Why I chose a barefoot lifestyle?

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It’s kind of interesting that so many nudists would not also be barefooters. Even on nude beaches and nudist camps, most nudists wear shoes, or some kind of footwear. I did so too every time I went to a nudist beach and camp. I remember once thinking about footwear in the camp and concluded that it is absolutely necessary because going barefoot was simply not possible on those surfaces (hot asphalt, concrete, rocky ground, etc.).

During my childhood I was simply amazed when one of my friends walked barefoot on gravel. No matter how much I tried, it simply hurt my feet too badly and I could not do it. On another occasion, I decided I would go outside to play barefoot. Not 50 meters away from my house, I stepped on a bee and limped back home.

One of the first things that happened when I finally started going barefoot was that I had injured myself severely. The bottoms of my soles were almost completely gone after I walked 9 kilometers barefoot on a cold night. Unbeknownst to me, the roads that night were salted to prevent freezing (the temperature was just below zero). My soles got partially numb as I walked and I failed to pay enough attention and when I got home I looked and almost feinted. Before the sensation returned to my feet I cleaned out the wounds and wrapped them in clean cloth. The next day I went to the doctor’s, got a tetanus shot and was told they had never seen such a thing.

But that didn’t stop me.

Neither did a repeat of my childhood experience stop me again from continuing to walk barefoot. Before my feet healed fully, I stepped on a bee. Again. And it hurt even worse this time because over the years I’ve developed a mild allergy to bee stings. My foot hurt for weeks and I couldn’t wear a shoe even if I wanted.

So, what changed? Why did I go on adopting a barefoot lifestyle despite these horrors, when much less stopped me during childhood?

One thing that certainly contributed was that I decided to write about my injury honestly. During my childhood I have honed my skills for lying so well that the first thing that popped into my head in a sticky situation was a lie. It still does quite often and I catch myself saying outright lies and then I have to go back and apologize and tell the truth. I suppose it was a defense mechanism I developed, against my childhood environment, which saved me from hours of screaming lectures from my mom and beatings from her and other family members.

I have been observing myself and the lies I spoke for quite some time before my injury and have gone a ways towards undoing this habit. I’d catch myself beginning to utter a lie, then pause to remember what the truth was and say that instead. Sometimes my mouth was faster than my head and I’d speak a lie and was too ashamed to admit that I was lying and so I left it at that. This didn’t actually benefit my social life; on the contrary, I completely destroyed it.

And so I decided to write honestly about my injury. And this led to other things. I found out about barefooters.org and joined their mailing list. I joined Born to Be Barefoot (now Born to Live Barefoot) Facebook group of which I am still a member, as well as some others which I left because they looked like they were foot fetish groups instead of barefoot lifestyle groups. I found out about the health benefits of going barefoot (though I came to think of those as normal conditions of health, realizing that shoes are actually a health hazard – which makes going barefoot look as if it was beneficial for your health). I developed some of my own hypotheses about shoes – wearing shoes, to me, is a form of sensory deprivation which is a form of torture that makes the subject more compliant, though markedly less attentive and less poignant.

All this, along with a very supportive community and great people that I have met – though, sadly, only on-line for now – was the reason I kept going barefoot. I would have put my shoes back on for likely the rest of my life after my injury had there not been for them.

But why did I start to go barefoot? Why did I suddenly like going barefoot? Particularly when it was mere months earlier that I first saw some barefoot runners on-line and thought how insane they must be to torture themselves in this manner. (By the way, I realized later that barefoot running is no torture and in fact had I not taken it up, I would never have been able to run my first 10K due to injuries I had previously had, when I tried the same feat with shoes on – even Vibram Fivefingers.)

I thought at first it was because I watched Tim Minchin perform barefoot on stage. I was curious about his reasons and he simply said “Because I like it.” There was also something in line with “Because I don’t want my audience to take me too seriously” which kind of went over my head back then and so I didn’t take this reason seriously. But to be perfectly honest, I can’t remember if I had first seen him barefoot, or if I first realized I enjoyed being barefoot. These two “events” happened around the same time, one closely following another and I’m not certain which came first exactly. It could have been either one or the other.

So, what was it?

Yes, I liked it, but why did I suddenly like it so much that a very dramatic injury and a bee sting – a repeat of what had happened during my childhood that stopped me from going barefoot regularly – failed to stop me again?

The reason stems from what I had written previously about lying. There was a good reason I lied a lot when I was a child. Not only was I punished frequently, but I was also rarely believed even as I was telling the truth. I learned that if I lied convincingly, I could avoid being punished. And so I lied. I became very good at it. I became so good at lying that I could actually tell a lie that didn’t conflict with all the other lies I had told previously. But having lied so much, I created a facade around me. To the world I became someone I was not. I was quite aware of what my smoke screen was and what was behind it. These were two separate personas embodied within me – one was to be presented to the world; it was compliant and good and did what was expected, with its purpose being to protect the physical embodiment of both personas from physical punishment and my real persona from verbal abuse. If I was screamed at, I could easily disengage emotionally, because this was the facade being attacked, not the real me.

The other persona was not compliant and didn’t want to do what was expected. This other persona was who I really was.

And then I went to college as I was expected and the real me started emerging. And it wasn’t pretty. The real me had no experience being the real me. I had been hiding behind the facade for so long that I couldn’t function socially. Sure, some aspects of me were OK, but others were not. The interests I had as a child, such as reading, writing, photography, long-distance cycling, hiking … were undeveloped and I had no peer groups with whom I could hone them. My quirks, such as nudism, atheism, bisexuality, Objectivism … made me anti-social and I couldn’t find a way to come out effectively and without alienating myself from everyone.

I ended up seeking one night stands on-line, playing computer games for days on end, getting fat and some of my episodes of loneliness and of realizing I have no prospects of a stable, serious relationship became so ugly I’m too ashamed to admit. I often thought that I would never have sex again, unless I found another one night stand on-line.

Given time, though, I learned to make myself more sociable. But the clock was ticking and I was 25 and still without a stable relationship. In fact, my longest relationship until then was with a boy I’d already written about in previous posts, if one could call that a relationship. I realized I wanted to start a family. I wanted three children and I wanted to provide them with the love that I never received as a child.

After having tested myself for STDs which came out negative (for which I was extremely grateful and later often thought – and still do – that this singular thing was such a huge lucky break that it had exhausted all luck, past, present and future, out of my life, if that is possible) I focused on finding a partner. A woman. I was done with guys, I wanted kids of my own.

I decided that I would be honest about everything to this potential woman – about atheism, about bisexuality, about nudism, about everything. There was no way that I would go back to building new facades, so I had to do everything right.

When I was 28 years old, I met my future wife. Things were looking up and it seemed I would soon be having my happily ever after. We got married, then had our first child, then the second…

It would be a lie to say that that’s when the problems started. I long believed I knew exactly when I first realized there would be some serious problems with our relationship, but the absolute truth is this: I had indications from the very first time we met. Indications I chose to be blind to, because I felt desperate and running out of time (simple math said that if I waited any longer I’d be having hormone-infused teenagers when I’m 50 and that’s not the prospect I was looking forward to).

On our very first date, I knew I was meeting a teacher. She actually contacted me through Facebook, having learned who I was through a mutual friend, after having seen me twice previously (no doubt as I was sending out good vibes by looking at women in general into their eyes and smiling, which was a tactic I picked up on a seduction site – a tactic I found worked for my still quite socially anxious self). So I thought what better way to present myself to a teacher – even if she were a math teacher – than by bringing with me a book to read while I was waiting for her (I like being way too early for any meeting,  or date in this case, whenever possible, because it helps me get accustomed to the surroundings and my anxious self has less to deal with once the actual event starts). Surely a teacher would appreciate someone pursuing such noble things as knowledge, even if it was in a form of a fantasy novel.

She didn’t. In fact, she told me she was mortified by the size of the book. This stumped me, but I ignored it. I did wonder for a split second what kind of teacher was this? Surely she had read some required reading that was much more demanding and lengthier than my copy of one of the George R. R. Martin’s The Song of Ice and Fire installments. I didn’t even get her number after the date was over. I did ask for it, tactfully, as advised by the same seduction site I mentioned previously, but she said she’d contact me on Facebook. I thought that was over, but she did actually contact me and gave me her number. Which was in itself curious given the impression I seem to have left.

Another instance where I ought to have questioned if this was going the right way was when I wanted to come out to her as bisexual. I started talking and she interrupted before I actually said anything of import, saying “I’m not interested.” I was actually relieved! “Phew!” I thought, “This was way easier than I thought it would be.”

Third red flag: I suggested we go to the cinema and she actually screamed at me. Like an actual scream, as if I was torturing her and she was in agony. Then she put her fingertips on her lips and smiled innocently, as if she had accidentally raised her voice just a tad too high, unintentionally. And I accepted that gesture as an apology, even as our future together unfolded in my mind’s eye as if it were handed to me to peruse before the relationship got really serious. I ignored that future, never realizing it would happen exactly as I saw it, at least so far.

Fourth red flag mere hours before I proposed. We were in Vienna and were looking for a restaurant where they served Sacher cake prepared according to the original recipe. We had no access to the Internet as we were abroad, so I guided us by memory of the map I looked at beforehand. Naturally, we miss a turn, then another. She freaks out because we are going in circles. She freaks out big time. She even pretends to walk away, but then changes her mind when she realizes I do not follow. Eventually we find the restaurant, but the evening is spoiled. I have second thoughts. I was to propose in the restaurant. I do not do it. We eat the cake in relative silence, take a few photos, pretending nothing’s wrong. I’m not much interested in talking, or smiling for that matter. But then the evening drags on. We walk around and I’m thinking of proposing anyway. But she is sulking and is clearly annoyed. I think to myself, I’ll take her home, tell her to get her stuff out of the closet and go back to her parents (she’d already moved in with me).

We arrive back to our country, she gets out her phone and here comes the fifth red flag. The bloody red one. She talks to her mother on the phone, not actually saying the word, but making it very clear that she is talking to her about me not proposing. Her tone of voice is fake disappointment with a hint of annoyance, her facial expression matching that hint. The pathetic me that is too cowardly to just send her off starts making excuses. As we are approaching home, the fear of confrontation rises in me. It makes me want to vomit, but…

We get home and I sit under the Christmas tree. I propose to her there because I’m too cowardly for the alternative, because I feel guilty now for not proposing to her in Vienna. I lie about proposal under a Christmas tree being the plan all along. It’s easy to do so and it’s obvious that she doesn’t believe me. She answers yes anyway. Sixth red flag … and a new facade is up.

Fast forward to the time I start going barefoot. My wife is pregnant with our first child. That first manipulation on the evening when I proposed – that was just the beginning. I realized I had married the woman who is so much like my mother it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference. She is verbally abusive, she is manipulative, and she is the future mother of my child and I am stupidly married to her, because I’m a spineless coward and now I’m going to be a father of a child who will have a spineless coward for a father. Serves my stupid self just right. It’s not like I had no forewarning.

I start going barefoot, not merely because I like it. I do it out of defiance for the obvious manipulations, out of defiance because my true self is once again behind the wall of lies, lies that I told because I put myself in a position where I once again need to protect myself from verbal attacks; attacks directed at me fulfilling my own needs – sometimes of solitude, sometimes of just getting kicks out of being silly, sometimes of taking a crap that is this much longer than she would like, or has to happen at a time that is inconvenient for her. But also it is in defiance of such a life; a life as a pathetic nobody, a life that I have consciously chosen by choosing to cater to the cowardly, socially anxious, non-confrontational me. I take off my shoes in defiance to that pathetic coward who brought me into this mess of a life and I’m killing him one tiny bit at a time and I’m enjoying every second of it.

And then we have a second child because that pathetic coward is so bloody resilient it’s unbelievable! She proposed we had the second child and – partly wishing to get on with it and partly trying to stay out of another confrontation when our firstborn is still so young – I agree. When our first was a year and a half old, our second son was born.

 

My wife never really accepted my newfound barefoot lifestyle. At one point she promised to not raise questions about it again, but she broke her promise. She is not supportive, but now that I’m completely screwed anyway, I’m unyielding.

This situation, of being manipulated and of trying to break free of the manipulations while there are children involved – children to whom I wish no harm would ever come – is beyond my capacity to handle, and it is one of the reasons why I have decided that I would see a therapist. I’m well aware that being barefoot is bringing additional tension to our marriage, but I’m also aware that unless I find a way to resist her, to push against abuse, that I would go insane. How this ends is beyond me, but it is terribly clear to me that it is our children that will suffer the most in nearly every scenario, except the one that seems most unlikely – that we both love our children and that we both are willing to do whatever it takes for them, and that we each accept the other as we are.

That moment when I saw the future, this is what I saw: we would get married; it would be an awful marriage, but we would have children, which was what I wanted; I would do everything I could conceive of in order to save our marriage, but ultimately I’d fail and we’d divorce when the children would be two or older. And I found back then that that worked for me. People get divorced; their kids get used to it. My own grandmother on my mother’s side was de facto divorced from my grandfather who lived with his lover and her son in a house next door; my aunt (my mother’s sister) got divorced twice, after having a daughter with her first husband and again after having a daughter and a son with her second; my uncle (my mother’s brother) was divorced after having a son and now has two daughters with another woman (he, once the model of masculinity and strength as he always worked out and was and still is quite muscular, often came crying to my mother while he was still married to his first wife; I never learned what went on with them). During much of this tumult we all lived under the same roof. But most importantly, I once asked my father – after witnessing the verbal abuse he’d received from my mother – why he wouldn’t divorce her. The prospect of their divorce terrified me, but I thought it was a way better option than continuing their lives together. In some strange way, though, they each found how to live in this dysfunctional relationship, each sucking the energy out of another, like two vampires locked with their teeth at each other’s throat (except my dad sucks energy from my mom in a much less obvious way). And now I’m not that glad that it has to go this way. If we stay married, my kids have a pushover as a dad; if we divorce, my kids get the hell of a life that goes with that.

I have asked the question from the title to myself several times over the past several months, always with the genuine desire to know the answer. Then in a single moment – I do not remember what it was – it just popped into my head. As if my subconscious needed time to process all the relevant information before it was all presented to me in a single flashback. And at first I was excited that I finally had the answer. And then as I articulated it in this post I became terrified. It’s a horrible thing to know all this, even as I now realize that I have known it all along, except it has never been presented to my conscious self in this manner. After all, we all know all our sins and if there is a God that keeps track of all the sins of each and every one of us, then the ledger of our own sins is in our very own minds.

And often times, when we fail to pay attention to what we are doing, or ignore it willfully, the ledger fills up and then it’s time to pay the price.

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Why did humans initially start to hide their privates from other humans?

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A question was asked on Quora, “Why did humans initially start to hide their privates from other humans?” and a great answer was given by John Romero, a classical musician – among other not-so-great answers. I would never have found it, had the person who answered not linked to my blog post about pros and cons of running naked.

Well, to return the favor, here’s a link to his great answer. Make sure you upvote if you liked his answer.

Therapeutic vulnerability

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In my previous post I mentioned how nudity for me is placing me in a vulnerable position. This journey is also about exposing – primarily to myself – the vulnerabilities of my own personality (for lack of a better expression) and healing the wounds of my past life, thus hopefully strengthening my own character. I have considered getting help from a therapist lately too, as I seem to have touched upon something that I cannot handle on my own and it’s making me uncharacteristically nervous and irritable and I can’t really put my finger on it.

That aside, though, going deeper down this alley of vulnerability, I found that I am once again inspired by the work of Stefan Molyneux, namely his book Real-Time Relationships: The Logic of Love.

He proposes that in one’s relationships, one ought to be completely open about one’s emotions. If something the partner or friend says causes anger in you, then tell your partner “That makes me angry.” Giving real-time feedback about how your partner’s behavior affects you, what emotions it is causing in you, is a way – according to him – to truly know your partner. It is a way to really know and understand your partner deeply and can work wonders in your relationship. Of course, the effort needs to be mutual and there must be a consensus not to judge your partner for the feelings that are arising within them. In any relationship, I believe, each partner has a desire to maintain that relationship. Even in dysfunctional relationships, this is true. Working on that assumption, saying to your spouse that you have been finding it difficult lately to love them might just be the only way to save your relationship. It is an admission of a fact that is probably all too obvious to both of you, but leaving it unspoken is like covering a pool of molten lava with a blanket: something is always seething underneath, until the blanket burns and you fall in again by having yet another fallout.

This is the closest I have come to having the concept of “baring one’s soul” described to me. Though I have not yet tried it as I have found that my emotions are currently all over the place and I’m having a hard time even noticing them all (in real-time), let alone examining them and communicating them (a situation that I hope will settle – at least a little, but enough – soon), I find that getting the people who are close to me on board with this idea will have a therapeutic effect on all of us. If we manage to take note of our emotions, there are two things that will happen simultaneously. First, we will have an opportunity for deep conversations about how these emotions come about and what is causing them. Sometimes the emotions aren’t caused by the very behavior of our partners, but rather by the associations we have in our minds, linking that behavior to some negative outcome. This may cause fear, or anger which will trigger defense mechanisms we have created for preventing the associated consequence, and these can get really ugly – anything from manipulation of others, outbursts of pure rage, verbal and even physical abuse of another, etc. Second is exactly this – we will take note of our defense mechanisms and will be able to decide when to take them down and heal the wounds that they wall off from the predators who – for all our lives – have been seeking just such weak spots in order to land their fangs there.

So if we agree that we will not judge each other for the emotions we communicate, we create a safe space for each of us in which we can truly “bare our soul”, without fearing that exposing the wounds we have walled off in the past by these defense mechanisms will be deepened by the behavior of our partner, or someone else who we are close to. As we communicate our own emotions, we try to empathize with the emotions that are returned to us as feedback. We communicate back and forth until we reach a sort of “equilibrium” and both partners can truly empathize with each-other. This can get intense, at least in the beginning and each partner should probably be allowed a time-out at any time when emotions get too heated, but once this first barrier is down, the rest can be taken down by the sheer momentum gathered by taking down the first one.

Or so I believe.

Why am I saying all this and how does it tie back into being naked?

Like I said, taking off my clothes is putting me in a vulnerable position. Had someone seen me naked, particularly if it was someone I knew, I would have two options: remain silent and suffer any judgement that they might bestow upon me, or defend myself. And I know that in my defense I would have nothing to say, because this post and the one before it is my defense! Not having thought this all through, I would be defenseless – a mentally disturbed weirdo who is wandering naked through forests for no reason, exposing himself to all passersby, including (but not limited to) any children unfortunate enough to stumble upon him. Finding out the reasons – all of them, from lack of parental affection, from lack of physical contact during early childhood, to the discovery of its pleasures with that boy in the barn, to the games played with that boy, to the abrupt interruption of the whole ordeal by my mother, to the later replaying of these games in secluded spots, to the vulnerability and feelings of being preyed upon… that would have been the only possible defense. By baring my body, my subconscious was asking that I bare my soul as well, or go to hell (in as literal a sense as hell can get).

Now, there is little reason to believe this defense would have worked if anyone ever truly did raise an alarm, publicly, about me walking in the woods naked. I may still have been charged with something or other had some children been involved in the “sighting”, and/or ostracized if there were some photos of me involved. The purpose of this defense, however, is not to justify my behavior in other people’s eyes, it is meant to give me the strength of character needed to go through the ordeal without being broken, i.e. without reaching the point where I say to myself that I am indeed as disgusting and evil as everyone else is portraying me (so what the heck, let’s do something nastier still – there’s plenty where that came from). It’s supposed to give me the strength to remain civil – understanding even – even as I’m being portrayed as a disgusting monster.

As I think all this, I cannot but notice a pattern. You make yourself vulnerable – you expose all your character flaws, or you take down all your clothes – and the society tears you apart. People are afraid of those who dare to do this, because they are afraid of having to expose their own flaws, or better still, they are scared because your character flaws resonate with some of their own and their defense mechanisms go up instantly and they want to destroy you. As loosely linked as it is, taking off your clothes is symbolically equivalent – it’s even in the Bible! At the beginning, Adam and Eve are without clothes. All their motives, reasoning, desires, etc. are known to God. And then Eve eats the forbidden fruit and so does Adam, and they immediately put on clothes. Because they realized they were naked. Not because they suddenly got ashamed of their bodies, but because they suddenly got ashamed of their souls – the Original sin is showing! And so they hide; behind the bush, behind clothing, knowing all too well that mere physical obstacles won’t hide their misdeed; never realizing that redemption is only a confession away. A confession, not to God, but to themselves.

As all hell breaks loose upon mankind because Adam and Eve ate of a fruit that was forbidden, I try to think of this story (as an atheist myself) in the context of our modern society. In a time of scarcity, of hunter-gatherer societies – to err must have truly been fatal. Imagine a group of hunters returning to their hungry tribe after a failed hunt! Today, however, mistakes aren’t that dramatic. In fact, some people argue that one ought to make mistakes – as early in life as possible – in order to know how to avoid them later in life. The philosophy of getting straight A’s, graduating with honors and then joining the workforce is showing problematic as more and more graduates are unable to bring any value to any company that they might wish to work for and they are incapable of creating their own company because they have never been allowed to fail (and starting a business from scratch is a difficult process with many obstacles that a budding entrepreneur is bound to overlook while creating business plans – even more so with governments meddling in his endeavors). People who finish college only then begin to learn to work (so detached has modern academia become from the real world). And so new parenting philosophies claim that we should give children plenty of room to fail and fail continually. In these moments, instead of punishing them, we guide them as they realize what their mistake is and how to avoid it in the future.

It is like returning to the Garden of Eden at a time before the Original sin, but now with the knowledge that we are capable of sin, of error, but we also know that in order to remain in that garden, all we have to do is to bare our soul; speak out about what bothers us, where we have erred; and instead of fearing punishment, knowing we will be shown a path.

Just imagine if there was someone in your life to whom you could speak about the deepest and darkest depths of your soul and know that you would be met with empathy, understanding and guidance, rather than scorn and ridicule and ostracism. Imagine if there was someone to whom you could expose the most vulnerable parts of your Being, while knowing that they will not use that knowledge to end you and instead will help you cope and heal. Imagine if there was someone before whom you could appear naked and instead of laughing at you and shouting at you to put your clothes on, they embraced you as you are (and I mean that in a non-sexual manner, as both spiritually and physically naked).

Now imagine a world in which you can make yourself vulnerable and be comfortable in knowing that there will be nobody at your throat. This is not necessarily a world in which you can have a real-time relationship with anyone, but it is certainly one in which people are accustomed to others expressing their emotions, rather than repressing them. People are more willing to empathize, offer words of encouragement where needed, etc. I can’t see how this could be a world in which people would get ridiculed, or have their freedoms taken away for taking their clothes off. In fact, I see it as a place where clothes are a protective tool, shielding our bodies from the elements, rather than a tool that expresses our position within a society. Biology has, in fact, already given us a very effective way of showing where we are in the hierarchy, and that is our bodily posture. If we slouch it means we are either not where we would like to be, or we are very low in the hierarchy; if we stand up straight and throw our shoulders back (not consciously), then we are in the right place. Clothes tend to hide that and instead impose an image of how the position we occupy is viewed by society, thus diminishing the person that occupies it. Clothes are in most cases a lie draped over our bodies; a lie we ought to wear to protect people from recognizing – from our posture and other forms of non-verbal communication which the clothes hide – how miserable we truly are underneath that expensive designer suit, or dress. And so we communicate with clothes, rather than with a person filling those clothes, objectifying the person, objectifying ourselves, diminishing the value of a person and of self – and artificially increasing the value of mere textile.

By no means is such a world ideal, or Utopian. There will be people who have crossed some line or another and they will be ostracized by the rest of society in some manner. This is, after all, a biological fact, that some people are delinquents from birth, if not sooner. In some way every society and every person within it will be tested for its limits and then some. It is how we grow. In Biblical terms, that would be a serpent in the Garden of Eden; in Chinese philosophy, that would be a yin within a yang (and vice versa).

3 branches of nudity: the sex, the hunt and the vulnerability

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I have recently been on a journey. Not a journey as traveling from place to place, but rather a sort of inner journey. I’m still on that journey, so think of this as the story from my inner travels, or even better yet – part of that journey.

Among other things I’ve been trying to figure out what actually made me like being naked. Is it really just pure freedom of expression of my own humanity, or is there something more (or something else) to it? For clearly, one could argue that nothing is more an expression of humanity than distinguishing oneself from animals as much as possible, by doing what no other animal does – wearing clothing (poodles that wear sweaters notwithstanding).

The distinguishing physical characteristic of humans among other animals is our brain and regarding mental capacities, our ability to form abstract concepts. So there is some validity to such an expression. We make clothing as a tool that protects our bodies from the elements of environments they are not equipped to deal with using exactly this ability (among with other abilities, such as hand dexterity, eye-limb coordination, etc. which are not really our distinguishing characteristics). So yes, we can say that we express our being human by making clothing, by making tools, cars, houses, skyscrapers, cities, culture… civilization.

But I would argue that by going this far in building our civilization, it is easy to forget that we are still animals, that millions of years of evolution have happened which ultimately gave us the body which carries with it certain requirements. Besides the obvious requirements, such as food, water, sunlight, etc. there are other requirements that we deprive ourselves and our offspring of by means of this civilization that we build. Science has only recently begun to research the effects of lack of physical touch on babies and concluded that babies in fact need much of skin-to-skin contact in order for their brains to develop normally. That is the civilization-erecting brains that they will ultimately need in order to exist within the already existing civilization and then to make their own contribution.

So it is false to claim that we are celebrating our humanity to the highest degree if we wrap our bodies in an impenetrable cocoon of whatever material is the rage of the age. Our body demands touch from the earliest age, or it will malfunction somehow and the malfunction will not be obvious, but it will be there. And since it will be there, it will somehow ultimately manifest itself, be it in the form of an adult who is unable to care for himself, or an adult who believes he must take what he has not earned, or who must destroy, or who must listen to others for guidance, or who must follow others into certain death, to war, to destruction…

We will not, of course, prevent this malfunction simply by providing skin-to-skin contact to our offspring in their earliest childhood, but it is one small step in the right direction. There are other things our bodies need; there are things even that our souls need in order for us to develop from children into freedom and peace loving individuals.

This is why my journey began in my childhood. The truth is that I had a really bad childhood. And don’t get me wrong, I know of people who have had it so bad that my own childhood would look blissful in comparison. But I believe each of us owes it to ourselves that we label things as they are. My journey was about my own childhood, the things I had to cope with during my childhood, ways I learned to cope, etc. Back then I had no point of reference to other people’s childhoods, there was only my own and it was my reality and I didn’t like it – not at the time, not later, not today, not ever.

I mentioned skin-to-skin contact above for a reason. There was a severe lack of it in my own childhood. There was so much lack of it that the first time I was touched gently that I can remember was by another boy, a year older than myself, in a barn, when I was about 7, or 8 years old. He touched me with his lips and his tongue. On my penis. And I loved it!

I loved it so much, in fact, that I kept returning for more. I wanted desperately to repeat that first experience, that gentle touch, thinking that that is the only way that anyone ever needs to touch me for me to be happy. It was not an orgasmic sensation and I have only much later discovered that the same sensation can be achieved by gently touching other body parts that are much less private and much less erogenous – like thighs, or the neck, or the back – sometimes I would even feel it if someone would accidentally brush against me as I walked through a crowd. But I could not erase the fact that the first time I ever felt this sensation was when this boy asked me to “play sex” with him (and then I didn’t even know what “sex” was, let alone that there was some other use of my penis besides peeing).

I kept returning for more. It was not just the touch that my body needed, it was also the attention. My parents’ attention was rarely fully devoted to me. They would never help me with the problems I was facing as a child and would instead brush them aside as inconsequential and irrelevant. The only times that I had their undivided attention was when they delivered “lectures”, when I had done something “wrong” and was expected to explain myself (with an implicit understanding that no explanation is good enough), or when they delivered beatings (which weren’t as frequent as lectures, but still a looming threat). As such, being the center of someone’s attention has never proven to be very beneficial to me during my childhood. Quite the opposite, in fact, and this is why I believe I suffered such severe social anxiety that my fight-or-flight instincts switched on every time I suddenly became the center of someone’s attention all the way into my late twenties.

And then there was this boy, who had given me undivided attention and a pleasurable experience, all in one – something I could then not even conceive of. How could I not beg for more? He, however, grew tired of it all rather quickly and began making me run naked across the lawn, promising that attention and tenderness after I do it “just once more”. Desperate and naive, I kept complying again and again until this was stopped by my mother barging into our secluded spot, picking me up naked and all and parading me, crying, through the village, naked.

It was not until at least eight years later that I began looking for hidden places in the woods, where, completely subconsciously, I began doing the exact same things that that boy would ask me to do – put my clothes on backwards, tie them in some silly way, run across the lawn naked, then jog, then walk casually – promising my “reward” afterwards. It may have been that my subconscious was looking for some kind of normal closure to what had been happening since that day when he first asked me if I would like to “play sex” by somehow urging that I go through the motions of his demands and see what happened as a result. Of course, nothing would happen. Being alone then, this could not have brought any kind of closure.

As time went by, these expeditions started having two distinct purposes. On some days, the motives were of purely sexual nature – I was in the full rage of puberty then, after all, and all alone thanks to my social anxiety. On other days, something different began to emerge. I started liking being naked for the sake of being naked. Or so it seemed.

I would only notice a different pattern as I read Stefan Molyneux’s “The Art of the Argument” recently. This too was part of my journey, as is this text. In that book, there is a passage that reads thus:

[The hunter] is dealing in absolutes – the deer, the gun, the kill – while the deer is dealing with probabilities. What are the odds that the sound is a predator, or just a rabbit, or the wind, or a tree branch creaking? The deer can’t run every time it hears a sudden sound, but it must stay alert.

This short description of what a deer feels like all the time as it’s potentially being hunted by a predator is a very precise definition of what I felt almost every time that I set foot in the woods without my clothes on. I was the deer, and everyone else was the hunter. I had no way of knowing whether anyone was there, how they would react if they found me, if they would have children with them and if I would then be accused of some kind of harassment, or some other horrible thing, of their children just for being naked. I may have had completely innocent reasons to be naked, but who is to say they would have cared about my reasons?

This feeling – the fear of being hunted – is another emotion that was prevalent in my childhood. I was never to be “caught” doing something good, but whenever I was doing something that guaranteed screaming lectures, beatings, or rhetorical questions about my innocence being doled out, or any combination thereof, it was better that I was on a lookout. By going naked I emotionally put myself back into that position that I knew so well from my childhood. None of this was planned, it’s just a way that our subconscious works, I suppose, by evoking in us the emotional states it is familiar with, by somehow influencing our behavior. Since children require attention from their parents, they will – and this is a fact of developmental psychology – do things that bring them any kind of attention, positive or negative. If the reaction is positive, the child may have learned something new; if it is negative, the provocation still succeeded in reaching some sort of closure, e.g. the child has refined his skill to manipulate his parents by means of his own behavior and will most likely similarly manipulate others in the future.

Being naked for me is, therefore, putting myself in a situation that is familiar to me. There is, however, another aspect – like a third branch that grows from the same bud. That day, when I stood naked before the boy, I put myself in a very vulnerable position. For all I knew, the “game” of sex might have been a bloody one, like the games the ancient Romans were watching for fun in their arenas. Because I was in a position of the player of that game, rather than its spectator, I was in a vulnerable position from that moment until it was all ended so abruptly.

I find that I am even now in a similarly vulnerable position as I write publicly about some of the things that I have kept hidden for so long from everyone, from my parents, from my friends, from my own wife, from the world in general and even from myself. But I also find that without exposing this vulnerability I am unable to move on. It seems to me as if this aspect of my personality will always be returning to that boy in the barn, yearning for his touch, his caress, hoping for it as I play his games, skipping naked in the forest, across lawns, doing everyday chores in the nude… and I would never realize if all this I do just for him, or if there truly is something more to it all.

Dark ages

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“Well, that was an awful experience!” Andy said.

Nobody else said a word, they simply agreed silently, each with the slightest of nods.

“And to think! People used to live that way! How could they stand it?”

No response.

“It must have felt like spending your life in a jail cell – never leaving – all the while being in the possession of the key.”

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Money

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Today’s topic might seem a bit off-topic for a nudist blog, but bear with me. Today I want to talk to you about money.

What is money? How does someone make money and why don’t they make m0re of it?

Many of us use it daily without fully understanding it, or without understanding it at all beyond how much of it they need for their day-to-day expenses.

So, here’s a thought – a truth at that – that will blow your mind:

Money is time.

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A practical idea

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I’m sitting at a cafe right now, trapped by a thunderstorm and heavy rain. I left my umbrella in the car, but I don’t think it would do me much good either way. So as I’m thinking about ordering some hot chocolate and using this time to work, I get this rather neat idea.

I have no problem with the cold or the rain. In fact, even in this dreadful weather I’m sitting in this cafe barefoot and in my normal summer attire (though I do admit I was caught off-guard by this rain). The only reason I’m trapped here is because I don’t want to get wet. If I get wet it will take me a long time to dry. Having wet clothes sticking onto my skin is very uncomfortable. However…

What if I had no wet clothes sticking onto my wet skin?

I could take all my clothes off, stuff them into a waterproof bag I have with me, then run across the park in the rain to my car. Upon reaching the car I could take the umbrella out of the trunk and throw it on the back seat of the car, jump into the driver’s seat, turn the car on, turn up the heating, dry off, then put my clothes back on. Taking the umbrella with me I could then slip out of the car and walk the remaining short distance to work without getting too wet.

But alas, that is not the kind of society we live in. Many practical things are frowned upon if they break social convention. Going completely naked in public, even in this weather where no part of the public actually is in public places, would probably get me in jail – if not immediately, then after someone files a report of some sort. Even if in some convoluted scenario going naked would save my life, it would still be frowned upon.

I’m an atheist, but… God forbid that someone should see a human being.

So here I am, trapped. The situation is somewhere between symbolism and analogy, really. The clothes make me feel trapped when I wear them. Now I’m trapped in this place because of them. The rain is still falling. And here comes my hot chocolate.

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The time of the fireflies

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I stand on the crossroads of my life. I will not bore you with the details of where each path goes, however. It is not what I wish to say here. Instead, I wish to share with you the way I prepare myself for the choice and the path ahead, for wherever I turn it is going to be difficult.

I walk barefoot. I don’t remember the last time I put on shoes. I believe it was when I attended a wedding. Living a barefoot lifestyle is energizing all in itself. By the mere act of adopting it I have taught myself to not be ashamed of my choices, to assert myself and my own ways of thinking, and to stop and learn instead of blush in shame and hide in a hole when I find that my way of thinking is inadequate in certain situations. To walk barefoot among the shod makes me feel in control of myself and my life.

But this is not enough for my current predicament.

Back when I used to wear shoes every day, the way I’d recharge my batteries was by taking a long walk. I’d go and walk a huge distance, sometimes of over 20 km, in a single night. At first my mind would wander. Then it would stop wandering because it had wandered in every possible direction. And then I would focus. I’d forget where I was going and my legs would just take me places while my head was headed straight for a solution. Normally I’d come back home so tired I’d simply crash out, but I’d wake up with a solution to whatever was bugging me.

This time it’s different. I have paths to take and it’s clear where each path would take me. I can see clearly the consequences of each path, and although there is in places a possibility of severe consequences, there is nothing I couldn’t handle. I know it. But I know also that to walk the path I had already chosen, I need to get my mind off of things for just one moment.

It has been a long time since I wrote my last post, owing to the fact that I’d become a father and it’s been more work than I anticipated. But it wasn’t the fatherhood that was difficult. It was … many other things.

A firefly is a curious thing. It barely illuminates anything, yet it is such joy to see one in the midst of darkness. You can feel as if it would guide you through it, but really it just goes on its merry way. I saw at least three as I was taking off my clothes in the woods at dusk. It was to be a walk on the more secluded paths in the forests of my home village. I was hoping to exit the forest at the lake by nightfall, then proceed to the other side of the lake and towards a neighboring village, where I’d be putting my clothes back on before entering it. It would be about an hour of walking naked.

Nudity is also energizing, though not in the same way as being barefoot. Nudity in public is a taboo – one that, thankfully, some small groups of people do not share – so I don’t practice it, except in those small groups. Nudity is often related to the feelings of freedom and simplicity, but also to frailty. All creatures are born naked and few things are as fragile as new life. Yet I find strength within it, especially when faced with the elements.

And so I tuck the modest clothes I had chosen to wear into my satchel and I continue barefoot and naked – except for the satchel and my wedding ring – down the path into the ever darker forest. I see fireflies in the grass and in the bushes. Others are flying freely before they surely tumble down once I pass them by. It was quite dark when I exited the forest onto the first of three meadows I was to cross before I finally clear the woods. The path through the next patch of woods was muddy and slippery, but I managed to get through.

On the very exit of the woods, there were two huge puddles of water over the entire road. I don’t like walking barefoot over puddles in the woods. As nice as it feels, there’s always a chance for something nasty to be lodged in the mud, that could cut my feet, or worse. These places are basically breeding grounds for fungal spores, bacteria and such, so walking over them with a wound on my feet would be crazy.

So I tread carefully. Test the bottom with my foot before placing my weight on it, rinse and repeat with the other foot, until I’m out of the puddle. And voilla, I’m out of the woods. I pass the spooky old ruin of a house and turn left on the gravel road leading toward the lake.

Sometimes when I walk like this I like to put my things away in a safe place somewhere. That place I then call my “stash”. The problem with the stash – aside from the incredibly unlikely event of someone stumbling upon it in the middle of the night and taking my clothes and the key to my home – is that I need to get back to it to retrieve it. That’s fine if I plan to return the same way that I got there, but that wasn’t my plan today.

I don’t plan to ever return to my crossroad, but I do plan to return “home”, wherever it may be.

So, this time, I don’t stash and I keep my satchel on me at all times. Some time later I’m walking on a path I thought I knew, but which has changed significantly. Trees have grown considerably here since the last time I walked this way. It’s almost like a completely new place. And then the path turns uphill and at the top I can see the village.

I turn around and I see light in the woods. It’s my old friend’s father’s shack that’s lit, hidden nicely away from the rest of the world. We used to celebrate his birthdays there and I remember the last time I was there I left his shack, took my clothes off at the gate and continued home naked. I don’t go there now because even though I can see it, it’s quite a long way off, and in the wrong direction. That’s not where I go from my crossroad. I go towards my fireflies.

I approach the village naked. As close as I can without risking being seen. I don’t think anyone would raise ruckus over it as long as the children are not around (they should be sleeping anyway, it’s now past 11pm), but I really don’t need a distraction and an energy drain of this sort right now. I drop my satchel on the ground, take my clothes out and continue as if I hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary.

I like being out of the ordinary. It’s daring and exciting and dangerous. Being ordinary is safe and boring and … well … ordinary. One can learn a lot by choosing to be unordinary, which he would otherwise not learn.

I now walk on the road I hadn’t walked in a long time. Five new homes have been built there since the time I last took the time to notice. I walk through the village and I’m back in the woods. Only this time on asphalt. As boring as asphalt feels to bare feet, it is a welcome relief from the difficult and – in the darkness – invisible terrain in the woods and around the lake.

Fireflies are there again. I hold one in the palm of my hand and I feel how fragile it is. I carry it for some time. It illuminates a small area around itself as I set it down gently. And I know that the path I have chosen on my crossroad is right, for all I need to do is follow my fireflies – my beloved wife, my wonderful son, and whoever is meeting us around the beginning of December this year. They are the joyful creatures that I like seeing in the darkness of the sea of all the wrong choices. I would just as well hold them in the palm of my hand to keep them from harm looming from the other paths of my crossroad.

Geocaching

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When I first heard of geocaching I was puzzled about why I haven’t heard about it before. I used to play Ingress and found it rather dull because it meant frequenting the same uninteresting locations over and over, and one of the main reasons I quit was because I never liked walking on the same path too often. Once was a thrill, twice was alright, but three times was a nuisance, especially if it was on the same day. Continue reading

Barefoot as a lifestyle

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One of the things that never struck me as odd was the fact that many nudists – my past self included – rarely remove footwear. Even Stephen Gough – the Naked Rambler – used to walk around in massive hiking shoes. Now, you could argue many points against going barefoot and you’d probably be right at least in part. However, now that I’ve discovered the joys of going barefoot – my initial injury notwithstanding (!) – and now that I’ve discovered how to go about barefoot and stay safe from injuries – I can’t but feel puzzled about why I never went barefoot while I was naked in public (at nude beaches, camps and such). Continue reading