Nu comme le jour où je suis né

Month: May 2018

Living an Examined Life as a Naturist

Reading Hollis at Green Haven

I am at Green Haven, a naturist campground/community that is my home club. I have the opportunity to spend eight days at this site, engaged in a writing retreat, a skyclad writing retreat. I am rewriting the final book of my autobiography. I have pulled the old version off of bookshelves in various stores and have consigned more than a hundred copies of the book to the recycle bin. The old version was more of a soap opera badly written and acted out. My hopes are that the rewrite will be worthy of being read. Speaking of soap operas, I found this quote of interest this afternoon.

“We are, after all, the only constant character in that long-running soap opera we call our life. Therefore, it might well be argued that we are somehow accountable for how it is turning out.” [James Hollis, Living an Examined Life]

I’ve started reading a new book in my collection, Living an Examined Life, by James Hollis, a Jungian analyst I deeply respect. He never talks about naturism, at least not in his published body of work which is considerable. He focuses on the journey that each of us takes through life as individuals. For me, that journey includes naturism. As I wrote many times over the years, naturism has been instrumental in making me a better, saner person. And as such, I do less damage to the world and the people around me.

I opened this new book on my second full day at Green Haven Sun Club in southern Saskatchewan as I took a break from my current writing project, a rewrite of book three in the Broken Road series. In that writing, I can follow the slow evolution from being damaged goods to a man who now respects himself. In that story of evolution, nudity and naturism plays a large role.

“… for each of us to recover for that which abides deeply within … we will not be spared disappointment of suffering, but we will know the depth and dignity of an authentic journey, of being a real player in our brief moment on this turning planet … on the journey of the soul.”

Is naturism a journey, an authentic journey? Or, is it an acting out of a dysfunctional psyche, the mark of someone who is no more than a deviant? Of course, in my opinion – and it is my journey – I am on a personal pilgrimage of sorts, a journey that demands much of me. The only way to find the energy and will to walk this journey is to find places and spaces in time to recharge through being fully vulnerable to the planet and the sky that surrounds the Earth – skyclad.

For each of the past two days I have walked ten kilometres without the need for clothing. The sun shone, the traffic on the country grid road was absent, and the longer dirt road showed little evidence of recent use. I owned the road and the dirt trail. I carried a hiking wrap which I could put on if a vehicle began to approach. After all, the hiking wasn’t meant to challenge others with my nudity. Luckily, there was no need to put the wrap on and the two hour hike became just myself, the earth, a few wild deer, the sky, and the glorious sun. I knew that I was engaged in a real “journey of the soul.”

I will try to follow-up with more from Hollis’ new book in future posts. I won’t rush the reading of the book as I have the feeling that what is to be found there will deserve a fuller attention that can only come with being read in bite-sized pieces. For now, I return to living without clothing during my stay at Green Haven.

Sexuality and Nudity

Nudity in non-sexual context

I have been spending my time today doing a fair amount of writing and more research for my various projects, one of the benefits of retired life. Strangely, there has been very little time spent with social media where the debates about what is suitable imagery and attitude for those who are naturists or nudists. Specifically, what role does sex play, if any in the world of naturism.

I have my own opinions of sexual imagery and naturist imagery and I don’t mind sharing it. The content of both involves the unclothed human body. Both can show genitals in profile or full on. That being the case, what is the difference? In my opinion, every image communicates a message, both a conscious and/or unconscious message. When the message is simply “see me, I have genitals!”, I have no problem categorizing the image as purely sexual in its intent.

When an image crops the face leaving only the genitals as the centre of focus, the image is again sexual, but it is also communicating that the subject (usually the photographer) is conflicted about sexuality and is operating more from his or her unconsciousness than consciousness. When an image which depicts genitals is set into a context of activity, or conscious state of being, then sexuality is set into a quiet place in the background, a natural state.

There needs to be an admission by anyone who wrestles with naturism and nudism – the human being is a sexual being – a psychological and a physiological sexual being. A human is a sexual being regardless of the state of dress or undress. We have responses to clothing and to nudity that are both passive and sexual in orientation. For example, there is no question that clothing can heighten one’s sexual interest. We dress to attract attention, to flirt, to tease, and to hopefully lead to some sexual fulfillment. At other times, we dress for function alone without a thought of using our clothing for sexual attraction. When others see us dressed in clothing that simply does its job, we are seen in a non-sexual manner.

Should we walk nude down a busy street, with a bit of a swagger and a certain smile on our face, we tend to evoke a sexual response, responses that are either shocked, or excited. However, should we be at a location with hundreds or thousands of others who are similarly without clothing, for the most part, sexuality recedes.

Sexuality is tied into desire, a deep longing that is beyond our conscious control. This is what Thomas Moore, author of the famous book, Care of the Soul, has to say about desire in a recent book called, Original Self.

“People are often frustrated when they discover that their deepest longing never goes away.” [p. 93]

People who are caught in the belief that desire is simply about the physical, can never understand why they are never satisfied, even when they engage in sexual activity. Nudity can and often does trigger desire, but desire doesn’t require nudity.

“Sex is never a purely physical act. It is always numinous, even when it is not perfect or is full of shadow. In rape, the soul is savaged, not just the body. . . . Sex abuse is a signal that we are trying hard to keep the divine out of our desire. . . . We make love, and in so doing we seek him whom we love but can never find.” [p. 94]

Most married couples know about the numinous aspect of sexual interactions, be they as simple as holding hands, feet touching while at the edges of sleep, the look in the eyes of the other, or the complete surrender when one makes oneself fully vulnerable.

Now, if only naturists would be fully aware that sexuality is not absent nor should it be absent simply because one is naked in the company of others. Desire will or will not make an appearance whether we will it or not, on its own terms in its own time. That said, one can make conscious efforts to keep the shadow side within acceptable boundaries and that can only be done when one admits that everyone has a shadow side.

What About the Children? Gut Responses to Nudity

I am asking this question because almost all of the outrage being expressed against nudity, especially nudity in the home and in public, is prefaced with “My God! What if children see nude people? They’ll be scarred forever!” As a naturist and as a therapist, I obviously don’t believe that nudity in itself causes psychological scarring for children or for adults. We are all nude beneath our clothing and are born nude. We are the only species that covers up because of some sense of shame at our nakedness. But at the same time, I don’t want to let my opinions get in the way of truth, so I went out searching for answers.

Curiously, I didn’t find any scientific or psychological studies that confirmed that seeing nudity (oneself or others) was psychologically harmful in itself. Where there was harm, other factors were also present. However, I did find serious studies that basically stated that nudity was not the factor in the psychological scarring of children, studies such the one led by Paul Okami (cited below), Higgins and Hawkins (1984), and Dr. Conrad Manning. What was interesting in doing the research was the fact that few children in North America saw any adult nudity while children.

“Given the vehemence with which clinicians and child-rearing specialists often condemn childhood exposure to parental nudity, it is paradoxical that their dire predictions are not
supported by the (scant) empirical work that does exist.” [Okami, Olmstead, Abramson, Pendelton, Archives of Sexual Behavior. Volume: 27. Issue: 4, “Early childhood exposure to parental nudity.”

Another study by Lewis and Janda (1988) studied the literature and conducted a study of Seventy-seven males and 133 females to assess the relationship between exposure to nudity and adult well-being.

“The results suggest that childhood exposure to nudity and sleeping in the parental bed are not related to poor sexual adjustment. In fact, for boys, exposure to nudity in early childhood appears to be modestly related to greater comfort levels with regard to physical contact /affection.” [Lewis and Janda, Archives of Sexual Behavior Vol. 17, No. 4, 1988 “The Relationship Between Adult Sexual Adjustment and Childhood Experiences Regarding Exposure to Nudity]

Studies aside, society judges harshly. And as with all harsh responses, reality is not the issue, only the dark shadow hanging over and within a society and its constituents. Will children be scarred by the sight of nudity? If our collective shadow has its way, we will make sure that they do. Left to nature, never!

God Forbid we see His Penis

Sometimes images betray unintended information about the human psyche. Benvenuto Cellini had his reasons for creating this image of Jesus Christ crucified almost five hundred years ago. He wasn’t the first of the last to show Christ nude. What is vital today, is that this image has so much to tell us about our human psyche and condition today. That is the power of what I can only say is a numinous image.

A numinous image is one that is more than a recording of a visual fact. If the image takes us deep within ourselves, or out beyond the realm of ordinary life where we can almost touch whatever it is that we call heaven or nirvana, then the image is numinous. Evoking a sense of mystery, holiness, awe, and even the presence of whatever it is that we struggle to name as the creative force of the universe, such images take us out of ourselves and into ourselves. And where it takes us, isn’t always about light. As often as an image takes us to the awe of creation and heaven, an image also makes evident the face of darkness, of fear, of anger, of hell.

As a naturist, a psychological naturist, this image speaks to me on a number of levels: the personal, the spiritual and even the collective level. Cellini has crafted in marble, man’s vulnerability. Even the Son of God is vulnerable. Seeing this vulnerability allows me to accept my own vulnerability with honour instead of shame. The path back home, back to from whence we came, like our entrance into this life, is a journey that can only be done naked and vulnerable. There is a need to give up – give up our beliefs, our religions, our anchors, all that ties us to where we are if we are to enter. No brand name article of clothing or footwear will serve as a passport to heaven. We must submit, naked and vulnerable.

I mentioned a collective level response to this image, to this historically accurate portrayal of crucifixion by Romans two thousand years ago. In our modern world, we have such a dread of being naked and vulnerable and we have adopted a sense of shame for being naked and vulnerable. For Jesus to be Son of God, then we need to cover up his nakedness. For Jesus to be the Son of Man, we need to deny his sexuality. A visible penis is too threatening.

In our modern world, an irrational fear grows more and more powerful. Mothers cover the eyes of their children at the first sign of nudity, especially male nudity. Any male caught exposed is branded a pervert and punished by the collective as a sexual offender.

In our modern world we learn to hide ourselves from others, even from ourselves. We learn that our bodies are not to be trusted. We learn that our bodies are imperfect and need serious modifications through diet, exercise, and surgery. We unconsciously come to believe that God messed up big time and had nothing to be pleased about at the end of the seventh day of creation. So, we cover up our bodies and cover up the body of a crucified Christ.

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