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Offline Cabding

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http://livenakedly.com/2011/05/04/body-month-casual-nakedness-and-the-inadequacy-industry/

As promised, May is Body Month, a series of discussions about perceptions, emotions, politics, business decisions, and prevailing cultural dictates that influence who we are as we inhabit our flesh.

A couple weeks back, Sara and I were driving home and passed a house where the parents were outside with their two young daughters.  The girls were playing naked in their front yard, completely oblivious to the idea that they were somehow wrong or bad for it.  Three hours later, we walked by the house, and one of the girls was still out there cleaning up her toys.  Sara said, “Isn’t it great that kids can do that without inhibitions?”  I replied that it’s up to us as future parents to instill that in our kids, not just as children, but throughout life.  She also inspired this column.

As a child, I absolutely hated strawberries.  They were weird, disgusting, and horrible tasting.  I just knew it!  When I was about 12, after years of saying this, I carried strawberry shortcakes out to my parents’ car.  I looked around me to make sure no one was looking, plucked a strawberry off the cake, smoothed over the whipped cream, and placed it in my mouth.  Wow!  That was good!  And ever since, I’ve been hooked on strawberries.  I’d long dismissed it, argued against it, and made up my mind before ever trying it.

I see the same responses when I discuss casual nakedness with people.  Some take interest in this exotic-seeming concept, while others dismiss it out of hand.  That’s awful!  Why would anyone do that?!  You’re crazy!

No matter what we do in life, someone somewhere will always think we’re crazy.  So, my response has become, Have you tried it?

Here are some numbers about our modern Western society:

8 million Americans that we know of have an eating disorder
Among people I know, a vast majority find their bodies to be disgusting
The fast food industry spends $1.6 Billion dollars in advertising yearly
Individual drug companies spend billions apiece in advertising
Soda companies spend billions that increase yearly on ads
Fruits and veggies are given $1 million to get the word out about benefits
We are a country that has a tremendous amount of illness and unhappiness.  The Western Diet, which the industries listed represent, brings with it obesity, cancer risk, and other life-threatening and injurious pathologies, raising medical costs, decreasing life expectancy, and harming the mind.  The drug industry then comes in to sweep up the pieces, offering medicines where lifestyle modifications could provide cheaper remedies.

When I lived in Los Angeles, I certainly had disordered eating due to low income and the desire to be thinner so that I could be turned into Hollywood’s Next Big Thing.  Every day was a struggle against my body.  I could only afford pasta, chicken, fast food, and instant wheat cereal.  I ran up to 90 miles a week at times.  When nerves, pressure, and pollution factored in, I found I wasn’t getting any slimmer and that severe acne had developed.  I literally hated the body that I was inhabiting, in part because I saw myself as separate from it.

Last year, I detailed how I came through that dilemma, using a practice one of my herbal teachers says she’s used with clients: standing nude before a mirror and convincing myself that I loved my body.  By changing the conversation, the goal was to change my mind.  And after several months of feeling really silly, it worked.  As I became comfortable in my own skin, I started to choose better foods, to cease standing on the scale three-to-five times daily, to stop fretting overall.  In fact, I linked my mind and body as one.  I wasn’t merely inhabiting a shell.  I was whole.

After this experience, I started paying attention to the mixed messages American culture contributes so that we distrust our human beingness.  We tend to avoid it as a young child and then it encroaches furiously as we become aware of media, punditry, and commercialism.  I never thought I would be susceptible to it.

The Inadequacy Industry is a parasite that relies on human thought to maintain its survival.  Without acquiescent hosts, it would die and not be missed, except by those who profit off of misery.  By working on the young brain, the industry can create a customer base for a lifetime, alternating their contribution to the problem with solutions, most of which carry their own set of new problems to be addressed.  Follow this example:  An industrial food company lays out 2,600 times the amount of money as allotted for promoting health-enhancing foods each year.  That is just one company.  Factor in the many other companies vying for market share, junk food expenditures will go into the tens of thousands of times that of our friend, the carrot.  Per year.  When those products, which are known to cause illness, bring about the expected illnesses, drug companies swoop in.  Their products, bearers of many side effects, are pushed on the public while a behind-the-scenes concerted effort is waged daily to discredit natural means for reviving health and well-being.  Meanwhile, as we physically feel bad and we mentally dislike ourselves, a host of companies and experts swoops in to remind us we are not good, we are not whole.

The progression: After running naked through the sprinklers as youngsters and not really caring about it, we encounter experts, politicians, schools, and other power brokers who tell us that our bodies are horrible things.  At a young age, they link nakedness to sex and sex to sinfulness.  As they reiterate the message, it becomes crystal clear: nakedness equals sinfulness.  When a message gets repeated, the brain builds neuronal pathways that emphasize the point.  At the same time, old links, such as never really thinking about sex or linking the purported shame of it to nudity, disappear.  The hazards of this constant messaging were made famous when Florida Congressman Mark Foley tried to shut down a teen nudist camp for his own expressed fears of potential exploitation all while he was allegedly involved in instigating sexual overtures toward underage Congressional pages.  One person, confusing nakedness with sex and with his own mind-body-sex issues, did his best to harangue something that was controlled well and had existed without incident.

Once the Inadequacy Industry has us fearing our bodies (serving up a confusing cocktail of emphasized-sex in entertainment and advertising media), they chip away at other aspects of our lives.  In our twenties, it’s all about the career track, cars, marriage, and finding a house.  If all we’re left with is debt, we’re told we might be experiencing the “quarter-life crisis,” which is an accelerated mid-life crisis at age 25.  When we hit our thirties and forties, the body’s natural progression becomes reason for concern if we lose hair, turn a little gray, show wrinkles, or in any way aren’t in the same shape we were half a lifetime ago.  Of course, the Inadequacy Industry spending more than $1 billion to sell beer or $100 million to sell pizza has nothing to do with it.  During this time, women can try a product I heard about on the radio that will make them look 20 years younger, with a guy in the ad saying, “My wife always looked good to me, but now…”  Once middle age and later hits, all hope is lost, but we’re still hooked.  Dieting and exercising for our health seem like huge mountains to climb, perhaps we even have some diseases.  Time to pop the pills and dial up the clawfoot bathtubs, because sex is no longer sinful.  It’s big business.

Inadequacy achieved!

Money from our pockets enrich the Inadequacy Industry and the cycle continues anew for the next generation.  Their message: Be insecure in who you are; hate your body; hate your feelings; buy our products.  The parting shot, of course, is that it’s our own fault for being hard-wired to think this way, for billions spent to lead us to these conclusions are just coincidental and not actually influential.

I bought into all four tenets and luckily I slowly stopped the cycle in my twenties by connecting directly with my body, by listening within, and by learning to ignore the Western messaging system.  This has at times, put me at odds with convention in the most benign way.  I prefer to let my hair grow.  Uncensored and unasked for criticism has been a part of my life for several years.  At least I didn’t have to go to court for “unseemly long hair” like one of my direct ancestors.

Still, when disentangling from the messages I’ve been party to for about 24 years, some of the old system creeps in.  Whereas I once spoke only philosophically about the importance of connecting to our bodies, what will it mean to advocate casual nakedness in a society predominantly living within the inadequacy conversation?  To be clear, since it is likely needed, I am not talking about Madonna or Lady Gaga type exhibitionism, nor the doofusery we see in comedy movies, nor the emphasis on breasts and genitals we get from clothing commercials, for those sexualize nakedness and keep the Western entanglement alive.  I am asking us to consider harmoniously living with what nature brings, remaining respectful and challenging laws that could be onerous (as with Rep. Foley), and learning to embrace what cultures we pejoratively call “primitive” have long known: sex can happen while naked, but nakedness does not equal sex.

Some people who believe in casual nakedness express on message boards that they think they will be ostracized at work, at home, in society.  I think of the words a spiritual adviser told me when I was discussing my difficulty in seeing the next step once I graduated school: the Western mindset is an obstacle to my progress.  In life, I’ve always connected the dots, been considerate, and followed the conventional rules.  Despite playing out to the tune of the prevailing narrative, I’ve never been given a leg up and often have held the short end of the stick.  I’ve been serving the Inadequacy Industry via my actions and the results led to persistent health and nerve issues.

I have decided to live my truth.  This I believe wholeheartedly: We are a society with great illness that stems in great part from the Inadequacy Industry’s exertion of will and money.  I say that we can bring harmony to ourselves via living that maintains connection to the Earth, to each other, and to our own bodies.  Embracing a naturist perspective has opened up the world to me while also saving me from the toxic conversations that ate away at my whole being.  I feel more connected emotionally, socially, mentally, and psychically, and better off physically.  If discussing my experiences and perspectives helps one person avoid the pain I put myself through with the help of the Inadequacy Industry, I will be happy.

For adults who have lived within the Inadequacy Industry’s lifelong conversation, reclaiming innocence and connection to themselves and their environment could snap those well-developed synapses and create a whole new story about how life can be.  We were made whole and beautiful.  The stories that tell us otherwise are just that – stories.  Profitable for a few.  Injurious to many.  Generation to generation to generation.

Let’s break their powerful hold.

Try a strawberry.

If you have a private space or a garden, May 14 is World Naked Gardening Day.  This might be the moment to shift your perspective.
Trying to unite the lost naked souls of the Southeast US. Message our Facebook page or PM me to get involved!