Naked and Outside


I have been distant. I have been sheltering myself and keeping the realities of my environment away from my quiet buffer zone. I have been not wanting to feel discomfort in the faces of others processing what injustice means; others' expectations for the balance of their dreams and the ways they identify the stones on which to step to get there; and the parts of my real life that are yucky and are not suited for change. So in my being distant, I have also been quiet - which is saying an odd thing because when I do speak, I notice that my filter is broken. Maybe it is that, in this distance-keeping, I am less aware of my need for self-editing and/or am less prone to consider it a necessity.

This morning, at the end of my shower, I opened the window just a bit to let the steam out and safeguard the bathroom from mold. I noticed the rain pouring down as the day was breaking and the clouds were letting in the daylight. And I thought (still standing in the tub), this is the closest I will ever get to being naked outside. Laughing, I got out of the tub, grabbed a towel and continued my morning routine. But the thought of being naked outside was still with me. I began to imagine other ways of being naked and why that state of being is not welcomed in our society. Now I'm thinking beyond the physical aspect of bodily nakedness to that more insidious learned response of hiding our authentic selves lest we get hacked to death by popular opinion, tradition and the commercial need to be the most important sentient in any room.

I recently went to a conference where I was surrounded (mostly) by clergy colleagues I didn't know. There were over 600 of them. 600 of them and 1 of me. The introvert in me struggled not to be overwhelmed. I decided I wouldn't process my experience right away - I would likely discount some things that I wouldn't mean to if I did. So I've let some time pass before considering my takeaways from that event. There were two things that I'll mention because they relate to this notion of naked and outside.

1. I was struck by a phrase I heard often during those days. It is some form of "I love being here - I feel like I have found my tribe." Tribe must be a buzz word these days, right? I mean most people don't really have an embodied experience of that. There is something about the way the word has been defined. I think it has to do with a perceived unconditional acceptance - that is, an acceptance of the whole self without regard for one's apparent spiritual nakedness. I'd hear it over again. People were feeling like they fit in. They could share their life's trials and tribulations (especially those related to vocation) without having to define the nuances... I guess.

2. In the midst of these tribal unions and reunions, I attended a workshop. Before the meat of the workshop was presented we were asked to sit in two rows facing a partner less than 2 feet in front of us and with a fellow attendee 6 inches to either side of us.And the facilitator said, "I know, this is an introvert's worst nightmare." And he was right. Yet he continued. And I couldn't understand how someone in his position of power and authority in this setting could freely admit he was causing dis-ease, laugh about it as though that was proper, and then continue as though he had been pardoned. By definition, I knew he was not part of my tribe.

And that was a key noticing of my experience. I don't have a sense of tribal affiliation in the ways these colleagues spoke. I thought about how many times I have heard folks say upon waving goodbye, "Let's stay in touch." The reality is that never really happens - not for keepsies. So I dismiss and do not claim what I perceive as tribe membership or understanding. It seems to be missing important components to healthy relationships that truly allow for spiritual nakedness and acceptance. It's not a one way street. It's not enough to be heard unless there is also mutual listening involved. Where are the considerations for the consequences of my current and future actions that may adversely affect the tribe? Or maybe I've missed the point entirely. Maybe having a tribal encounter is all one needs to be rejuvenated enough to go back home and hold up the armor that masks us.


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