Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Image of Fullness

In the Fall 2009 issue of Going Natural, Michael Vais writes in his column "Respect for the Body":
But there's one basic naturist value that is perhaps under the most attack today: respect for oneself. In the spirit of the founders, nudity (the most visible aspect of naturism), allows the maximum benefit of the natural elements - water, air, sun - for bodies to thrive in good health. So why accept markings that do violence to our bodies and threaten its integrity? Piercing or jewelry hinders the flow of vital energy whose importance has been shown by acupuncture. Besides producing a self-inflicted wound, it draws attention to a body part, more than do clothes and jewelry, damaging the image of fullness that characterizes naturism. A naturist is someone who for a time lets go of most of the markers of social status and of the wish to be noticed, in favor of relaxing in nature's bosom in a condition of elemental nudity.
That phrase "image of fullness" really feels right to me. Aside from the piercing issue (which is something I have never done myself), being nude, and being with other people who are nude, feels more honest, more natural, and more fulfilling than hanging around in clothes.

It's like my own nude self portraits. Throughout my life I've hated the way I look in photos. Isn't that true for most people? But when I am nude, I look at the image and see my complete self. It's not vanity, it's not a sexual thing, it's just when I see my entire naked self, I see an image of fullness, of completeness, of totality.

I believe that respect for one's self, and respect for others, begins with the eyes.

Looking at ourselves is a lifelong activity, from observing our hands and feet in the crib, to avoiding mirrors as we age. It's a game we play with ourselves, applying makeup, experimenting with different clothes, constantly trying to look good. How do I look? Does this look good on me?

Looking at others is an extension of looking at ourselves. We constantly compare our faces, our bodies, our clothes with that of others. We judge people by what they wear, and how they wear it. You look great! That's a good look for you. Looking good!

I had a friend once who had a habit of telling people "you look like shit." I think he thought it was funny.

But all of this is game-playing, a means of avoiding the issue of how we really look. It's a grand illusion, lying to ourselves, lying to others, manipulating our bodies with clothing and accessories in order to avoid the truth about ourselves, and how we really look.

Respect for the body goes beyond avoiding piercings and tattoos. It involves eating well, getting exercise, and giving it the "water, air, sun" that it needs to thrive. But it also involves getting naked and looking at one's self with total honesty.

Lee Baxandall said, "body acceptance is the idea, nude recreation is the way."

You can stand in front of a mirror all day looking at your nude body, taking inventory of all the parts you like, and all the parts you hate, but until you are willing to share the sight of that nude body with others, you cannot achieve that "image of fullness" in your own mind. Social nudism is the great equalizer. Not only does it make a person less self-conscious, it fosters actual confidence.

When you are nude with others, the attention and obsession with body parts disappears, and is replaced by the image of a complete human being. Not a penis, or breasts, or arms and legs, but a full body from head to toe, a sense of oneness with self, others, and with nature.

Michael Vais uses the term "elemental nudity", which is another wonderful combination of words. This is nudity stripped away from all adornment, all pretense, all self-consciousness, and all shame.

There are only two times in life when human beings are purely elemental - at birth, and at death. At those moments nothing else matters except primal existence. All the time between is spent trying to come up with definitions of ourselves through the use of education, careers, influences, parenting, clothing, fraternalism, etc. There is nothing wrong with working on the things which define us in society, but today we have extended those efforts to manipulating and altering the body itself.

Vais talks about piercings, but this medical body sculpting is far more invasive and unnatural, from liposuction, to breast implants, and botox injections. People do this because not only have they lost all respect for their own bodies, they have lost sight of what a normal body even looks like.

All the therapy and medication cannot turn around this societal struggle with body image, but nudism and naturism can play a major role in helping people to not only strip away the clothing which hides their true skin, but to wash away some of the stress which accompanies modern life.

Is it too late to undo this downward spiral, or can respect for the body be restored to some sort of healthy balance?

Many people, including myself, say that social nudism is one of the best things they have ever done, and wish that they had immersed themselves in it much sooner. Until we can overcome issues with the way we look, we cannot restore the values of inner self which used to be paramount, and are now seemingly only secondary when assessing human beings. We are a society which treats people like products.

The integrity of the body is elemental in shaping the integrity of the soul. Naturism fosters respect for that image of fullness that we so desperately lack, and leads us all back to our authentic selves.

1 comment:

solarity said...

When I was modeling for life drawing classes, one of the comments I often got (not from college students, but from artists who'd been working with models for many years) was how comfortable I was with my body, and how completely I lacked body consciousness. I took to social nudism without effort, which is why responses like "It's all right for beautiful people" and "I could never let people see me naked" just make my head spin.

Mary Anne in Kentucky