Sunday, May 15, 2011

I went to the Bay 2 Breakers and . . .

. . . I found Jesus!
My history research has taken me to United States antebellum reform movements. Emerging from the religious ferment of the second great awakening, many believed they could bring about the millennium by returning their bodies to prelapsarian purity. They thought this would be accomplished through the strict control of diet, sexuality, and dress. A few suggested clothing was a necessary evil; only one called for complete nudity -- Samuel Bower.

I thought of those reformers and Mr. Bower today when I met Jesus in the park, as well as how the public naked body comes to signify a tension between a civilization we wish to reject and a savagery we fear, artistic culture and lasciviousness. It is this very ambiguity our Western culture has assigned to nakedness which makes it such a slippery, dangerous category. For Samuel Bower, however, nakedness was simply perfect.

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