On being naked

May 14, 2013

Just after lunch last Wednesday, with the hope of finding the last two rocks missing from the Drop Stone Bench, I went down to the area just below the 50 foot cliff where they had been tossed off. My hopes were up because the day was wonderfully sunny with a soft off shore breeze, it was a low New Moon tide coupled with an atmospheric high pushing the water even further down, and, the swell had dropped to a manageable size.

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To cut a long search and rescue mission short, I carried two stones home. Boy, was my face beaming. My smile went from ear to ear. And, I couldn’t help but express my joy by taking a Vitruvian stance. This is not “exhibitionism”; rather, a humble unencumbered human exhibiting gratitude to the joy of being alive.

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Below, I’ve photoshopped away half of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” to highlight the pose I take to express this joining of ecstasy with a sense of being animal. A sensual connection to earth rarely experienced by urban dwellers.

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In the movies, the good guy points a gun at the bad guy and says: “Put your hands up!”. The raised arms of the bad guy are an indication of submission, of being defenseless, of vulnerability, of being arrested and held in the power of someone/something else.

In the same way, when one is feeling victorious and there is no need to “defend” oneself by risking total exposure, we tend to uncrouch and — as the stadium fans do when their team scores a goal — throw our hands and arms up into the air in a type of archetypal surrendering to the gods as a salute of joyous thanks.

And by doing this Vitruvian salute, we symbolically become one with sky and earth. Energetically, we are the tree-of-life rooted to the earth extending branched fingers heavenward.

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All my life, whenever I’ve been out in nature and felt moved by the beauty surrounding/enveloping me, I have intensified the experience by shedding clothes with zero embarrassment. I do this as an artist wanting to taste creation. I do this as a lover wanting to express satisfaction in my lover.

Take the “em” out of embarrass.

The word embarrassment comes originally from the French embar: to enclose within bars; to imprison.

When we are embarrassed by nudity, we are closing ourselves off to a direct connection to nature; we are imprisoning ourselves in a religious and cultural mindset that denies our animalness, and hence, our sensual and evolutionary links to Gaia.

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Although not quite proportionally accurate, a more symbolic representation of the ideal human is Cesare Cesariano’s “Vitruvian Man” done 30 years after Leonardo’s drawing.

Just below the belly button is an erect penis. Does this represent the erotic nature and creative aspect of birth — the life potential sperm conduit of the “divine masculine”? Even as it points directly towards the naval — the remnant umbilical cord that connects all humans to the universal through the womb and the “divine feminine”?

I recognize that various friends, colleagues and readers of this blog will view the above photos with a certain mixture of bemusement and even concern; most likely thinking that “Peter” has lived in the woods too long and has, perhaps, gone a bit too feral?

To all who profess an interest in environmental philosophy and education, deep ecology and earth based arts, or, simply wanting to make a more real connection to nature in order to mitigate the causes behind climate change, let me say this:

“To really rejoice in who we truly are as individuals; to have full possession and use of our bodies to partake in all the sensual pleasures nature has bestowed on us; to make sure we embody the wisdom needed to bring about a thriving, just and spiritually fulfilling world…. go hence to the middle of a sunny field, the edge of a cliff top, a waterfall, a lake, a grove of trees. Take a stance. Strip off your clothes. Spread your legs wide open. Thrust your arms upward. Then, from deep within your animal belly, shout a shout announcing your place on this earth.”

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PS. The last photo is a self portrait on Cheju Island in South Korea in 1970 when I was an impressionable 23 year old just beginning my journey towards understanding the real work of this world.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

lou spaventa May 21, 2013 at 5:13 am

There’s something unhuman in Cesariano’s rendition – no neck, disproportionate hands, a chest bisected by what looks like a particularly nasty open heart surgery scar. Arms apelike. Thighs of a right tackle. What makes DaVinci’s version so timeless is its proportionality. The difference between all 3 naked men is that you are smiling, and that is the correct stance to take in life. The natural world is beautiful. Te saluto. lou

Steve Biddulph May 15, 2013 at 3:11 am

Big smile. We are right now looking for a new cover photograph for the next edition of my book Manhood. Sadly, it has to be something you can hold up while reading on the train! Otherwise this would have been a candidate!

glenn May 14, 2013 at 11:35 pm

Yep … to strip off and just be in a wild place is a real pleasure not to be missed in life. Also a delight to see a sparkle in the eye of someone experiencing it for the first time. Good to see those stones in hand again. Nice story Peter.

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