behind closed doors and draperies in our homes, or behind the gated barriers that separate a group from the outer world, we can stay out of harm’s way. Yet, for a good number of naturists, there is a compulsion to be more authentic with the world.
Another personal example that comes to mind is my tendency to step outside the safe boundaries and risk. For the past few days while it was warm and sunny, I left the naturist grounds carrying a small bag on my back which contained my wrap – a cover in case I would be seen by others. I would then hike down the public gravel road to a junction where I would then follow a dirt road to reach a point about five kilometres away from the naturist site. I would then return following the same route back to reach my trailer. Everything I did not only wouldn’t have met with the approval of the world outside the gates, even those within the naturist community would have disapproved – my actions could have put their comfortable life within the confines of the site, in jeopardy.
I make choices, not always good choices in most other people’s opinions, and sometimes in retrospect, I have to admit that my choices aren’t always about being mindful or dignified in terms of my soul’s needs for authenticity. Regardless of the choices I make – to do or not to do, to be or not to be – I learn to become a better version of who I am, a more conscious person.