Sunday, 1 December 2013

The Symbolism of Being Naked

When I was a child, I thought it really strange to imagine that Adam and Eve were naked and not aware of it. That was only when I was old enough to remember with shame the time when I used to run around naked shamelessly. Nowadays being naked represents sexuality. Especially when women show their bodies it is usually in a context where they are objectified and lose all their dignity. The more skin that is shown, the more sexualised the body becomes. I am not proposing that everyone just takes off their clothes and start walking around naked, and yet I fail to understand how we came here.

Getting dressed is such an ingrained daily ritual that we take it for granted. It is a way of reinforcing the message to ourselves that we are different from the rest of nature. Not only are our bodies shamed, but perhaps there is no more powerful way to suppress all our natural impulses and sever our relationship to Mother Earth that gave birth to us. We are all dust and to dust we shall return, yet we choose to believe that we are the things we have created to glorify our minds. Perhaps it is not surprising that most of us seemingly have really bad relationships with our bodies.

As a child I wondered why grown-ups don’t run around. Now I know that when you are forced to sit still for long enough, it starts feeling natural. At some point in the process of growing up it becomes inappropriate to walk barefoot. Thinking back, it is more or less the same age when one loses the connection with the world of fantasy and instead develops an interest in cultural values of identity. When we don’t feel the earth underneath our soles any more, it is easier to turn our attention to “the world” and be fed ideas of what we should strive for in life.

Perhaps the dream symbolism of being naked holds the key to the truth about ourselves. I am sure all of us have dreamed countless times of being naked in public and only discovering it when it is too late. It could be interpreted as the fear of being exposed, but I think it’s more than that. I’ll turn to Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of the naked emperor for some insight.

According to this story, the charlatans who made the emperor’s clothes said that only those who were unfit or incompetent would be unable to see it. In this case, being naked represents truth and everyone is afraid to point it out for fear of being labelled stupid. The naked body is the way we came into the world and it is the truth of who we are. Yet we assume cultural identities symbolised by clothes. It becomes so normal that to deviate from it is considered insane and shameful. The subconscious mind knows the truth about who we are. It reminds us in our dreams because we are afraid to live it. If we recognise that the emperor is naked it will also mean that we are naked. When we stop giving authority and power to others, it means we have to claim responsibility for ourselves. That will mean we can no longer play along with games we know to be untrue.

I’m still wondering at Adam and Eve’s fall from grace. Relating it to the Roman myth of the Golden Age, I would say the knowledge of good and evil was abused for the purpose of self-enrichment or power. Our connection to nature was severed when we started defining ourselves in terms of our material wealth. The body became a canvas used to communicate to others where one fit into the social hierarchy. Actually we all know that the emperor is really naked but nobody wants to be the first to say so.

The way out of being entrapped by our social identities is by baring our souls. Being naked is symbolic of being vulnerable. It is the heart consciousness that knows that we are all connected, whether we remember it or not. When one is truly oneself, it is easier to become free of judgement and accept others for who they are. The spirit of love recognises that we are more than our possessions or cultural identities. All of us come into the world naked and when death comes, material accumulations mean nothing. In our short time on earth, we have to choose very carefully what we consider important enough to apply our efforts to.