August is a great time of year to be outdoors. I’m planning a long run today at noon on the Great Western Trail, a former railroad bed that has been converted to a limestone path lined with fields and trees. I’ve run thousands of miles on that trail over the years.
We all gravitate to certain places for our running and riding. Most of us have a favorite or “trusted” route or place where we get in many of our workouts. But there comes a time when it feels best to “get out there” and run away from the routine. All my life I’ve wandered the woods and fields in one way or another. It just feels great to escape while the air is still warm and the summer breeze graces your skin.
Sometimes we even need to shed some clothes and be naked in this world. This week marks the start of Burning Man out in the American desert. People of many ages lose both their clothes and inhibitions in a festival designed specifically for that purpose. At the end of the week, a congregation of souls stands witness to the burning of a wood effigy that serves as means to release the spirit and torch any limitations within.
My son has been to Burning Man a number of times. He is an artfully uninhibited guy who craves an open world. We’re similar in that way. Hilariously my wife once saw a photo of his naked ass on an Instagram post and told me, “I can see where he got his butt.”
That’s as it should be as far as I can see. Genetics and the rolling spirit of evolution drive this world despite what hyperzealous creationists, biblical literalists and religious bigots would have us think. Their confined vision of God is nothing more than an attempt to control the narrative and own that authority for themselves. That’s the same tactic used by the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, but a multitude of stubborn Christians––just like Adam and Eve––are too blind and forcefully ignorant to see how easily they are manipulated by words that sound like God but in fact conceal the motives of greed beneath them. These souls wind up being complicit with forces of evil that truly stand in opposition to God. They fall into the coils of perverse control and call it the embrace of providence.
These are the tarsnakes of existence.
If that’s hard to follow, well I’m sorry for you. Because it also sets up a scenario in which those same forces dictate control of your life in other ways. Even the intimation in the Book of Genesis that Adam and Eve grew “ashamed” of being naked is result of the repressive and fearful ideology favored by legalistic religious authorities. And taking that oral tradition literally has led to all shorts of shamefully repressive behaviors over the course of history.
Because shame about our bodies leads to repression of other completely natural and organic realities. These include beliefs about sexuality and orientation for which people have been shamed and ostracized for centuries.
I well recall a May morning that I spent running up the beach on Assateague Island, North Carolina. People were out cavorting in the waves as I was running through the sand. One young couple had shed their clothes and were splashing in the high surf. That inspired me to stash my running gear in a tussock of beach grass and take off running naked up the beach. The breeze blowing off the ocean was liberating. I ran and ran and ran. No one told me to stop. No one shamed me for being naked in the world.
It’s hard to find that kind of space in everyday life. This morning while out on my walk to photograph birds I felt the urge to be somewhere even wilder. We actually had plans for that this weekend that just aren’t going to work out.
But here on the edge of suburbia, it’s not legal and thus not wise to go for a naked romp anywhere. There are too incidents of people behaving badly to allow that sort of liberty in civilized society.
Yet I can’t help thinking that even after Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, they still found time to wander around naked now and then. And maybe they even engaged in some wild lovemaking sessions in the fresh green grass outside the gates. And God probably didn’t mind. He may have been pissed at them for giving in to the deceptions of religious legalism by the Serpent, but I think God knows that nakedness can lead to an appreciation of the humanity that we all share.
We see the naked truth of green leaves and flowers and the bare feathers of a bird in the bush and are not offended or ashamed. We’re made of the same stuff as the rest of this world, and nothing that the religious zealots tell us will ever change that.
There’s still time to enjoy the naked truth in August. Go find a place and find yourself in the process.