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Letter at length, June 15

 Posted: 1:35 PM June 15, 2009

Occasional nudity reminds us we're not estranged from Eden

Being from the stuffy Midwest, whenever I see people going naked at the swim hole or hot springs I'm glad to now be an Oregonian. Our constitution allows it. When nude people show up at the Art Walk or just around town, I'm proud of Ashland for taking the oddity in stride and not making it a criminal offense. It is unusual and challenging, out of place, inappropriate and maybe embarrassing, but not revolting.

In India, occasional young naked saddhus and old nude sanyasis are tolerated. In Indiana, they'd be shamed and jailed. The poor children of Indiana will not likely know how we actually look and may never feel comfortable and proud in their own skin.

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Those who have never had the opportunity to go naked with others at the hot springs or nude beach will miss the feeling of freedom and lack of sexuality such situations afford. What will the children think? It depends on how the adults react. Some will indeed be "scarred for life," not by seeing what we look like but by the sense of sin and shame they learn to assume.

Our bodies are created whole and good, functional and beautiful; it is our reactions against them that fashions our fall. Adam and Eve were naked with each other and God before they ate of the alienating knowledge of a so-called good and evil, resulting in shame, blame and pain. We lose the Eden within and around whenever we ingest the subtle deception of the serpent — be that an irate parent, a presumptuous clergyman or a powerful judge. Occasional nudity accepted in our community reminds us we're not totally estranged from Eden, God, each other or ourselves. It takes innocent boldness to walk through the flaming opposites of scorn. God bless Miss Moss and others for reminding us Eden is not sealed.

When simple nudity becomes confounded with the attractions and reactions of sexuality the lessons are similar. Whatever trauma there could be is multiplied by reactions to it. Would we revert to killing those who stray into dalliance or deviance as some cultures do? A decent man was recently portrayed as a lurking pedophile out to abduct our boys. We can and should protect our children's unready sexuality from the advances of adults. But how do we safeguard the accused from the wild fears and eager hates of our minds? For all the laudable concern to not "accuse the victim," where is the corollary caution to not create "victims of accuse?" A lifetime of value can be forgotten and ruined by the mob mentality of reactiveness.

How to deal with our bodies and our sexualities is an ancient and ongoing aspect of human community. In Ashland and Oregon we don’t succumb to the punitive mindset of the puritan or the Taliban. We can face the facts of life with enlightened bemusement and ethical enjoyment.

Brad Carrier

Ashland


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