the divergent matrix – the many paths forward of social nudity

If the Matrix trilogy was the GenX generation’s expression of the changing social landscape, the Divergent series may could be described as the millennials response. If you are a nudist/naturist and you have never heard of or seen either of these movies i think warching them will help you understand the substance of this essay and some of the challenges facing the movement in the fast changing social landscape. As a big fan of the Matrix and Divergent movies I think are nuggets of social commentary burged in both trilogies one of which is based on a popular series of books.  If we take time to explore the depth of these cinematic expressions of social change we may find they could teach us a great deal about the how and why of responding to social change.

The back story of the Matrix trilogy is humans all live in the matrix an artificial constructed realit. An algorithmic construct (think Facebook) created to fool hunanswered into thinking they are living real lives but it is just an illusion. Human beings are serving as nothing more than energy sources for a huge machine population. It was a seminal movies series because it spoke to a generation’s gut feeling that all that much of the promised change of a previous generation was just an illusion.

img_7509I think it could be said that some in the naturist/nudist community are in the matrix, yet to be confronted with the idea that the image of perfect human harmony that is often used to promote naturism and nudism is just an illusion. Some of us, like some of the people in the matrix, don’t know it’s an illusion. Some of have been made aware but  like the character Cypher CHOOSE the illusion of reality, rather than reality itself.


Others like the brave crew of the Nebuchadnezzar, CHOOSE to believe in a a third path. A path that relies on the belief in the human spirit’s capacity to acknowledge the existence of the Matrix without surrendering to the illusion it creates. Like the hero of the Matrix trilogy New, I think concerned naturists and nudists would serve the cause well if they saw the matrix for what it is and CHOOSE to see beyond it.

I am also a big fan of the divergent movies. Give a shout in the comment section of you are a fan as well. The movie presents a dystopian future where people are forced into rigid patterns of interaction that they are told has worked effectively to maintain social order. If you aren’t familiar with the movie’s premise (where have you been? 😀 ) in this world everyone belongs to a faction. Your faction is determined by your aptitude, attitude and personal characteristics and finally choice. Your faction is your family, “faction before blood” says characters in the movie. The social dilemma occurs when some of this world’s inhabitants don’t fit neatly into the faction box. These divergents don’t fit into a singular social group, and they don’t want to. These divergents are considered a threat because the rattle the social status quo where everything is determined by the label you have been assigned. The system removes the threat of anyone exercising their independent will.

The system removes the threat of anyone exercising their independent will. Divergents threaten that system. It won’t be safe until they’re removed. Jeanine Matthews- character in Divergent.

Four one of the main characters in the DIvergent series described his dilemma this way. See clip below

I don’t want to be just one thing. I can’t be. I want to be brave, and I want to be selfless, intelligent, and honest and kind. Well, I’m still working on kind.

I think that the practice of naturism and nudism may be going through a similar challenge. It exists in a social context with the patterns of the past dominating the practice. The absolute ideals of past generations may not resonate with younger generations who don’t one just one experience but many different ones. Oftentimes it seems people are trying to force others to declare allegiance to one faction or another.

imageA couple summers ago I had two experiences that illustrated what I’m calling the divergent paths of social nudity. The first experience was at a naturist festival at a clothing optional resort sponsored by a naturist organization. The experience was one that seemed designed for the choir or conversion to the same. Though much of the activity seems driven by conversion, little if any effort seems to be oriented to embracing new or different people. One single young man in his twenties who reached out to my friend and I, left early indicating he expected more people and more activities in which he could be included.  My efforts to get connected through an activity I love playing volleyball, was less than I hoped.  All the old hands at the event  took it as an opportunity stake their claim to the court express their knowledge of the rules and remind me I wasn’t a member of their faction.

The second experience was at a clothing optional beach. At the beach, like the resort there was no sexual activity going on. Instead diverse groups of people hanging out having fun playing games and joy the sunshine the water and the weather. People wondered in and out of interactions including an intense volleyball game. They banded together to address a creepy individual who popped up. There was no stand out leader, no offficial organizational stamp no labels were being thrown around. It was just regular folks having fun clothes free in the sun they seemed at least from this writer eyes to be “factionless”.

In many ways I think some established naturist and nudists have become dependent on a faction system just like people in the Divergent movies. If it doesn’t fit in one of the preconceived factions mostly derived from a Eurocentric world view then it isn’t naturism or nudism. If one of the labels can’t be easily attached it is a threat to the faction system. So we have ended up with a faction system within the faction system. Young naturists, gay nudists, and so on. The question comes to my mind do we need gender fluid faction and a African-American faction or Hispanic faction a gay African American nudist faction? Are they necessary to go with the youth and gay factions so everything fits neatly in its place? Are we ready for a world that defies the notion of faction over blood and makes room for the divergents of all kinds? Is this faction system truly the best way to invite and engage people into the practice of naturism, nudism and clothes free living?

It may be that modern, international, globally focused naturist organizations, have a different orientation on paper. The International Naturist Federation explains one of its publications:

“Each country has its own kind of naturism, and even each club has its own special character, for we too, human beings, have each our own character which is reflected in our surroundings. World Handbook of Naturism

The French writer and champion of  naturism is quoted as saying

Naturism is practised in many ways: Marc Alain Descamps,[8] in his study written in French, classified the types as: individual nudism, nudism within family, nudism in the wild, social nudism. Additionally, militant nudism, including campaigning or extreme naturists, is sometimes considered a separate category. Wikipedia

If this diverse inclusiveness is naturism at its best, then shouldn’t this apply to all nations and all individuals regardless of their “faction”? Do these organizations have some insight that their individual members may not? Why should there be any satisfaction with putting anyone in a faction or forcing the practice in way that reflects only a single world view? To be clear I don’t believe that any of the people who may see themselves in the metaphors I have drawn from these two movies are bad people. Just the opposite I think they are real people caught in the throes of seismic social change reacting as most real people do in that situation. The change has been seismic but subtle, something most of us are not used to. I am reminded of another metaphor I heard long ago that was used to describe how some of us react to evolutionary but not  revolutionary change.

They say that if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will leap out right away to escape the danger.But, if you put a frog in a kettle that is filled with water that is cool and pleasant, and then you gradually heat the kettle until it starts boiling, the frog will not become aware of the threat until it is too late. The frog’s survival instincts are geared towards detecting sudden changes.

The Boiled Frog

img_7511This metaphor is often used in business setting to illustrate how humans have to be careful to watch slowly changing trends in their environment, not just the sudden changes. That is something we do a great deal of at There are usually accompanying stories of organizations and businesses that went the way of the boiled frog. WordPerfect once the leader in word processing software, that last of the carriage and buggy whip makers before the birth of the automobile. Is naturism/nudism next on that list?

Who knows? I don’t think of myself as futurist or prognosticator of the future. I do observe social trends and interactions. My observation is unless naturist and nudist individuals and organizations can embrace a social reality that is divergent with many different people finding many ways to express themselves in non sexual clothes free-living it will be more and more marginalized. I think a necessary skill to learn will be that of intersectionality. Finding places where divergent experiences intersect and using that as a jumping off point for engaging people.

Ultimately it’s not up to me to try to change anyone’s mind or tell them what to do. But it is my prerogative to share my thoughts and observations on these issues and let people make their own decisions. We all have to choose and understand the future of a way of life we desire may hang in the balance. So add your thoughts in the comments section.  Let me leave you with this from one of my favorite characters in the Matrix movies the Oracle.

About the author: Earl D

Founder, editor in chief, news curator

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