Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | March 25, 2008

Underutilized Rebellion

It’s always helpful to know you are not alone in your thoughts, feelings and experiences – and the net is great for helping us find others of like mind. Last year I researched Walden Pond for an entry in ‘Sacred Places’  – a book due out in August – and here is what Henry – a blogger who recently commented on a post here says about the pond and about his experiences of the joys of skinny-dipping. I like his idea of underutilized rebellion!

Thank you Henry for letting me quote from your blog – ‘What Would Henry Do? A Virtual Cabin in the Woods’:
“There is a brief passage in Walden where Thoreau describes bathing in the idyllic waters of his Pond. If you’ve ever been to Walden Pond in the summer, you can imagine what this must have felt like one hundred years ago, miles from your closest neighbor: Like pure bliss. We’ve all gone skinny-dipping at least once in our lives, (I hope!) and we all know how good it feels. My first experience was about twenty years ago at Robert Moses State Park on Long Island at a designated clothing-optional beach. At first it felt strange. But the strangeness disappeared after about five minutes when I realized that no one was staring at me and no one looked like a runway model. It was the height of summer, about ninety degrees. The ocean water felt luxurious against my skin and it was glorious to come back to my towel and lay basking in the bright sun. I was hooked. For many years afterwards, I would proselytize to the uninitiated about the benefits of my discovery. I used to compare nude bathing to buying a microwave oven (Bear with me). Before you get a microwave, you don’t understand what all the fuss is about, but after you have one you can’t imagine how you ever lived without it. When I talked this way, people looked at me funny. Then everyone had a microwave and my analogy lost its meaning. So I changed my object of desire to an iPod, but now everyone has one of those as well. I once heard Muddy Waters quoted as saying, “If you’ve got something good, keep it in your pocket.” Maybe that’s what I should do, I decided. Much like politics and religion, no one likes to be lectured to. The most meaningful discoveries you make in life are the ones you make yourself. But bathing this way, whether it be on a beach in the bright sun with hundreds of people or alone in a secluded quarry hidden deep in the woods, makes me feel more connected to the earth than anything else I can imagine. It’s childlike and pure. And in the crazed, nature-deprived, hyperactive, over-scheduled, hell-in-a-handbasket world we live in, one of our last and most tragically underutilized rebellions.”


Responses

  1. Over the weekend we discovered the local ‘nudist beach’, here on the Isle of Wight. The location is extraordinary, really stunning. I think getting naked with nature here would certainly be quite a peak experience! It is reached down the narrow remains of the Old Blackgang road, most of which disappeared into the sea in 1928. The road ends with a small National Trust car park, where the full beauty of the place then becomes apparent. Stretching high above is the impressive rocky presence of Gore Cliff (home to Ravens and Buzzards) and below is the landslip that leads down to the beach. From this point, the whole of the south western side of the Island can be seen, her beautiful curve ending in the Needles.

    The beach can’t be seen until you scramble (this really is the operative word! – the landslip is very unstable ground in places) downwards for about ten minutes. Coming through and out of some incredibly twisted and wind dwarfed trees near the bottom, we emerged on a platform where the full stretch of the beach came into view. It was such a surprise to suddenly see it. The beauty of this place brought tears to my eyes. The incredibly strong wind (it was the Equinox after all!) only seemed to add to the impact. The beach is an amazing red which contrasts with the dark cliffs of Blackgang and the towering, pale face of Gore Cliff.

    It made me smile to think that this was the nudist beach, as if the Council thought the heroic effort needed to reach it might deter folks! :0) It is a wonderfully secluded and wild place, and for me incredibly beautiful and moving. I am sure being naked here must be quite an experience, and if you’re lucky, you get to see those rare and elusive Ravens too – what more could you want?

  2. Not far from where I live is a nudist beach and it is right next to a popular twitchers pitch (mmm what was there first I wonder 😉 I love your phrase ‘hell- in- a- handbasket’ that has got to be used more – love it! As for the nudist thing – I think maybe it is a question of lost innocence – its our our own lack of innocence that makes us uneasy about it in my opinion – (I’m very uneasy about it personally but then I’ve got about a million hangups – and that’s on a good day!) but for those who have found that inner peace – go for it and enjoy!

  3. To Philip’s keen observation that it’s always nice to find like-minded individuals out there, either real or “virtual”, I add this comment that I found in a book by Terrance Keenan, St. Nadie in Winter: Zen Encounters With Loneliness. In the book, Keenan says: “To be lonely is to be among people who do not know what you mean.” I think this is the best definition of loneliness that I’ve found, and one that acts as a springboard out of that loneliness by inspiring us to find those people for whom we have an affinity. When I go to my favorite swimming holes, I’m amongst people who “know what I mean.” 🙂


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