Statue against a cloudy sky

Let’s get naked… Mark Kogan Shawcroft

I have recently been reading Yoka Daishi’s ‘Realising the Way’. One line that really struck me was “Just cast of the dirty old clothes you treasure and don’t boast of your pure living to others”. Firstly, I thought about appearance and how we all kind of have our own look: Hipster, Punk, Farmer, Golfer, Teacher, Zennist, and the look of trying hard to have no look at all. Even with our very subtle personal dress code we tell a small piece of the story of who we think we are. Maybe that’s why dressing up can be so liberating. Experimenting with the fact we can be anybody. Not quite who I think. Maybe I am play-acting all along. But we need an identity. Having an identity is helpful for others too; it gives them a small heads up. a few subtle clues about who we are and helps to create a quick rapport. I have met a fair amount of therapists in tweed with small bow ties which is fair enough. But can they hang it up and put their joggers on at the weekend? My dad was a policeman for 30 years. He hung up his uniform when he retired. But the uniform persisted – he always ran his eye over anyone new he met. He was on the lookout for the bad. He always categorised people into good or bad. His judgements were made quickly. There was no in-between. Opinions abound. It all becomes very limiting when we start to think it’s concrete. I thought I was many things in life: an artist, a therapist, a father, punk, prison officer, engineer, cosmic jester and a Viking. It turns outs these were just imposters turning up temporarily and really I was just me. Nothing ever seemed to fit anyway. More readily defined by whatever mood I was in and what was going on. I was happy, angry, invested or indifferent. Hot, cold, dancing, sulking. Maybe this is why ancient people painted their faces and danced round the fire. Bringing themselves back to the great nobody. Forgetting themselves in the flames and sweat.


But what other clothes do I wear? What do I struggle to take off? Am I afraid to be naked? Well, it’s easy to hate hereditary peers, why not? I am against Artificial Intelligence. I don’t think people should tell me what to do at work. I don’t mind putting my shoes away but I prefer a coffee first. I won’t cry if Putin falls from a balcony. I know swearing offends some people but that’s their problem. I think Britain’s Got Talent should be made illegal along with the Eurovision Song Contest (sorry). I distrust people who don’t like dogs. I don’t like being ignored. I think the Clash’s first album is their best. These sound amusing when written down but I have been to war on all these points before. I felt if I let them go, somehow I would be diminished. The worst one ever was when a friend of mine called Baden Powell a Nazi. As an ex-Cub Scout I felt honour-bound to defend him. It got very heated and we almost came to blows. We did not speak for a week. As it turned out later, neither of us really cared, we just got into it. He didn’t even know if it was true. Neither did I. I had left the Cub Scouts as I found it boring and went to karate instead. It just felt better than being naked. Being nobody. Let’s argue. Defend at all costs. Here I am. Fired up. Bullet in the chamber. Feels good – or does it? Fear underneath.


So the surprise to me is that being nobody is most excellent. Like taking your armbands off and finding you float anyway. All that treading water and you can just lay on your back, letting the current just take you wherever. Recently I was dancing in a dark tent to the Blunders, a really great punk band (check them out). After a while I could just feel the vibrations moving through me and my legs just moved on their own. No-one knew who I was, I had zero status and no-one cared who I was. But they did care that I was. If I slipped and fell, I knew 100% someone would pick me up. A bunch of nobodies together. No evaluation. For a while I disappeared. Just going round in a circle kicking up dust. Hugged by the occasional stranger. The next day I felt very connected and grounded. The sun was shining and everything felt great. However it did not take me long to start putting my clothes back on. To start constructing my appraisal of it all. Polluting it as I went along. I could not help but wonder would I have enjoyed it more if I had put on my war paint and animal skins?


Taken a photo? I am glad I didn’t.


As for boasting about my pure living, I tried a few times, but the yawns from others were very off-putting.


I am going to a dinner party this week and talking will be the whole point. Opinions will abound. Nothing wrong with that. I will take a view. See if I can hold it lightly. I am going to see if I can get naked, but only when appropriate.