The Swimming Hole - Song of Myself

7:00 AM

Thomas Eakins, Swimming, 1885

"I know I am august,
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself to be understood,
I see that the elementary laws never apologize.

I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.

My foothold is tenon'd and mortis'd in granite,
I laugh at what you call dissolution,
And I know the amplitude of time."

---Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

Once a friend of mine challenged me to go skinny dipping with her. I told her challenge accepted, but I need to get my six pack abs first. Even though I haven't worked on my abs since, when I occasionally glance at them, as they remain one united pack, I wonder whether I have the guts to just strip and jump in even if I have a perfect six pack abs. It seems true that we are less vulnerable in clothes, as shame and self-consciousness are carefully kept in check, and the rule of civilized people is followed. But funny that we started out envisioning our gods naked. Obviously because they are perfect, so David wouldn't mind standing in a museum naked with hundreds of people walking around. But we are human beings. And with the increasing functions that we added to our garments, once upon a time, it became the artists' job to find beauty in nudity and understand who we are in the state of nature.

Thomas Eakins was one of the artists in late 19th century America to explore such a theme. With the development of photography, unlike many of his contemporaries, Eakins saw photography as a way to better observe and understand his objects. In a lake outside Philadelphia, he would set up his Kodak camera and capture the bath session of his nude students on films. In The Swimming Hole, Eakins employs the classic pyramidal composition; six figures are deliberately placed to form a triangle, where each figure poses in a classical, Hellenic gesture, demonstrating the ideal beauty and strength that seen in Greek sculptures. Hardly conscious of their nakedness, each figure seems content and fitting with the arcadian surroundings. It is perhaps that only in Arcadia, where no civilization rules applied, and no moral judgments are forced upon, can one fully accept oneself, and reflect, and be free. Like Walt Whitman writes in his Leaves of Grass, "I exist as I am, that is enough, / If no other in the world be aware I sit content, / And if each and all be aware I sit content. / One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself."

I will work on my abs.

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