Monday, September 27, 2010

David and the Fig Leaf

Apparently, there has been a bit of a scuffle over what type of nudity is quite proper in French resorts. At Cap d'Agde, the town is in a clash: the "naturists" vs. the "libertines". (They still have libertines?) It seems the libertines are using the legal public nudity to, let's say, allow easier access to naughty fun in random places with various Biblically inadvisable combinations and numbers of people. The traditional naturists -- the ones who see nudity as a perfectly fine family activity which is devoid of sexuality -- find this appalling. It makes me wonder how long we are going to try to narrow down our incredibly complex human spirits and minds into neat categories. It won't work, people. We are much more complex than that.

William Blake, that wonderful early Romantic nut, said, in the Proverbs of Hell, that "the nakedness of woman is the work of God." The guy was, in much of his philosophy and work, maybe the first proponent of "free love" in literary history -- yes, even before Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. But, in his ironic proverbs, he is making a point for the purity of nakedness. In short, there is a balance in this fairly loony poet/artist that most people lack.

Generally, I find myself annoyed that people seem to accept that stuff just happens.  They say, "Teens just become rebellious -- and they all experiment with drugs and alcohol; people become heartless as they get older; people will succumb to temptation." I once heard a youth counselor tell kids they shouldn't even hug each other -- that any physical contact, like pressing the bodies together, was a bad idea before marriage because it could "lead to other things." Well, yeah, it could. But do we tell people who love sports not to go into Modell's because it might lead to stealing? (Or rubbing the leather gloves wantonly?) How about just encouraging kids, guiding them -- saying to them: "You can control yourself. Identify your own line and don't cross it." Teaching kids to avoid all contact is the same as teaching them to avoid taking responsibility for controlling themselves.

And, please, don't tell me that is an unrealistic way of thinking. It is only unrealistic as long as we believe it is as a collective societal mind.

So, back to the naked French people. The natural nudies are mad at the hoochy-coochy nudies for engaging in hoo-ha and not just playing volleyball and cooking burgers with their kids. (Why does it always have to be volleyball? Can't it be, like, horseshoes, or something?) The "libertines" feel they are simply engaging in natural, unabashed human fun. To me, each of these groups is composed of les idiots.

Nudity is both a sexual and non-sexual state. If you are right in the head, you can appreciate the aesthetics of the human body, the way Michelangelo did, and also realize that the sexual impulse is strong (like Michelangelo did) and, at the right times, perfectly wonderful.

As things stand, we wear clothes in public in most places. It is practical in terms of avoiding both sunburn and frostbite, and it helps us to keep perspective. To take clothes off is a choice as is the time during which we do it. Having them on and taking them off can be equally tantalizing states. We make the choices to be celibate or not. Our respective religions guide us as to when these choices are appropriate. But let us not act as if a "wardrobe malfunction" or a low-cut shirt is an evil. Let's just teach our kids: The body is beautiful and powerful. Respect it in every way -- both yours and everyone else's. "Sin" starts in the mind. Let's not equate the body with it from day one.

In the end, how silly is it to put a fig leaf over David's privates? You see them everywhere, these censored masterpieces: on lawns; in front of pizza places and caterers. Why? He's just standing there, either pre or post Goliath clobbering. The sculptor's work is a celebration of the body's aesthetic beauty. If David makes people feel randy, they will simply have to control themselves. And, just maybe, if more kids grow up thinking the body is beautiful and with a perspective of having seen what it looks like, especially in great art and under the thoughtful guidance of their parents, they may not be as eager to undress their dates after the prom to get a look.



  1. The idea that "stuff just happens" is one of the most frustrating mindsets people have these days. I'm not implying this is new, but I feel physically exhausted when I hear, "It's not my fault because..."

    This isn't just a juvenile mindset either. Perhaps it's a result of too much enabling. The NFL has a phone number that any player can call if they are out drinking and need a ride home. Sounds great right? (Wouldn't mind a teacher hotline like that on a Friday afternoon.) Yet how many NFL players are repeated arrested or caught driving while intoxicated? Really?? I guess it's the NFL's fault for asking the players to wait 20 mins after they call for their ride to show up.

  2. Wow, Eric -- I did not know about that hotline. That opens up a whole new can of implications . . . But, you know, 20 minutes is quite awhile . . .

  3. Horseshoes? With nudists? Really Mr. Matt? Maybe I'm just a stereotypical teenager with an immature, dirty mind but think about that for a moment and see what image you come up with...yeah, I'm not sure that's better than volleyball. Great article though.

  4. You know, that did occur to me after I wrote it, but I said -- nah, no one will see it that way . . . Shame on you, Kara. Ha! I should have picked badminton.