Embodiment and Imagery

As 2022 comes to an end, I reflect back on the Green Man, the ancient European archetypal figure who began to appear in my thoughts and writings last year, and to whom I dedicated a series of posts this past summer. The Green Man can be seen as an embodiment of the male archetypes. He is also a representation of the harmony of man in nature – something of a naturist icon.

A year ago, I started letting my beard grow out, and I was joking that I would be Merlin, Gandalf or Dumbledore for Halloween. So with that in mind, on a day in late October when I was at the nearby naturist park, I decided to capture some images of myself in the woods, wearing only a robe that looks something like a wizard’s cloak. I found a long stick to use as a staff, set up the timer function on my phone’s camera, and struck some poses. I was very pleased with the outcome. The images show me embodying the Wizard archetype, if not exactly that of the Green Man himself. The way I’m holding the staff in some of the images also recalls the Warrior archetype. The robe covers me, but only partially – many would consider these images to be “nudes.” But to whatever degree there is nudity in these photos, it represents strength and power, even as it also represents vulnerability. I posted a couple of the photos on Twitter and received a fair amount of positive feedback. For me, the overall experience was empowering.

The following month, on a family visit to Mexico, my wife snapped a photo of me while I was admiring the bougainvillea over the top of the curtains in the window of a colonial-era inn where we were staying. I had just gotten out of bed, so I was naked, but because of the play of light and because the photo is taken from behind, there is not much of me to see. I liked the image and so I posted it to my Twitter account, where it proceeded to rocket past any image I had ever posted for a record number of likes. I wondered, and still wonder, quite why the image garnered so much attention, even though I’m mostly convinced by a friend’s explanation that it’s precisely the mystery of the darker parts of the image that makes it interesting.

There are quite a few prominent naturist influencers on social media who post many more images of themselves than I do. I’m thankful for their representation. Representation matters. I’m proud to do what I can to help embody naturism, along the lines of the #IAmTheFaceOfNaturism hashtag started by AANR-West representative Linda Weber. Showing the world that you don’t need to wear clothes in the kitchen or out on a boat may seem humdrum for naturists, but for all those not-yet-naturists, it can be a groundbreaking epiphany. What I’m thinking about here are the ways in which, through this kind of imagery, it is not only naturism or nudism that is being embodied, but also, at least sometimes, the archetypal relationship of humanity with nature. Some of the most important rituals or rites of passage in the world’s oldest cultures were, and still are, performed nude to maximize our unity with the force of nature that we all represent. In the end, maybe what makes nudity so powerful, and even what makes it paradoxically so mysterious even though everything is exposed, is that through nudity, through naturism, we embody nature even as we dissolve into it. We are archetypal, we are natural, and never more so than when nude.

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