A few weeks back I posted as my facebook status “Naked I came into the world, naked I shall depart it. One could say that a truly wise man spends his entire life naked.” It got some laughs and some semi joking agreements, and at least a couple of people thought it was a disturbing image.
The truth is that it was half a thought. It came into my head for some reason on the tail end of an ER shift that was winding to a close. Something suggested the well-known quote, “Naked I came into the world, naked I shall depart it.” I’m not sure what brought it to mind, but it came into my head. At four in the morning my thoughts are often rampant flights of association and immediately I thought of the phrase, “naked as the day I was born,” and switched it to “naked as the day I will die.” I brought in the old story of the samurai who practiced death every night by hanging his sword over his pillow and staring up at it until he fell asleep. I remembered the story of Saint Francis when his father disowned him, how he stripped himself of all his fine clothes in the middle of the public square and went on naked to beg for his food and clothing for the rest of his life. As I say, these are all flights of association. They went through my mind in less time than it will take you to read the period at the end of this sentence. In fact, you probably wouldn’t even read the period unless I reminded you it was there, but you would grasp the significance of it nonetheless. My mind works somewhat the same way in moments like that. Things come together faster than I can watch, and I grasp the significance without seeing the moving pieces. So as soon as I thought “Naked I came into the world, naked I shall depart,” I said, (out loud) “I guess a wise man would spend as much of his life as possible naked.”
It’s okay. My buddy that I was talking to is used to my conversational style. He responded very appropriately, “You’re retarded.”
So now I’ve had a few weeks to allow that thought to percolate and it’s time to look at it more analytically. St. Francis is a good starting point. He grasped the spiritual principle so intimately that he exercised it literally and physically as well. He stripped in the town square and walked off without a stitch on, and for the rest of his life he counted nothing in the world his own. It’s as if he thought, “I won’t be able to take any of it with me when I die. Why lug it around here?” He was essentially travelling light. When God called him he didn’t have to waste any time packing.
I am not recommending a nudist colony, any more than I believe that kind of total detachment from the things of this earth is the norm. St. Francis was a sign. He lived in an extraordinary way to point out to the rest of us the truth, which is that eventually, total detachment must come. In the end, in death, we will be totally removed from everything in this world, so wisdom dictates that we practice such removal.
Now, just as literal nakedness is not appropriate in most situations in our world, so wisdom is not necessarily getting rid of everything we own, but certainly being ready to. Putting our possessions in their right place. A good example is my Dad. After working the farm under his father for thirty years, and then owning it himself for less than ten years, he came home one day to find the barn burned down. His response? He shrugged his shoulders and said, “God has a reason.”
When he had a barn and a herd he worked them into the dirt. He poured his blood, sweat and tears into them, fourteen hours a day, every day, for his entire adult life. When they were taken away he shrugged and thanked God, and we saw where his security truly lay. He has been naked under his clothes for many years.