Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | September 13, 2009

Nakedness & Revelation: I have nothing to say and I’m going to take a long time saying it!

I started this blog a while back for a number of reasons: to create a more informal environment for writings, sharings and conversations, to create a place to ‘scrapbook’ items like quotes, interesting posts by others, movie clips etc., to help loosen up my writing style which I felt was perhaps too formal, and then finally as a sort of spiritual challenge to explore issues of identity and self-revelation: in an attempt to be open without being self-preoccupied. We live in a world in which the boundaries between the personal and the public have become blurred – where Facebook and Twitter are used to reveal  our inner feelings or passing fancies in a way that is both horrifying to me but also suggestive of a way forward – where ‘process isn’t precious’ (as they used to suggest in Psychosynthesis training), where ‘braggadocio’ is sometimes ok (the ancient Celts apparently loved it) and where developing an ‘author platform’ is considered just another part of ‘spreading the word’ and earning a living. I was also interested in this latter aspect of blogging as part of my agenda in writing on nakedness –  physical, psychological and spiritual. I’m aware that as the blog progressed this agenda got forgotten in favour of scrapbooking and because such nakedness (as I discovered) is extremely hard to convey without it becoming merely self-absorption in public. Perhaps that’s it: just as the goal of all our attempts at self-remembering are to be able to forget ourselves, perhaps the goal in feeling free to express whatever one likes is finally achieved when one truly feels there is nothing to say…

Good night!


Responses

  1. I can understand what you are saying about the potential for navel gazing and self-absorbtion but I don’t think that sharing one’s deeper thoughts and feelings via a public format is necessarily a bad thing. I agree that with blogging there can be a fine line between self-indulgence and self-expression sometimes but I really get something from others when they share; I have read some wonderful, articulate and thoughtful posts that have been very ‘naked’ and personal but very helpful; I have learned important things about myself via other’s public journals – I really think we are mirrors for each other and public journalling can lead us to those incredible ‘me too’ moments. I’ve not had experience of Facebook and Twitter, so can’t really comment on those.

    Your post has made me think why it is that I have a blog myself. I guess it disciplines me to write; it being public really helps me to focus on trying to write as well as I am able. I don’t have a huge readership (far from it!) but I find it so wonderful when people comment and something has clicked with them or helped them. I find writing it is a form of therapy but I try not to disappear up my own behind if I can – to have at least something to say, even if I am framing it within my own experiences. I do worry sometimes that some of the things I am writing are very personal; this brings up issues of fear of exposure, and as you say, of self-indulgence, and yet something in this proces strengthens me in a way that it just didn’t when I kept a private diary. I am not entirely sure why at the moment but I think it has a lot to do with the fact that writing feels like sharing (even when nobody at all ight be reading).

    When you write that self-remembering is ultimately so that we can forget ourselves, I suddenly realised that it isn’t that for me at all. It is so that I can actually feel like a ‘self’ – I think that writing my blog helps me to feel more solid – does that make sense?

    Perhaps we all have different levels of comfort with expressing deeply personal things publically, and I believe that these should always be respected. I guess we each have a line that divides our personal stuff from our public stuff but that line is in a different place for each of us.

    Fascinating post Philip – lots to think about!

  2. As always your comment takes it deeper…my remark about self-forgetting and remembering cut a corner because I think the two processes are somehow entwined and cannot be separated or one held as a goal above the other.
    And I think you’re right about the value of all this – it’s in the sharing,and often in the disclosure of our vulnerabilities and failures that we are most able to help. I know I’m not very good at that – I’m quite happy to trumpet successes but find it harder to talk about feelings of brokenness or despair.
    I agree with you about writing making one feel more solid, but at the same time, I find that (sometimes) it makes me feel more transparent. But I suppose that’s what our souls really are like: both solid and transparent.
    Your blog deserves more readers – it’s inspiring!

  3. Thanks for this post, Philip. I had been wondering about the subject, concerning you, scrapbooking vs writing about yourself. I write a blog too, and my experience is that rather than enhancing ego traits, it tends to help me towards simple transparency, and it feels very good to be able to communicate, to build a bridge, between soul and the world. This sharing from within our soul with the world, is the noblest part of the Internet, I feel. I´d love to read a blog of yours.

  4. I find the process of writing an amazing and spooky thing. I think we communicate not only with the words we choose to write but also with what we choose to leave out. When I have written things and read them back later, I can often sense stuff I have been hiding from myself, dwelling in that space between the lines. I often think that I am conscious of what I am writing but so often things emerge from a deeper place; it can be both alarming and enlightening.

    What I find fascinating about personal journals is the same thing I found about keeping a dream diary; a dialogue starts to emerge with something deep within, something that we might previously have been oblivious too; it unfolds, starts to have its own momentum and can potentially be a place of healing and knowing. I think it taps into that place inside us that knows and accepts us at our most vulnerable and can encourage us to accept ourselves at this level too. We might consciously try to edit it but it remains between the lines, waiting to form.

    Sometimes I feel that I write just a little too much about feelings of brokenness and despair; I have about three aircraft hangers’ worth of vulnerabilities and failures (I am thinking about building a fourth!) but writing about them publically has helped me enormously to accept them better and to feel a greater compassion for myself and others. I have messed up so often in my life; I have things I feel such guilt and shame over and some of those things, as yet, I am not brave enough to write but there is such a power in naming something and for me, I think this is why I feel so drawn to the whole blogging process. I want to be able to turn to another human being, to see and know that I am not alone in what I care for and struggle with. I would also hope that I could do the same in return for someone else, even if it is just one other person. We are so often expected to be perfect and invulnerable but it takes such a lot of energy to hide those tender, wounded parts of ourselves. I think I have felt at my most lonely when I have felt I had to keep those things inside. Having written this, it strikes me that I probably write to find acceptance, both from myself and from others too (if I’m honest).

    Having said all that, there are and should be boundaries – not every single thought that we have should or need be committed to paper or declared from the roof tops! And yet, we each have so much to give to each other, if we are brave enough to take the risk and share. I guess my urge to blog is me trying to take that risk in some way.

    When you say you feel more transparent, do you mean insubstantial or more known or clearly seen (or both)?

    Thank you so much Philip, for your kind comment.

  5. Sorry – me again!! I have just read Vivian’s post. What a wonderful way of expressing it – Yes, I want to share my soul with the world too! Perhaps it’s about each of us coming out of that closet you wrote about recently?

  6. NAKED…….a word that each of us have a unique experience with. Many many years ago, a close friend told me I had a naked shivering heart. That stayed with me, and I have experienced that in other friends since, and told them so! My heart has been more exposed to myself since I was told that. Its not just about outer bodily nakedness……What does it mean to ‘wear your heart on your sleeve’ can we wear our body on our sleeve? or our emotions and thoughts?
    Maria, your comment was great, this is a good subject……bigger than what might at first seem the case!
    If we all wore our naked shivering hearts on our sleeves, maybe LOVE would take off its clothes and mask too.
    Outer nakedness is only one nakedness. On 3.3.09 BBC Horizon presented a documentary… ‘WHATS THE PROBLEM WITH NUDITY?’ Did anyone see it? I have not seen it all through, I downloaded it and will watch the whole thing soon….. then comment.
    Philip, you bring out ‘nakedness’ in others…..because you expose your own as well as you can.

  7. Hi Alice,
    Yes I saw it. In fact here’s what I’ve written about it and 2 other programmes for the book:
    “The increasing openness and ease with which people could be encouraged to look at themselves, and accept what they saw, meant that by 2009 as the world was gripped by economic recession three programmes on British television were broadcast which demonstrated the way in which an exploration of nakedness could have psychological and therapeutic value.
    In March the BBC Horizon documentary ‘What’s the Problem With Nudity?’ explored why people tend to feel ashamed or embarrassed when they are naked. Nina Jablonski of Penn State University argued that becoming hairless represented a major step forward in human evolution. Whereas most animals have fur, we developed an upright stance and became ‘naked’. By shedding fur we were able to cool ourselves more quickly and developed bigger brains, leading to the development of tools, language, and the ability to make fire. If nudity really does represent such an important factor in the development of our culture and what we call our ‘humanity’ then it is not surprising that it is so redolent with meaning for us, and this could explain why some studies show that people prefer hairless bodies. It also means, as the Radio Times stated, ‘that something everyone takes for granted may hold the key to the success of the entire human species.’
    During the programme a psychologist, Dan Fessler, suggested that shame about being seen naked may have arisen as a way of reinforcing pair bonding, and hence more effective child care: “Over thousands of generations, we’ve learned that showing off a naked body sends out sexual signals that threaten the security of mating pairs. And we’ve chosen to agree that that is a bad thing. Shame is the ideal emotion to enforce that code of conduct. Because it feels unpleasant, we avoid it at all costs.”
    The documentary then invited eight volunteers to undergo a series of experiences in the nude in the presence of each other and a team of psychologists, which concluded that our inhibitions about being seen naked are the result of social conditioning, and that we are not born with a shame of nudity, but learn it.
    In ‘The Naked Office’, broadcast by Virgin in June, a company challenged by the harsh economic climate was invited to undergo a training process, devised by business consultant David Taylor, author of ‘The Naked Leader’ trilogy, which culminated in all employees being invited to spend a ‘Naked Friday’, working together in the nude. As inhibitions were shed, communication between workers, contentment and productivity increased significantly.
    In ‘The Credit Crunch Monty’, broadcast by Sky in July, auditions were held in Wolverhampton for six men who would train to put on a male striptease act. In a perfect example of life imitating art imitating life, the Full Monty story was acted out for the cameras, as dozens of men queued for the audition. Six were chosen and viewers watched as they trained and then finally went for ‘The Full Monty’ – and this time they really did show all. As they danced on stage, each holding a copy of ‘The Daily Crunch’, with its headlines of ‘More Jobs Gloom’ and ‘Growing Debt’ they proved that more than a decade after the appearance of the Full Monty, its central idea was as humorous, exciting and empowering as ever. A 58 yr old electrician with six children who took part in the show explained that his girls were appalled at the thought of him stripping on stage, that his boys and 80 year old mother loved the idea, and that his grandchildren will ‘know who I am.’ In that one remark he succeeded in summing up the power and the mystery of nakedness: that revelation of the body can intimate revelation of the self.”

    I’ll write more in a while – this comment is already very long! Much love to you! Philip

  8. Maria : yes, that´s what I was thinking too : coming out of the proverbial closet, and shedding anonimity, as Philip´s other post said. It´s not that people don´t know your name, it´s that people don´t know your heart, until you dare to share it.

  9. Such wonderful comments. Philip, I have also just read your posts ‘My Intention is to Undress’ and ‘One Continuous Mistake’ tagged under ‘Transcendentalists’ – a link suddenly appeared at the top of the page and so I followed! Your writing and the comments here are brilliant and have my head buzzing; this sums up so much of what I feel about writing. Gail Sher’s book looks a must -her quote rung so many bells. Someone also described their blog as functioning like a compost heap – that magical process of transformation! Yes!

    I find the transcendentalist idea of writing journals really fascinating. In the dim and distant past (at college) I remember reading lots about women and diary writing, those private pages becoming a place where women could discover a voice, a truer and freer self-expression in a world where their public lives were so restricted and limited. When so little of our true self is reflected back to us, exploring how we feel and perceive things via writing can be a way of coming to know who we truly are, beyond the expectations and roles that are forced upon us. I find it fascinating that in blogging, this private domain of the diary has escaped into the public world – I think for women that is quite liberating (I understand I might be just talking about myself here -also that this might be very liberating for men too).

    Fascinated by the link between the private and the public in writing, I ended up writing my dissertation on Anais Nin. She was a obssessional diary writer who used her journals as a source for her novels. Actually , I found her novels pretty awful but it was fascinating to see the links between the two, the blurring between fact and fiction in both and how her diary writing fuelled her own self-discovery.

    With this in mind, I wonder how different the blogging experience is for men and women? Do you think, with regard to the sharing of emotional stuff, that women feel a little more comfortable doing this publically? Women share in this way amongst themselves all the time.

    Underneath it all, I believe, as Alice so touchingly says, we are all – men and women both, ‘naked shivering hearts’ and as both Vivian and Alice say, it seems so important to find ways of connecting at that level.

    Lots of wonderful things to ponder – thank you everyone (Philip, my copy of your ‘Book of English Magic’ has just arrived -very exciting, looks fantastic. I also have lots of serious reading to do as well! I need two heads!).

  10. So much here Maria. But to focus on one point, I think you’re right about women finding it easier to share their emotions, and I wonder if there is a link here with the phenomenon that is going on in Trafalgar Square. There, on the Fourth plinth project, a number of people have been taking their clothes off. I haven’t kept count, but I think it seems to be mainly men. Certainly in naturism the balance is in favour of men wanting to be naked more than women. One Fourth plinther said he had always wanted to be a statue. It suddenly occurred to me that perhaps there is something here about men feeling the urge to reveal themselves, and finding it easier to do this with their bodies rather than their feelings? Just a thought but I can imagine women might go for journaling and sharing while men want to become naked statues.

  11. Yes, I think you’re right Philip. Those cultural pressures that lead men to feel that to openly express and share emotion is too risky, are also there with regard to women getting physically naked; there is a whole host of gender baggage that accompanies both, which is such a shame. I think I can feel how getting naked would work for a man; it’s very direct. Perhaps there is a touch also of wanting to be the subject of the ‘gaze’ for a change, rather than the observor, and in doing so, surrendering a sense of being in control and therefore engaging with feelings of openness and vulnerability? Perhaps it’s also about trying to reclaim the body for men, all those traditional associations with matter and the female? In the same way, perhaps for women it’s about validating the world of emotion which has been traditionally denegrated, viewed as dangerous, untrustwothy and inferior to mind and intellect?

    We have mentioned before why women might find nakedness risky in our culture but why do you feel that men find emotional nakedness much harder? Is it other men’s judgement that they fear? A loss of control? Why would physical nakedness feel liberating while emotional nakedness feel terrifying?

  12. What interesting questions Maria! I think men who wish to be statues or to be seen naked couldn’t fear other men’s judgement otherwise only the very ‘fit’ would do this – but think of the Full Monty or the men in The Credit Crunch Monty. Wanting to be the subject of the gaze may be more accurate: since men are often very pro-active, the psyche might be yearning for passivity, which is why judges like being tied up (I believe!). If you’re having to be decisive and active all the time the psyche must have balance. Some people have said to me ‘How can you write a whole book about nakedness? What is there to say?’ As you can see there’s masses to say! Must go now to prepare for Wales!
    Alice – just a quick note about ‘hearts on sleeves’ – I guess in ‘true nakedness’ (ie undertaken as revelation) one is trying to wear one’s heart on one’s skin – all over. It’s just the shivering I think we need to get rid of!

  13. Hi Philip,
    Matt Baker here from Phoenix Az.

    I have just discovered your blog here at 1:00 am Arizona time. I have no idea what I am doing up this late. I have to go to work at Metro Arts tomorrow. Maybe it is what you just mentioned. I am so active all day at work that I just need hours of silence and such to balance that out. I don’t get enough these day with my two little boys at home. So I find I have to stay up late to just to balance out the scales.

    Anyway, two things. I lived in Bologna Italy for a year, long ago, 1991 I think. I was an international relations major when I went. I came home wanting to be a teacher and a writer instead. The reason I think is that I was totally disconnected from the news for a year. That was the year the Simpsons first came on the tube and I had no idea who they were when I got home. My career in international politics was killed by isolation from information. But what was born was the creator, the druid, and the seeker.

    I have missed every major war and scnadal since then. I have heard about them all second hand. I could never bring myself back to watching the McNiel Lear show again every night. I felt guilty off and on for years and every so often would turn it on again. Over the years I noticed that after about a half hour, not much had really changed in the world. My world was changing inside but the outer news seemed to recycle the same stuff.

    I have felt a little like a freak for not being interested. But I do hear about what it going on, but via people and some radio. Betsy and I don’t have cable which everyone has here. And so we have little knowledge of the big TV or HBO shows that are on as well. I don’t think this was some sort of philosophical choice, our lives have just evolved this way as artists and creators. I used to sometimes feel left out, but when I have tried to get back in, I find I don’t have the heart or time for it.

    The second note is on the having anything to say. My own relationship with writing has been fraught with spiritual fights over identity and destiny. I have finally found my own place as an educator and become a personality who embraces (with minimal argument now compared to the past) what is arising through the AWEN. And in the end, find I have nothing to say. It is quite odd from my old ego writer place, but makes perfect sense from the larger soul perspective of my life and path.

    It seems that the saying, for me now, is in the living, the laughing, loving, and the simple rolling out of the moments, days and years. I hesitate to call it peace, but at times it feels that way, at other times it is anger, or fear, or love or lust. All of it comes and goes. But it comes and goes with less secondary inner grumbling I guess. It isn’t resignation, but rather some kind of acceptance and gratitude for the very simple good things in life, like kindness, love, sex, wine, kids, cats, a house, a job, my health.

    Perhaps this is what naked means in the end, for me. That I get glimpses, at my best times, of things as they really are; as spirit and form rolling about in the hay of creation together. When it happens I get the subtle intuition that yes, this is as it is in the between-life-heavens. It points out to me that there is no where I need go, but here.

    The Wales trip sounds like it was great.

    Peace,

    Matt

  14. Thank you Matt – really interesting! I love your image of ‘spirit and form rolling about in the hay of creation together.’ !


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