Definition: Obliviate

In Harry Potter, the obliviate spell is used to erase memories. In the eighth movie, Hermione uses it to erase her parents’ memory of her and all traces of her having been born. While magic does not exist in our world, people often behave as though they are under the influence of this spell, a disheartening trend I find more common in social media, which is why I would like to propose a new term,

Obliviate: (v) To act or behave towards a thing or person as though that thing or person does not exist.  

For example, “I gave him a copy of the book, but he seems to have obliviated it.” Or, “I called her last night, but she seems to be obliviating me.”

The word may be used as a synonym for “ignore” or “neglect” but has a more specific meaning. When someone neglects something, they acknowledge that thing exists in some way. You might say, “I neglected to do my homework,” but you could never say, “I obliviated my homework,” because that would be an oxymoron. When you obliviate something, that thing ceases to exist for you. So, you not only don’t do your homework, you act as though you never had homework.

Why do we need this word? Quite simply, it is a growing frustration of mine trying to express my struggle to get noticed. I did not have a word for how I felt. Being neglected or ignored was inadequate. Rather, I am obliviated. But I am not entirely surprised that this should be the case. After all, this blog is one of millions, and my novel is lost in a sea of others. The flood of information competing for eyeballs makes it difficult if not impossible to give attention to any one person, even friends and family, and the relative anonymity of the Internet makes it that much easier to treat these individuals as if they do not exist. But as someone who depends on feedback to do his job and sell books, this is especially frustrating.

Recently, a close friend and coworker asked to read my book. My response, “Sorry, I’d rather not risk our friendship.” He said, “What’s the worst I could say about it?” and I told him, “It’s not what you would say, but what you wouldn’t say.” I gave my book to a woman who, after loving the first four chapters, completely disappeared. After six months chatting, she never once mentioned it. My nephew, who is now attending FSU, did exactly the same thing. After sending him a copy, it was erased from his mind, which leaves me wondering what the fuck happened. Did he even start it? Did he get bored and stop? Where did he stop?

The obvious answer is that they don’t want to hurt my feelings, which is bullshit. Obliviating someone can only hurt. If, after giving you a story, you pretend as though that exchange never took place, I will assume the worst. Plus, without knowing why you got bored, or why you hated it, or why it was confusing, how can I ever improve? If you are guilty of obliviating someone, don’t! It’s cruel. The best policy is always honesty. Hated Ages of Aenya? No problem. You can write to me saying,

“Dear Nick, I tried to read your book but lost interest after the second chapter. Thanks, anyway.”

It’s as simple as that.

Of course, the term can be used for many situations. Those in the LGBT community, or those who prefer a controversial lifestyle, get obliviated all the time. People who are sick, handicapped or have lost loved ones also suffer this treatment. And it is wrong. I am not saying you should make everything an issue and bring it up all the time, but don’t be afraid to talk to gays about being gay, or to people in wheelchairs about their wheelchairs. It may be easier to pretend someone or something isn’t there, that their problem doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t make it go way and it doesn’t make it any easier on them. Sometimes, all a person needs to feel better is a little bit of acknowledgement.

Yes, I see you. You exist. I care. 

The Quest for Literary Greatness

The greatness of literature cannot be determined solely by literary standards
— T.S. Eliot 

Was it crazy to believe in this? Many said it was.

In her post, Top 10 Ways to get rejected by your dream agent, Barbara Rogan talks about fellow agent Pam van Hylckama Vlieg, who was attacked on her way to her car by a writer whom she had rejected. Naturally, Barbara used this as an opportunity to plug her book, which happens to have the same plot (an agent stalked by a writer), which makes me wonder whether this story was a ploy to boost sales (OK, maybe not), but what really incensed me was the followup section, in which Barbara jokingly lists the things writers can do to get rejected. Under the heading, Be crazy, Barbara writes, “If you have a solution to the world’s problems, let the agent know.” Really? If that scares her off, what a sad and jaded outlook she must have! Look, I realize agents receive a gajillion queries a day, most from megalomaniacs, so I cannot entirely blame them for their cynicism. On the other hand, people like Mrs. Rogan need consider the words of Gandhi, who said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Every serious writer has, at one time or another, considered the impact of their work on society. I am not crazy enough to believe that my book will result in world peace, but I do know that throughout history, men and women have been inspired by art, many of whom went on to do remarkable things. To achieve something historic, someone must first imagine doing it. If Jules Verne had not imagined man traveling to the moon, we might never have landed Apollo 11 on its surface. Outside of the Bible, the Koran and the Communist Manifesto, no single piece of writing has resulted in global change, but the collective output of an enlightened and artistic community usually does. Writers, like myself, exist as a tiny thread in the tapestry of human events.

If agents see fiction as little more than a means to a living, that view is symptomatic of their profession, not mine. Finding “solutions to the worlds’ problems” has always been part and parcel of the writer’s resume. Only recently, perhaps due to our current age of information and a flood of poorly written manuscripts, writers have been discouraged from this traditional role. All the while, scientists like Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Richard Dawkins urge children toward scientific literacy for the express purpose of solving the world’s problems, using rhetoric reminiscent of Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov. But the power of fiction and its impact can take many different forms.

For the past few years, the heading to my blog stated,

Fiction is a lens through which we see the truth behind reality. It touches our core values and defines who we are. It takes a life of random events and gives it meaning.

I am proud of this statement and stand by it still. Fiction encompasses a wide range of mediums, whether book, play, film, TV or video game. Even religion falls under the category of fiction, and yet is no less crucial to society. From the beginnings of history, mankind has searched for meaning, through cave art and in stories related through word of mouth. Fiction gave the men and women of antiquity the strength and inspiration to fight for survival, overcome tragedy, and cope with death. Even in our modern lives of convenience, where the wolf is no longer a threat and starvation is a rarity, we deal with challenges of purpose. We still wonder about our existence, asking the same questions as philosophers and theologians, is this all there is? We are born, we live, we die. Is it even worth suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, as Shakespeare so eloquently put it in Hamlet’s soliloquy? Without art, life is nothing more. To inspire even a single life is to change the world. 

Editors and agents act as the gatekeepers of fiction. They owe their lofty position to large populations and the necessity to weed out the “wheat” from the “chaff”. During the early days of the Internet, circa 1996-1997, when fan-fiction was practically unheard of, I was a kind of agent myself. My site, The Grayskull Library, welcomed He-Man fiction from all over the Internet. Since our community of enthusiasts was small, most anyone willing to put in the effort got their fiction posted, and the site garnered hundreds of thousands of views. A similar situation existed during prehistory. In a village of a few hundred, those born with the writer’s disease had no problem sharing their stories about the campfire. But as knowledge of our community grew, so did the number of submissions to my site. It quickly became unmanageable and I was forced to reject people. So, in many ways, I understand the difficult job of the agent, but also feel the need to be better understood and appreciated. If agents do not believe in the power of literature, they will never recognize greatness when it comes to pass through their gate. 

As a writer, my ambition has never been merely to entertain or make money (though important enterprises in and of themselves) but to inspire readers, the way other writers inspired me, to achieve what I can only describe as literary greatness. And while this may sound like the words of a megalomaniac, the difference comes from my rational belief in hard work and perseverance, without which greatness cannot be achieved, and that, while I may not be great I can reach for greatness, and if Barbara Rogan thinks me crazy for reaching so high, so be it. Henceforth, the new subheading for this blog will be:

THE WRITER’S DISEASE: THE QUEST FOR LITERARY GREATNESS 

Fifty Shades of Nudism

This is what shame looks like, folks!

After my first visit to Paradise Lakes clothing optional resort, I had a dilemma. To tell or not to tell? Eventually, I figured, I would never be happy unless I let the cat out of the bag (be happy I did not use the other obvious metaphor!). I eventually told everybody, family, friends, coworkers, you name it. Their reaction was odd bemusement, mostly, “You? You’re that kind of person?” Another friend asked the direct question, “So, is there lots of sex there?” This was a girl with her share of provocative escapades. Of course, I had to correct her, explaining that the place was innocent, for families with young children. I knew that if they understood nudism, their reaction would have been, “Oh, you? Makes sense.” Truth is, I am and have always been extremely conservative (but politically liberal). I do not go clubbing, have never done drugs or smoked or used alcohol (not even a taste), and married the girl who took my virginity. Amish people have lived it up more than I have. For me, nudism has always been about innocence, the fact that we can look at our bodies without thinking of sex. Once everyone knew of my weird lifestyle, everything went back to normal. Nobody ignored me or tried to humiliate me. If anything, the truth disarmed them. They just didn’t know what to say. A decade and a half later I found myself with a similar dilemma. Do I come out to the world on the Internet? Well, in July of 2012, I did just that. And, not surprisingly, did not become a social leper. Just look at the numbers:

Posts

Entry
Pageviews
Jul 3, 2012, 15 comments
10947
Dec 22, 2012, 8 comments
7056
Feb 24, 2012, 2 comments
5125
Nov 21, 2012, 54 comments
1719
Oct 22, 2013, 6 comments
1281
Jul 29, 2013, 2 comments
1144
Jun 18, 2011
1017
Apr 19, 2012, 16 comments
785
Dec 31, 2012
453
Apr 23, 2013, 2 comments
291

Besides Mass Effect 3, my top seven posts, by overwhelming majority, regard nudism and naturism. Contrast that to my Princess Bride book review. 33 views total! But wait, you say, type, “nude,” “naked,” “nudist,” or “naturist,” into Google and you get underage girls. For a long time, I assumed my blog was getting porn traffic. However, my top post, at 11,000+, contains no nudity except side butt (mine). In fact, the only pic to feature a young attractive girl (on this list) sits at the very bottom with 291 views. O.K., maybe people like to gawk at weirdos. But responses to my posts are always positive. So what’s happening here? Quite simply, there is a vested interest in naturism itself, not just men looking to ogle women, but curiosity about the lifestyle. It’s not just active nudists, but those who have thought about becoming a nudist and were afraid to tell anybody, or teens who wonder (as I used to) why we really have to wear clothes, or closet nudists who go buff at home. This is the beauty of the free information age; it allows people with unique viewpoints to communicate.

Still, even among the staunchest free body activists, there is apprehension. Visit any number of Tumblr sites and you will find countless ordinary people nude on camera. However, inspiring as it is to see so many free spirits (and bodies) out there, they remain clothed by anonymity. There is truly no way of knowing who they are. You will hardly ever find a blogger willing to post a nude selfie or their real names. One woman stated her case for not posting a pic, explaining that she was not attractive, and that her nudist blog had nothing to do with ogling. Most comments were positive, including one that said, “Never post a pic on the Internet, because you can’t get it back and who knows what people will do with it!” To that, I wonder, what nefarious plot can someone devise with a picture? Worst case I can come up with, someone plasters printouts of you on every telephone pole in your neighborhood, but even then, so what? We don’t live in Medieval-style villages anymore. No one is going to excommunicate you with a letter “N” on your chest. Look at it another way. People who visit cycling websites (as I do) do not necessarily go to see people on bikes, and yet every cycling blogger has at least one pic of himself on his bike. If you enjoy hitting the beach in nothing but your birthday suit (and how can you not?) why be ashamed to show it? Shame comes from outside, from other people. If you woke up tomorrow to find every single person naked, in parks, on beaches, at Disney World, etc., your own shame, whether you were a nudist or not, would quickly disappear. Nudists need to overcome the shame society impresses upon them if they ever hope to change the world. A big part of the gay rights movement is pride. Wherever pro-gay events are happening, the word “pride” is associated with it. There are gay pride film festivals and gay pride parades. Remarkably, gays and lesbians managed to convince the public that homosexuality is nothing to be ashamed of.

But wait, you say, not everyone is in the same boat. Some people with religious backgrounds fear the reaction of their parents or their congregations. For other people, the problem is employment. I remember one female blogger in particular, raised in a nudist household and proud of it, whose teaching position came under fire when her extra curricular activities were discovered. Sadly, and with little fanfare, she was forced to take her blog down. I urge every naturist to stand for their beliefs, but cannot judge them harshly if they are afraid to do so.

My situation is unusual. I make a living as a restaurateur, so there is no chance of my termination, but I am also an aspiring author. For the past few years, I have lost sleep wondering how my nudism might affect my literary ambitions. Interestingly, writers are told to: 1) Write your passions and 2) Be original. Every famous writer had a niche, whether Stephen King’s New England themed horror or Tom Clancy’s military thrillers. Mine is fantasy from a naturist perspective, not simply bare-bottomed protagonists, but the philosophical underpinnings of feminism, equality and environmentalism. Fantasy novels these days are ripe with rape and torture (see George R.R. Martin), so my fear is not that I may be viewed as obscene, but that I will become in the minds of editors a “nudist” writer, someone who caters to a specific subculture. I live for the written word and would give up nudism in a heartbeat for it. But these passions are intertwined. I cannot write about a character without considering his attitude toward the human body. A hero like Conan, who lusts after every scantily clad maiden, is a far cry from Tarzan, who, to paraphrase Edgar Rice Burroughs, “abhors clothing and all it stands for.”

This brings me to Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, which sold 90 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 45 languages. Ninety-million is a big number. There are certainly not that many involved in the S&M lifestyle. A larger demographic was likely curious, because fiction provides a way to step into the shoes (or in this case leather pants) of another. By and large, book buyers were not dissuaded by the subject of bondage. The same goes for nudism. There are few card carrying nudists in the world, but thanks to the Internet, a rapidly growing curiosity. Just as with the strange world of S&M, it only takes the right book and this undercurrent of interest will break the surface. For this reason, I embrace naturism, proudly exposing myself in words and pixels.

The heyday of nudism is coming. It will start with bloggers and writers and philosophers, and end with politicians. And when all is said and done, “naturism,” like any needless -ism, will cease to exist.

Heroes of Naturism

Just as racism and homophobia exist to varying degrees around the world, so does bigotry against nudists. It might seem offensive to equate the two, but in countries like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, where women who refuse to cover their faces can be jailed, beaten and raped, the comparison seems more appropriate. Unlike homosexuality, becoming a nudist is a choice, and yet that choice is a fundamental part of my identity. I see little difference between a person’s faith and a belief in the innocence of the human body. The fear that exists among transgendered people, the pressure to conform, to continually hide from scrutiny, are feelings many nudists can relate to.

Nudity harms no one, neither physically nor psychologically, and yet we can never be as we are born, never live as nature intended. The reason is rooted in outdated taboos, from a time when slavery was sanctioned by God, women were stoned for adultery, scientific discoveries like those of Galileo were condemned, and homosexuals were put to death. Our Puritan roots have deeply entrenched in us a fear and hatred for the human body, but what continues to perpetuate this attitude, despite increasing secularism, is a consumer industry which profits from shame, and making people feel unattractive. So while Facebook finds breast feeding mothers morally objectionable, Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines, which features anorexic looking topless models, is nominated for a Grammy.

To break the nudity taboo, something that perpetuates sexism, body hatred, and an unhealthy sex obsessed society, we need heroes. Every movement needs heroes when society’s mores are challenged. There was a time when racism was sanctioned by the Supreme Court, until people like Frederick Douglas, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King challenged those laws. Up until recently, homosexuals were frequently beaten and arrested, but then Harvey Milk came along, to fight for justice and help change attitudes. It’s easy for us to see these people as heroes. Who, today, would deny Rosa Parks a spot at the front of the bus? And yet, people in the fifties did not have the luxury of hindsight; they could not imagine the freedoms we take for granted. For too long, nudists have hidden behind the walls of their resorts, like lepers, far removed from the public eye. In general, there has been no way for people to learn about nudism and why it matters, and so we are left with ugly stereotypes and misconceptions. Fortunately, there are heroes in the naturist movement, intrepid individuals who have found the courage to act upon the conviction that the human body is neither indecent nor shameful.

AliaaAliaa Magda Elmahdy 

As a Muslim woman living in Egypt, Aliaa’s courage is inspiring. Nudity in Islam is forbidden in any form, and to expose oneself to the public is unthinkable. By posting a nude selfie on her blog, Aliaa risked imprisonment in a country not known for human rights. This simple act incited outrage throughout the Muslim world, among both liberals and conservatives, and she received threats of rape and murder. But it was all in protest of Sharia Law, a system that treats women more as objects than human beings. To prevent sexual violence, women are expected to dress modestly. But clothing like the burqa, that covers every inch of the body, represents nothing but oppression. What better way to protest the burqa, than its extreme opposite, complete nakedness?

MoiraMoira Johnston

In 1992, it became legal in New York City for women to bare their breasts, anywhere in public, wherever men have been allowed. While feminists cheered for this small victory, most women continue to be unaware of the law, or if they are, lack the courage to make use of it. One female activist, however, has made it her mission to inform the public via example. This is Moira in the streets, relaxed and topless. The best part is, people either do not seem to notice her, or do not object. It only goes to  prove that “common decency” isn’t as common as Facebook would have us believe. Watch her video here.

ladygodivaLady God1va

As her namesake suggests, this stunning beauty is utterly shameless, and while she does not appear to own a horse, she has taken to cycling about the streets of London in nothing but a helmet (as a cyclist myself—I ride a Trek 7.7 FX; she rides a 7.5—I am a big proponent of safety gear!). OK, to be fair, she doesn’t do this on a daily basis. It’s all part of the World Naked Bide Ride, which she helps to organize every year. On that day, it is not uncommon to see a thousand or more cyclists missing more than helmets.

God1va is a British citizen, but she can trace her roots to India, where family and tradition are paramount. Coming from a traditional culture myself, I find her confidence all the more inspiring, in that she is not afraid to show the world who she is, at the risk of alienating friends and family. As her blog states, “There was also the fear factor … what if I get recognized by my family/friends? However, having been on TV fully nude at least 4 times a week for about 6 months (repeats!), and having published all my photos on the web, the cat is truly out of the bag and there is no hiding now!” On her blog and in public, Lady God1va continues to express her free body philosophy. In 2009, as part of an art exhibition, she stood completely naked on a plinth before thousands, holding a placard with the words, “Naturism – It is a human right.” Lady, I couldn’t agree more! Watch the video here.

Luis Andrew Martinez

You know that dream about going to school everyone seems to have? Where you suddenly realize that you’re naked, in front of classmates and teachers and everybody? For most people, it’s a nightmare, but for University of Berkeley student, Andrew Martinez, it was a reality. According to Wikipedia: Campus police first arrested him that fall for indecent exposure when he jogged naked late on a Saturday night. The county prosecutor refused to prosecute, concluding that nudity without lewd behavior was not illegal. Martinez began strolling around campus naked, citing philosophical reasons. He explained that when he dressed in expensive, uncomfortable, stylish, “appropriate” attire, he hid the fact that his personal belief was that clothes were useless in his environment except as a tool for class and gender differentiation. The university then banned nudity on campus. Martinez was also arrested in the city for indecency, fought those charges, and won. Later, after an anti-nudity ordinance was adopted, he was given two years probation. Sadly, Andrew Martinez was diagnosed with mental illness, ending his own life in prison in 2006. He was 33. Whether his death was, in part, due to shaming or social ostracism, we may never know.

felicity-nude-hiking-skinny-dipping-new-york-young-naturists-america

Felicity Jones 

Most nudists you meet today, on beaches and at resorts, are aging hippies over sixty. There is a real scarcity of young people involved in the movement, especially young women. When I attended the University of South Florida, I tried to start a nudist club, but made little headway. In our hyper-sexualized society, where body parts = lust, a woman who shows too much skin is thought to be a stripper, a porn star, or a prostitute. At the very least, a man will ogle a naked girl, especially at non-nudist venues, unused to seeing the female body in its natural state. At worst, women in the lifestyle risk violence. So, simply being young, female, and a naturist takes some courage. Luckily for her, Felicity was raised in a nudist household, as a third generation nudist. Body shame was simply something she was never taught, and now, she has made it her mission to spread her family’s free body philosophy to the world. As the founder of Young Naturists America, an online organization with thousands of members (including yours truly), she organizes public naturist events, like body painting day in New York, with artist Andy Golub. She is also a prolific blogger, writing on a wide range of subjects, from combating sexism to changing negative body stereotypes.

Stephen Gough

Even among nudists, Stephen Gough “the Naked Rambler” is a controversial figure. Gough has been convicted 28 times for 46 offences, mainly in Scotland, where he was repeatedly arrested during attempts to walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats without clothes. He has been sentenced to more than six years in prison in total. Many would argue that he does not belong on this list, and Stephen himself has stated that he is not a nudist. But since there is no consensus as to what nudism is, and considerable misunderstanding regarding its practices and beliefs, I cannot rule him out. Of course, simply being naked does not make one a nudist. Strippers are not nudists. Porn stars are not nudists. Exhibitionists, people who show their bodies for the intended purpose of shocking and offending others, are the extreme opposite of nudists, emphasizing rather than de-emphasizing the body. Nudism, in essence, is a non-thing, the simple belief that the body is good, shameless, and legal. Unless Stephen intended to offend, and I have seen no evidence of this, he is a nudist, whether he says so or not. What truly sets him apart, however, is his willingness to get arrested, time and time again. Many have questioned his obstinance and sanity, but perhaps more than anyone on this list, he has shown us the absurdity of anti-nudity laws, by how much time and government money has been wasted imprisoning him, a man who has done nothing to harm anyone.

Miley-Cyrus-Nude-Outtakes-For-Candy-Magazine-11-760x1035Miley Cyrus

She has been exposing herself in videos, magazines and on Twitter, leaving nothing to the imagination. But, unlike Playboy models and porn stars, she has made nudity a focal point of her career, claiming that she loves being nude and would like to move to a nudist colony someday. Performers have long relied on controversy to keep the media focused on their careers. Who can forget the Beatles’ hairstyle, Madonna’s infamous Sex book, or Janet Jackson’s nipple slip? But while it may just be publicity, her love of nakedness, and willingness to appear nude wherever she can, seems sincere. She even has a concert planned, in which she will be performing without a stitch, along with the band, Flaming Lips. Even her audience will be expected to drop trou. Real naturist or not, Miley can only have a positive effect on the free body movement. In the past, such exposure would have been a scandal, and a career ender. Instead, Miley shows how tolerant we have become as a society.

Jenny Scordamaglia

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South of the border, we find Jenny Scordamaglia, who has never been one to shy away from the camera. Unlike most of the people on this list, Jenny started her career in modeling. But while most women with her looks and shameless attitude end up in porn, Jenny has proven that nudity doesn’t have to lead to sex, and that there are many things one can do in the buff. She does naked yoga, and on her show, Naked Kitchen, she cooks, well, you can imagine (though I’d recommend an apron). Despite her propensity for showing us her goods, Jenny is anything but a brainless bimbo, as her bio attests: She has been a journalist for magazines in Brazil and Peru. She published her first book, “Llamado de Atencion,” to help young adults live positively. In 2009, she hosted the biggest Latin American show from Europe, in the American Airlines Arena in Miami. She was chosen “the voice of Miami,” representing South Florida, for Comcast Xfinity. In 2012, she opened her first meditation center, “Centro Transformacion,” in Spain. Jenny was the official host of Miami’s “International Film Festival 2012,” which raised money for Tanzania, South Africa. And in 2013, she launched Miami TV, available on Google Play and iTunes. Learn more about Jenny on her page.


 

Someone I chose NOT to include is Gypsy Taub. I thought about this a lot, and while she has been a vocal opponent of anti-nudity laws, perhaps more than anyone on this list, Gypsy seems intent on offending people, which I find at odds with nudism. In one video, she is ranting on a microphone on the streets of San Francisco, naked except for a strap-on dildo. When later handcuffed, she shouted at the police, calling them fascist pigs. While I admire her audacity, her “contribution” is harmful, confirming people’s worst fears and assumptions about nudism. You can watch her most famous video here, where she disrobes during a court hearing on banning public nudity in San Francisco.

I consider these people heroes, not for merely professing what they believe, but for acting on it. They found the courage to reject society’s taboos, risking ridicule and condemnation, and if we are ever to become free, to live as we dream of doing, we must do the same. If you love being nude, tell your friends, your family. Walk naked in front of them, or better yet, go nude in public (but don’t get arrested). If you have a blog, and you’re a nudist, don’t hide it! Post an honest selfie, the selfie you really want to post, the one that represents who you are. Prove to the world there is nothing to hide. The human body, a butt, a nipple, a vagina, a penis, these make up what we are, and it is nothing to be embarrassed about.

meonbeach

My name is Nick, I am a nudist, and proud!

 

Now be sure to check out Felicty Jones Blog and Lady God1va’s Blog!