I chose this photo which was taken in Cuba for a number of reasons of which the first is simply because I like it. I took this photo in 2004 using an weaker digital camera from that time which was my first relatively decent digital camera; not a DSLR, but good enough to give some very good photographs regardless. A second reason for the photograph is the mixture of darkness and light and the suggestion of fire, of heated passion.
Midlife is a confusing time. With so many years devoted to making a living, raising a family and being part of a community in a socially meaningful manner; the discovery that there is something missing, a hole in the psyche, has one respond in a variety of ways. For some men, it is a denial of the emptiness as they throw themselves further into community activity, filling every possible moment with their career or with causes. For others it is a return to a mythical past filled with motorcycles or sports cars, sex, or being a fashionista. Yet others try to fill the hole with drugs, alcohol, religion, some New Age spirituality or sex. For a few, the event causes them to sit back and look at what has happened, to begin listening to the voices and studying the images that are emerging – for these, midlife is seen as an opportunity to discover self.
Sexuality is necessarily one of the roadblocks that appears in the process regardless of the response one takes to the crisis of midlife. Responses can vary from a complete absence from sexual contact with others with its wrestling with the self that comes with the denial of the sexual component of one’s being. The denial can push “natural” sexuality so far underground that it emerges in unconscious pathological behaviour. Or in an extreme response in the opposite direction, one can become obsessed with sex, so obsessed that everything and everyone becomes charged sexually and have the conscious self become overly sexually active as if one needs to constantly add another conquest, another unique experience in an endless race to satiate the demanding drive. Either of these extremes lead to a collective attitude towards sexuality that is negative. And, the unclothed body becomes the target of these polarized attitudes.
“. . . it is almost impossible to avoidseeing it through the larger moral prism of nudity. As the historian Rob Cover (2003) has noted,“nakedness across a vast array of representations in the history of western culture has been inseparable from sex and sexuality, and has been hence located adjacent to the indecent, the obscene and the immoral” (Cover, The Naked Subject,” 2003, p. 55)
Of course, I am a part of the western culture and I have had, and continue to have at some level, some negative response to the naked body. Some bodies get my imagination going and others are met with a neutral response. In terms of other people, I don’t assume that seeing the naked body is an invitation for sex, nor do I assume that the person with the naked body is obscene or immoral. What I continue to hold, somewhat, is questions about my own appearance as an obscenity or my own immorality.
If others see my body will I be judged as uglier, as lacking or as too hairy, too short, to stout? Will others compare me to other men regardless of age, compare me to some ideal that I have never met regardless of age? I think I am a bit fortunate in being close to the norm in body size and type with the exception of excessive hair all over my body. I could do with losing a bit of weight and toning my body to be more muscular and less soft. But that is not too much of a concern. What is my one body-image concern is body hair. And like many in the western world, I have a few strategies to ease my own angst when it comes to that body hair. I guess, for the most part, I have accepted my body as it is and feel relatively good about it.
But when it comes to the question of the unclothed body being an obscenity if seen by others. I don’t see others unclothed as scenes of obscenity unless there is a perceived deliberate attempt on the part of specific others to perform acts in public that are overtly sexual in nature. Even then, I often view these as sad affairs rather than evil affairs. Yet, I still have a worry that I will be seen as a dirty old man if I doff all my clothing at a beach or walk unclothed in my back yard. I worry about offending others who might accidentally see me, or cause embarrassment to those close to me because of what “others” would say. What I do affects not only myself but those in my orbit. And so, I hide as much as needed. And in the process, I feel as though something very valuable is missing, something that has a holistic healing power.
This blog site is more-or-less an exercise in self-directed therapy. Here I take down barriers to the inner core of self that I manage to find in an attempt to become more authentic in my relationships with others, and especially in relationship with my own self. With a few carefully orchestrated attempts I have included what I could best call “nude therapy” into the mix. For several months I was able to set aside time several times a week for my “nude therapy” within a small enclosure that ensured complete privacy while in Costa Rica. The experiments focused on being unclothed and allowing the sun access to my skin. There was no “social” aspects, no public exposure nor fear of public exposure. I was able to protect my ego’s fear of being seen as a dirty old man. Now that time has passed since those experiments, I am able to reflect back on the experience and evaluate the experience as being very beneficial to my well-being. Because of the experience, my book, Through a Jungian Lens: Sol and Luna, which was published a few months later, was able to reach dimensions my previous books couldn’t achieve.
And now, I am left wondering about the present and my growing desire to again experience nudity as therapy, perhaps as a partial way of being. I wonder about how much of this is perverseness and how much of this is authentic need for my soul. I don’t have the answers so I still live with the questions.