THE ENIGMA OF BODIES

Why are we so scared of bodies, of our own skin?

Perceptions of Bodies at Different Ages

A child has no fear or shame for its body.  We laugh at their natural nakedness.  And they are happily naked…until they are told something that makes them embarrassed – usually about their genitals or urinating.  Suddenly, they fear being seen in certain states or places.

A young person goes to the beach and takes most of their clothes off to publicly bathe in the warmth of the sun.  A boy goes topless without thinking, stripping to his one piece shorts.  But woe betide he should wear only his boxer shorts or, worse still, his speedo undies.  A girl covers her breasts and usually wears a two-piece swimming costume.  Woe betide she should wear her underwear instead, even though it might cover more skin.  Often skimpier is better for girls, whereas boys prefer long-legged ‘shorts’, rather like basketball uniforms.  Go figure.

Adults are expected to wear ‘decent’ clothing in public, though individual views of ‘decent’ vary greatly by age, religion, sex, fashion and the weather.  Yet, if we are about to have sex, mostly we want to rip our clothes off as quickly as we can.

But having sex in public open space is strongly discouraged and can even be illegal.  We get embarrassed to see people passionately kissing, let alone actually having consensual sex.  Yet sex is one of the greatest joys of life and it’s not dangerous!

I Like Bodies

I like bodies.  I like them unclothed, though, even being a life drawer  (meaning drawing people without clothes), it’s often a bit contextually embarrassing when seeing a real naked body. We aren’t sure where to look…because we are somehow ashamed or embarrassed by genitalia, bums or breasts. 

But bodies are us!  We come in all shapes and sizes.  If we were more accustomed to seeing naked bodies – like Swedes are with mixed saunas (always naked) or Germans (very matter of fact, rational) – we might worry about them – and our own body – much less. 

Life drawing models are themselves enigmatic about their bodies.  Happily naked during a pose, they rapidly cover up till the next pose.  Why?  We’ve seen everything they have.  They weren’t embarrassed then.  Is it the asymmetrical nature of the class – we have clothes and they don’t? 

Notably, when people do naked art gallery views, naked swimming, naked yoga, naked camping, the embarrassment about bodies disappears very rapidly.  The body just ‘is’. I love drawings or photos of naked people.  Yet, while we happily stare, admire and praise them in an ‘art’ gallery, seeing them being drawn, we seem to retreat to embarrassment.

From my limited experience, swimming naked is a much more sensual experience than normal swimming.  Sunbathing and exercising naked are similar.  When we walked naked from the Swedish sauna to cool off in the sea past some public people, it was initially embarrassing but, as our hosts weren’t embarrassed, why should we be…so we weren’t.

So What’s the Problem?

‘We’ are the problem. People. In general.  People who react inappropriately – smirking, frowning, turning away.   People who are themselves embarrassed.  People who make fun of the unclothed, whether because the naked are perceived to be beautiful or ugly, young or old.  And once it’s happened to you, you don’t want to repeat the experience.  So you put clothes on.

What To Do?

First, we should try to treat bodies as ordinary, normal, regardless of their actual shape, age or sex.  We all have one!  A naked body is no different from a clothed one.  No need to stare, to ridicule, or even to admire (though this is harder to ignore – such a beautiful sight)

Second, we should try to encourage nakedness in society.  It breaks down barriers.  Allow people to experiment with nakedness, become more comfortable with it.  Evidence suggests people become more confident about their own body and enjoy the activity more when they are naked!  Encourage naked exercise sessions, swimming, yoga, art gallery, theatre, whatever, at least in closed sessions.   

Third, remove naked actions (eg streakers, stripping) from being legal offences.  Take the shock element out of it and it will vanish! 

How much better that we have too much nakedness, too much of our own bodies, and much less war, guns and violence.  Make love, not war.

COVID CONTRADICTIONS IN MELBOURNE: I’M ANGRY

I’m angry and frustrated.  After 8 weeks of hard lockdown, which followed 4 weeks of significant lockdown, finally – yesterday – restrictions were ‘eased’.  But so limited are the changes, and so full of contradictions, with another 3 weeks before anything else happens, it’s very depressing.

The ‘Easing’ of Restrictions

So, with average case numbers down to around 15 a day, a 14 day average of 25 (against a target range of 30-50), very few community transmissions, here are the generous ‘easing’s:

  • No curfew (no justification was ever given for this anyway)
  • Up to 5 people from 2 families can gather outside  (previously 3)
  • Childcare to resume without permits (previously only certain ‘essential’ people)
  • Personal training for groups of up to two participants
  • Garden maintenance services
  • Outdoor swimming in pools
  • In-home childminding allowed for all
  • Dentists can resume non-urgent work (previously urgent only)

All within an unchanged 5km distance from home, and an unchanged 2 hours outside for exercise.

The Current Situation

Almost all daily cases are related to existing clusters.  Most of these cases relate to aged care homes and/or health workers.  We are rarely given the specific information of how many unknown community transmission cases occur, even though this is the main target for future easing.  Yesterday, there was only 1 – yes, only 1 – community transmission case.  There were apparently 31 over the last 14 days (the next target is less than 5 for a 14-day period…).

Most postcodes have zero cases.  Only a few council areas have more than 10 active cases.  In any country or area of the world (except possibly New Zealand, Taiwan and a few others with small populations), Melbourne would be a shining star.  Yet we continue to be treated as if we are criminals, with heavy fines for violations of the rules.

Contradictions in the ‘Easing’

  • If swimming is allowed, why not outdoor sports, such as tennis, golf and cricket (where players are rarely near each other at all)?
  • Why can’t we drive to larger outdoor parks and gardens for exercise?
  • If physios and dentists are operating, why isn’t hairdressing allowed?
  • Why can’t large, well ventilated retail stores, such as Bunnings, Target, Kmart which have good covid track records, open?
  • If builders and maintenance workers can go, why can’t people travel to holiday houses for maintenance (the fridge hasn’t been opened for 6 months…), if they observed the same rules there?
  • Why can’t cyclists cycle further than 5 kms from home (that’s about 15 mins or less for a reasonable cyclist)?

I’m sure there are lots more contradictions you can think of.  There have been lots with every set of new rules, which seem to change every few days.

What is the Government’s Aim Now?

In the first wave, the aim was to ensure the hospital system wasn’t overwhelmed, though this was rarely made explicit.  In the second wave, due to slow decisionmaking, covid almost got away from us.  Fear that this might happen again seems to be driving the current extremely cautious policy ‘easings’, though no one seems too sure what the ‘policy’ is. 

Implicitly it seems the real policy aim is to reach zero cases, as the rest of Australia has reached (more or less, excluding international travel quarantine cases).  If that is the aim, why not state it?  Why state ‘less than 5 community transmissions in a 14 day period’ (and why that level (scientifically speaking)?

Why Am I Angry?

I’m angry for lots of reasons.  Angry, because the government was too slow in getting control of the second wave.  Angry more, because it refused to admit it did anything wrong, and seemed unwilling to learn from its mistakes.  Angry, because the hard lockdown rules have been left in place too long (decisonmaking too slow again).  Angry, because for all the stated stakeholder consultations, the government doesn’t seem to be listening to those who are most affected.  And angry because, when the ‘easing’ has finally arrived, it’s so minimal for most people, it again fails to offer the hope and motivation that could so easily have been offered (decisionmaking too slow yet again!).

Hopefully, we the people will save ourselves.  We’ll act better and get better results and eventually force ‘our’ government to reward us.  But for now, it’s back to Netflix, Zoom and gardening.

THE PERSONAL JOYS OF COVID: RETHINKING ‘LOCKDOWN’

Melbourne will soon come out of a very restrictive 12 weeks of covid ‘lockdown’.  As I begin to wonder what ‘escaping’ to a ‘new normal’ life might look like, I’ve realised there have been many personal joys during this period, despite the restrictions.  I’ve wondered whether I will be able to hang on to or maintain these joys, or will they be lost in the ‘new normal’.

Some Personal Joys

I acknowledge first that I have been very lucky during this period.  I have a loving partner to share the pain with.  I don’t have to worry about money.  I have a large house with a big garden and green space.  I have a beautiful area to exercise in.  I have not lost my job.  I have lots of friends, all visually accessible by Facetime.  I have good technology assets, and (almost) adequate skills to access the vast available technological array.  We’ve been able to continue grandchild minding and some consequent personal family contact.  And, perhaps most important of all, I’m healthy.  So I start from a very privileged position. The

Everyone’s personal experience will be different, but I suspect each person has actually has found some unexpected joys during this period.  For me, they include:

  • Enjoying online activities – bridge, choir, webinars, podcasts.

Online bridge with good friends (here and overseas!) has been an excellent substitute for weekly bridge club sessions.  It’s a miracle that the choir has managed to engage its large community twice- weekly by adapting technologically, but it has and done it amazingly well.

Previously I had no time for daytime webinars (mainly using the new Zoom tech) or podcasts.  I was too ‘busy’.  Now I’ve listened to people and ideas I would not have known existed.  And I can now tap into this vast ideas reservoir, should I need it more in the future.

  • Accessing Netflix, Stan and Spotify for entertainment.

With no live theatre, cinema or music to attend, home electronic entertainment became important.  While ABC and SBS still provide significant value, some programs on Netflix and Stan have been valuable additions to my evening enjoyment (and I’ve had a lot of evenings to fill!) while Spotify helps my morning exercises.

  • Binge-watching major sporting events I would not normally ‘allow’ myself to watch.

I’ve been watching 2-5 hours of sport daily!  But these are events I’d always have loved to watch, but rarely had the time.  NBA basketball finals, US Open tennis, Tour de France, netball (yes, really!), rugby league (yes really since they changed the rules) and football (dropping down the list, due to the crazy and confused rules) have all been attractive and are mostly one-offs.  I hope I don’t find myself doing this once we are ‘free’, but it has been a wonderful opportunity to splurge on something I love.

  • Helping the local community.

Random acts of kindness – making cordial and cake, offering mulch, starting a street library for neighbours and looking after their children – have contributed to a closer street neighbourhood.  I‘ve also volunteered my brain to two large organisations and managed to assist both in a variety of tasks important to them.  I’ve found engaging my brain really gives me pleasure.

  • Appreciating the daily changes in the natural world.

Not travelling almost anywhere for 6 months is a new experience.  So I’ve seen and greatly enjoyed  – daily – the seasonal garden changes from autumn, winter and now spring.  Our garden also acts as part of a large suburban aviary, as many bird types swoop in for food, drink, a bath, a forage or a rest.  I also enjoy all the local flowers on exercise walks…and some overhanging or neglected ones seem to fall into my carry bag, bringing special extra joy.

  • Having time to enjoy daily activities/events.

With a limited daily schedule, each activity takes on extra importance.  Exercises, a Zoom, a knock on the door, a phone call are all major events now.  It’s surprising how much joy each of these can bring.  Even supermarket shopping is new entertainment (I don’t think this will last!). 

  • Falling deeper in love with my partner.

Spending much more time close together and already being deeply in love, this has been a surprise, after almost 50 years together.  But I appreciate her qualities even more and we are more considerate of each other.  As the ‘end’ for us draws closer, we appreciate how lucky we are to still have each other.

Which Joys Will I Take into the ‘New Normal’?

Technology skills and access will stay, along with a stronger local community.  A slower pace and enjoyment of ‘local’ will be there, if I want it.  But I do feel I have much unused energy in lockdown, so I’m sure there will be more on my schedule in any ‘new normal’.  The trick will be to avoid being overwhelmed by ‘busyness’, so that joy can be gained from everything I decide to do.  I’ve still got plenty of ‘free’ time to think about that!

Why Do Powerful Individuals Abandon Their Principles to Support Dictators? (Why Do Republicans Support Trump?)

We often wonder how once reasonable people end up abandoning their principles and support obvious dictators and despots who are only concerned for their own gain.

Anne Applebaum’s article* in ‘The Atlantic’ suggested common reasons.  She used historical situations to explain why the US Republicans have supported Trump, despite what is obvious to most of the world – that Trump is shaping the US into a dictatorship, despite the apparent democratic processes and institutions that exist there.  As this process is also occurring in a large number of countries (eg China, Russia, Venezuela, Hungary, Poland, Philippines), it’s worth looking at why individuals might do this.Read More »

ATTENDING ARTS FESTIVALS/’IDEAS EXCHANGES’ DURING COVID: IT’S ACTUALLY VERY REWARDING…

I’ve been ‘attending’ the Melbourne Writers Festival and the Melbourne International Film Festival over the last 10 days.  Though I haven’t moved from my home, they have been surprisingly rewarding experiences.  Is this the way of festivals – and other mass idea exchange forums – in the future?Read More »

‘New Normal’? Melbourne, This is It. What Now?

About a week ago, as we Melburnians began Lockdown 2, I realised that many other cities and areas are in the same position. I realised that ‘this’  may well be our medium-term future – permanent physical distancing, local cluster lockdowns, no international (and minimum domestic) travel, no large scale events (sports, entertainment, pubs, clubs, restaurants).  And I realised that no one seems to be planning for this as our ‘future’.  Everyone is assuming we will return to old normal.  With no vaccine on the near-term horizon, the number of global cases continuing to hit daily records, this no longer seems likely.  I wondered:  What might our medium-term future really look like?Read More »

Why Traditional Arts Are Being Ignored During Covi

I’m a financial supporter of various art forms.  I love the theatre, cinema, live music, art exhibitions, drawing.  So I’ve been surprised that, during this chaotic covi period, what we have heard from traditional Arts organisations and people  is pleas for financial assistance.  Arts are very vulnerable and deserve support, because they nurture and challenge society.   They appear not to have received their ‘fair’ share of support.  Here’s why.Read More »

THE SOUNDS OF CORONAVIRUS

The Sounds of Coronavirus

Silence.

 

Birds singing

Wings flapping

Magpies warbling

Parrots chattering

 

Silence.

 

Walking people talking

A single car approaching

Children cycling, playing

Neighbours talking, laughing

 

Silence.

 

Zoomers calling

Netflix playing

Facetime showing

Youtube watching

 

Silence.

 

Windy trees whispering

Proud roosters crowing

Happy dogs barking

Handy men sawing

 

Silence.