Naked and spectacular

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I used to be free.

I guess that doesn't sound remarkable. We're all free, right?

Apart from being wage-slaves, debt-slaves, rent-slaves, apart from the violent and coercive state enforcing its arbitrary laws regardless of our consent, apart from generations of trauma making us terrified of each other, terrified of our own bodies and most terrified of all of being powerful and free.

So, what if that fear were to disappear, would we then be free, or more free? No. Not theoretically at all. Only in practice. It is utterly meaningless unless it is in practice.

What is freedom in our culture? A furniture store. A word abused by the Bush regime to justify imperialistic violence. Not slavery. A feeling of exhilaration and excitement. Ability to travel easily.

Janis Joplin said, “Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.”

And I was free. I had no home. I had no money. I was young and wandering around the stolen continent.

I didn't need money.  I slept outside.  I made friends easily, they invited me into their homes. I always brought food with me to share; dumpster-dived, shop-lifted; rich, healthy, expensive food in abundance for everyone.

You should've seen my body.  I was toned, slim, lithe and strong. I was brown all over from always being naked and my hair was bleached by the sun and swept back by the salty ocean breeze.

I was fiercely intelligent and my thoughts were uncluttered, clear and focussed, communicative. I was intensely present, I fell in love easily and felt everything profoundly and momentarily.

I had nothing but the pack on my back. I had everything I needed and I took what I needed with skill and confidence. I was not careless, I placed respect where respect was due.

As I said, I was free.

What happened? How did I become a clothed and respectable man, with a smart phone and a tram card, my feet sweating in shoes all day, supporting multi-national corporations?

Why am I living in the city, where freedom is at best naïve, at worst a cynical tool of political manipulation?

Why did I give up my values?

The life I was living previously maybe wasn't as free as the one I just described, but it was free enough. I was living on a farm in far-north Aotearoa, atop a hill overlooking the ocean, the harbour and the sandhills across the harbour. I had my own house right by the bush, living with an elderly couple, dogs, pigs, chickens and horses, as well as many wild birds, possums, hedgehogs, rabbits and rats. I didn't pay rent, but helped out around the property.  I could collect food from the ocean, tend the garden and gather from the local fruit trees. I could swim naked, I could invite friends to visit and I could come and go as I pleased. I could hitchhike everywhere easily and in this way meet the locals.  I could write in peace, but didn't, friends wouldn't visit often enough, and I would have love affairs with unwilling German teenage wwoofers. I had all the time in the world to entertain and educate myself with all the cinema, literature and pornography I wanted. I was pretty much free, though unbearably lonely and bored.

But wasn't this the life we were all dreaming of and talking about on the road when we were truly free? When we were wandering around, homeless and empty-handed, always together and always following the sun, weren't we talking about getting our own land; a garden, a supportive local community, clean, stable and predictable? Isn't that what we all wanted?

So, I had an opportunity, I pursued it and I lived that life. I invited others to join me. Some people would stay a week, some longer, but mostly people would say they were coming and never come.

Maybe I should have stayed out there on the road, on the beach, and of course I would be up in far-north Queensland right now, following the sun and my fellow sexy vagabonds. I would find some beauty and I would pursue that beauty. Someone who will let me fall in love with him, someone who will selflessly offer me the opportunity to give him all my love and all the gifts of my love and will accept them graciously.

Actually, that's what happened. Up in far-north Queensland I fell in love with a wildman, a Brazilian, a qualified psychologist interested in the I Ching and the Mayan Calendar. He was my equal, we were born on the same day, one year apart, with only the South Pacific Ocean between our baby bodies. We met at a tribal anarchist freedom gathering in the wilderness and were startled to discover each other, we travelled together for one month and though the separation was painful, our time together was complete and totally satisfying.

You should've seen me, naked and free, living my values instead of just talking about them like we all do now.

I followed my friends' invitation to live with them in a house near Nimbin for a few months. A friend came to visit and brought some other men with him. One of them was just 18 years old, I was 27, and I saw something in him that moved me deeply. I saw, within a scared, slumped and mousy exterior, a being of beauty and luminosity, a huge heart, a latent absorbent intelligence, a young body of infinite potential. And most of all, he had come. He had abandoned his life in Melbourne to come to Nimbin and whether he knew it or not he had come to my house and looked into my eyes and begged me to set him free.

And thus, my life had focus and I had the freedom of something to give. The world was making demands of me that I was precisely and joyously able to fulfil.

I am sick of apologising for my love. I am sick of cowards whose eyes beg me to liberate them with the revolutionary and chaotic impact of my love and who are then too scared to engage with me, who pull back in fear at the moment where they lose control or feel something real.

This one wasn't afraid of me, he wasn't afraid of life. He was nothing and nobody, a blank slate, he was open, he was engaged, he was ignorant, credulous and willing to learn. He was willing to be transformed, he was willing to be shaped. He was free in a way you don't have any concept of.

And I was in love with him. And I had something that he thought was valuable. And I was totally willing to give him everything.

We lived together in a remote valley with 100 people for a month where it was warm all day and night. Most people preferred to wear clothes most of the time, but he and I were perpetually naked, free to be human, to sleep outside curled up together, to make love beside the fire and to dance. We danced like my ancestors haven't danced in thousands of years.

I'm often overwhelmed with the beauty in this world, but nothing and no one compares in the living memory of my huge, hot, blood-pumping heart than the beauty of that man at that moment at that gathering, leaping around naked, in love with every little window of opportunity, his body channelling such incomprehensible beauty that I perceived rays of light emanating from every pore on the surface of his skin.

You should have seen us dance.

Why was he able to dance with such delicacy and elegance?

Because he was given the opportunity, the environment allowed it. Not only did we enter a space where nature accepted and welcomed us, but we accepted and welcomed each other. We created a temporary family of 100 lost souls and we expressed ourselves cos we felt safe to do so. We were free.

We had to leave this temporary paradise where a chaotic perfection is so easy and go back out into this world. I wanted to give him everything I had to facilitate the freedom I now knew he was capable of. I wanted to love him with every atom of my flesh. I wanted to lay my body down on his earth so his roots could consume all my minerals. I wanted to sacrifice myself on the altar of his beauty so the scent of my burning flesh would waft up and satisfy the Yahweh in his sky. I wanted to possess him, contain him, consume him so his essence would remain in my body for eternity.

I wanted to keep him for myself and share him with the world, but most of all I wanted him to be free.

I had finally found something... but he wasn't something, he was a person, he is a person.

“Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.”

Were we free together and therefore more free, or did I now have something I didn't want to lose?

I couldn't believe I deserved such a rare and precious jewel, but I knew what I wanted, and I invited him to travel with me.

He said yes.

And then somehow the world changed. Everything I had grown up with that I was supposed to care about, everything I had invested my passion into that failed to satisfy me, everything I had rejected and no longer cared about, all the freedom I had discovered with such grace and ease, that the world really had nothing for me, except the ambient beauty and joy of life itself, all that was gone because now I had found something real.

Many times I had walked out of the stupormarket with a bag full of groceries without paying. I didn't feel guilty. Ever. I rationalised that I am a terrestrial being and like all terrestrial beings I am free to take sustenance from my environment. I did not care at all for the morality that forbade it. I took these gifts out into the wilderness to share with my friends, my lovers and my tribe.

But when I invited this luminous being out into the wilderness with me, and when he came with the same ease that my stolen bag of groceries came, I felt anxious.

I knew that he really is my equal, he is a person, he came willingly and my love for him is pure, as much of a gift as his graciousness and beauty. But also I felt something irrational. I knew I didn't possess him, I knew I hadn't stolen him from the museum, I knew he wasn't a precious diamond that was too valuable for me to get away with, but still I felt that anxiety. I've gone too far. Surely I'm too free. Surely this must be illegal. Surely the authorities are going to come and find us and take him away from me. Surely he will leave me. Surely I don't deserve him.

Freedom camping, hitchhiking, fare evasion and shoplifting are illegal, but it had never bothered me before, and I had never attracted Police attention for these activities before, but now I allowed the paranoia to overcome me, that I couldn't possibly get away with this. And the Police and quasi-police did harass us occasionally, to little effect of course, but still I allowed it to destroy me. I welcomed self-destruction. I demanded and facilitated the emotional breakdown I needed to leave me empty-handed again.

I am sick of apologising for my love. I'm sick of cowards whose eyes beg me to penetrate them with my love and then they're too scared to feel something real.

But he wasn't scared, was he. He let me love him. He accepted every invitation I offered him and then I freaked out cos neither of us had any boundaries and I didn't know how to stop.

How could I give up the only thing in the world worthy of my attention and go back to being lonely and free? Force him to reject me? A nervous breakdown?

I don't know. I have a powerful rational mind but I am fundamentally an irrational animal. I created my own debilitating paranoia that caused me to leave the country. He offered me the necessary lie that he would follow me across the Tasman at a later date but of course he never did.

And then I stepped out of the unreality of the airport into another land, disappointingly familiar, but as tangibly real as the one I'd left. Actually, I was still strong, actually I was still calm and resourceful and I guess I was still free.

Or was I more free now; now that I had nothing more to lose again?

I had homes in which I was welcome, I had a book to write and I had my hilltop paradise to return to. But was I free?

I gave up my hilltop paradise to come to Melbourne, to wear shoes, to engage with money, to write and perform my way into the hearts of the gentle and sophisticated.

Am I less free in this racist Police state, under the cult of Capitalism, surrounded by pollution? Or are we all secretly free in this mess cos we can gather in rooms together, choose how we want to communicate and how we want to interact?

My beautiful friend and lover and companion does not emanate light from his pores or dance like that anymore. He lives in the city and he goes to university. He wears underwear and shoes. He is studying filmmaking cos he wants to express himself like he did when he danced naked by the fire under the full moon with our tribe in the valley.

He chose all this? Is he scared of feeling all that freedom and strength again? Was it too much? Does he have to transform his passion into two-dimensional images now cos it's too much to contain in a body that's not free enough to dance like that?

What about me, transforming the best communication I can contrive into words, into paper, into little sounds I make with my mouth? Do these mouth-sounds make me free? Is this my technique for alienating and abstracting the intensity of experience into a contained and knowable form? Or is this a deeper freedom?

Have I carefully compromised a few superfluous values to be able to create something that communicates with as many people as possible with my utmost integrity? Or am I just going to start getting old now, and slowly withdraw from the world, the freedom, still just an arm's reach away?

I am a delicate flower, rich in colour and scent, and when the light of the sun shines on my body I will open my petals and shine back with everything I possess.

I guess I'm as free as any plant, to fling my seeds across the landscape, to attract birds and bees to my fruits and my flowers. I'm this bursting lunatic, somehow restrained in a human body as long as entropy will allow my heat to be contained in this delicate physical dimension.

I reach out to you in the darkness of incarnation.

I'm so far from free it used to be terrifying.

Come save me from my isolation for a moment and I'll do the same for you. I guess we can't expect much more than that from each other, but that's enough for now.