by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 18

Philosophy and Farewells

That evening the discussion returned to the subject that is ever-present in the minds of all humans—sex. The afternoon's joke had created an opportunity they didn't want to let go.

'You said sex and wanking are normal, like eating and shitting, so why won't people talk about it?'

'Yeah, why does it feel as if it's dirty and something we shouldn't do?'

'The short answer is religion. Until Christianity arrived about seventeen hundred years ago, and Islam a few hundred years later, most human societies were relaxed about sex. They had the usual sensible laws against rape and child abuse, and not screwing your sister because of the possibility of deformities, but apart from that, what adults chose to do with each other in private was up to them.'

'Including homosexuality?' This from Leon.

'Of course, that's as natural as all other forms of sexuality.'

'My father says queers should be shot.'

'That's because he's a victim of religious propaganda, Henry.'

'What do you mean?'

"It's well known that whether you fancy having sex with boys or girls is fixed before you're born, like eye colour and the length of your nose, so to persecute people because of that is criminally ignorant and goes against reputable research. It's no different from burning people who thought the world wasn't flat, or said the earth wasn't the centre of the universe. Unfortunately, Christianity and Islam never bother with facts unless it suits them. That's how they hang onto power and influence.'

'Do you think it's OK to be a homosexual?'

'Do you think it's OK to be a human, Arthur?'

Arthur frowned in confusion. 'That makes no sense.'

'Neither does your question. We are what we are and there's precious little we can do about it.'

'Stop distracting him, Arthur. He's telling us about why no one will talk honestly about sex and stuff. Get on with it, Jarek.'

'Certainly, Sasha, as you ask so politely. Basically, it's all about power. If you want to control what people think and do, then either bash them into submission or make them feel guilty. Christian and Islamic leaders understand that, and have always done both things. By insisting there's an invisible god who knows everything, they easily made everyone fearful of disobeying even the craziest laws. The worst guilt trip arrived when they declared that the most natural and strongest of human impulses, sex, is a sin unless it is to make babies. Nudity is also a sin because it exposes the penis. The reasons they give for concealing that inoffensive little organ are truly bizarre. It goes like this: god creates humans by using the penis to create babies, therefore it belongs to god and is not ours to play with. It is to be kept sacred and covered until he wants us to use it to create a baby.'

Astonished silence greeted this revelation.

'That makes no sense.'

'It makes as much sense, Melvin, as insisting there's an invisible super hero in the sky who created the universe and arranges everything, even caring whether you are properly dressed, thinking the right thoughts, or using your penis wrongly by wanking.'

Slightly shocked giggles.

'Hands up who feels guilty listening to me saying such things.'

Eight hands slowly raised.

'That's the power of guilt. You've been taught to unquestioningly accept that there's a god who must be worshipped and never criticised. You've been taught there's eternal punishment for people like me, and eternal reward for people who do as they're told. It's clever, isn't it?'

Heads nodded, brows frowned and eyes searched Jarek's face to check if he was serious.

'As no human can stop their natural desire for sex, everyone who believes the Christian and Islamic god stories lives in a constant state of guilt and fear of eternal damnation. Some people, like Henry's father, don't trust god to settle his scores after we die; they want to punish or kill everyone in this life who disagrees with them.'

No one laughed.

'If that's true, how come there's sex and nudity on the internet?' Anton asked.

'There are some things Religions don't control yet, but they're working on it. You'd be hard put to find total Internet freedom in an Islamic country. The thing about the internet is, it isn't real! You can't touch the naked bodies, and they can't see or touch you. It's second hand, and instead of making viewers feel liberated it increases frustration. It's nothing like what we are experiencing here. Here we are real! We can touch and see each other, speak and understand, share laughs, confidences, affection. We can become friends who trust and respect each other. That's how humans should interact together; not with invisible strangers on the internet who we can never touch or know. After four days of us being naked together, who feels they've been sinful and dirty?'

No one raised a hand.

'It isn't sinful!' Anton said clearly. 'It's clean and good and healthy and I feel much better than at school.'

A chorus of 'me too.'

'If you'd been told last week that we were all going to be naked, and Simon was going to tickle my penis with a straw while I was asleep so I got an erection, and then we'd laugh and talk about lubrication and Robert would tell us his cum was thick and creamy, What would you have imagined?'

The consensus was they'd have imagined an orgy. A rude, dirty, disgusting event that might be exciting at the time but would leave them feeling ashamed.

'Who feels ashamed now?'

No one did.

'As for TV, really sexy stuff is only broadcast late at night in a few countries, and it's nearly always heterosexual. But even that is disappearing as the Internet takes over everyone's life. I have the impression that TV was more innocently liberal and open about sex and nudity in the 1970s than it is today, but then I hardly ever watch it so am not in a position to judge. What do your parents think of it, Arthur, Adrian, Robert and Henry?'

'They won't allow me to see anything like that, and my computer is in the dining room so they can check what I'm doing.'

'Same with us.'

'There's nothing wrong with that. Parents should monitor what their children watch and do on the internet; we all need guidance when growing up. I think it's bad for young people to watch porn and explicit sex programs, because of what I said earlier—it isn't real, and sex without affection and gentleness is a very poor model that harms the development of healthy relationships. On the other hand, we are real, so we've been able to think about and practise treating each other with respect. Has it done you harm or good?'

'It's made me feel great,' Melvin said bluntly. 'I'm going to hate going back to that crappy school.'

Another 'Me too' chorus.

'You're all intelligent young men,' Jarek continued quietly, 'for whom I have great respect. How many of you are going to be content to unquestioningly allow other people to tell you what to think and how to behave?'

No one raised their hand.

'That means there's hope for the future.'

With a smile Jarek left them to talk, play board games or simply sit and think, while he assisted Zeno with a problematic maths assignment. Despite spending so little time on his work, Zeno was already ahead of schedule.

'That's because you're smart and teachers have to go at the pace of the slowest student.'

'And because Ms. Albrechtson is a crappy teacher.'

Jarek didn't disagree.

Before going to bed everyone briefly repeated the experiment of the quarry; walking in different directions into the darkness until they couldn't see each other or the cabin. They stood silently, letting the smells and sounds of the surrounding forest invade their senses. Scuffling bandicoots. Sniffling echidnas, ear-splitting screech of tiny tree frogs and crickets, tock tock tock of mating toads down by the creek, fluttering moths and night beetles. Then imagination crept in to fill the spaces. What was behind them? Had a creature crept up ready to pounce? Perhaps a stray serial killer was on the loose—they hadn't heard the News all week. The rest of civilization could be dead. They were the only survivors on the planet! A giant spider might be crawling up their leg! Panic invaded and when Jarek's whistle blew five minutes later to release and guide them back, they ran as if chased by the demons of Dante.

Breakfast was a collection of morose faces.

'We don't want to go. Can't we stay all weekend at least?'

After a brief discussion it was decided they would have the morning to themselves, but as always, if they went further than the cabin boundaries they had to take a partner, their pack, water, and a whistle.

Time passed too quickly. Swimming, short hikes unto the surrounding bush, climbing the nearest ridge and sitting in a silence and solitude they were already beginning not to fear.

After lunch they gathered on the verandah in front of the sleeping rooms.

'This has been one of the most enjoyable weeks of my life,' Jarek said seriously. 'And you've all been braver, fitter, more energetic, friendly and resourceful than any other young men I've taught. Although this week has been important to you, don't be surprised if people don't ask you much about it. Few people are interested in things they haven't done themselves, or in good news stories. Disasters and unhappiness are what grab their attention.

'This is not a bad thing, because the less you share precious memories, the less chance there is that someone will spoil them with unpleasant comments. If you simply say, 'I had a great time,' that's all most people want to know. If they ask for details, tell them, while taking great care to guard jealously the things you know they could never understand unless they had been here, such as the fact that clothes have been optional. Do you agree?'

'Yeah, definitely.'

'Those who haven't shared this week can never understand the atmosphere, the respect we have for each other's differences, or even that you treat me as an equal with no more rights than you. As I said last night, if you tell them the truth, their imaginations will have you participating in nude sexual orgies and they'll be disgusted and want to hang me out to dry.

'You will almost certainly have a problem with your mothers. Women in general and mothers in particular, know instinctively when you're concealing something, and they're very skilful at forcing you to tell them. Are you obliged to tell your parents everything? Absolutely not! I repeat. You are not obliged to tell mothers and family members everything! You are allowed to have secrets about things that might be misunderstood by people, including parents, who would spoil your precious memories. Is that clear?'

'Yes, Jarek.' The mood was sombre as the spectre of a return to real life drew closer.

'Have you the right to decide for yourself what to think, what to believe, how to act and what to keep private?'

'A chorus of 'Yes!'

'Exactly, and that's because you have proven yourselves to be real men. If you always feel obliged to confide in others then you will never be independent; you will always be in someone's power.

'Lastly, please do not tell the other boys at school what to expect, except in the vaguest of generalities. A great deal of your pleasure was derived from the fact that you were faced with a totally new situation that you adjusted to magnificently. If you'd come prepared, knowing how I'd be dressed, what to expect, then nothing would have been the same and I don't think you'd have enjoyed and developed yourselves half as much. So, can I rely on you to keep what happened here a secret from the rest of the junior school, at least until they've all been here?'

As they started to speak Sasha stopped them. 'Hang on a second, Jarek, I want to discuss something with the guys.'

Jarek nodded nervously hoping they weren't going to do something that would set sentimental tears rolling. It was sad enough to be losing them without that embarrassment.

After a brief conference the ten young men came and stood in front of him.

'You are asking us to agree not to divulge anything that might be misunderstood, or spoil the experience for others. We would like to seal this agreement in the manner you described to us. Solemnly, Sasha stepped forward and gently cupped Jarek's scrotum in his hand. It took a nanosecond before Jarek understood, reciprocated, and Sasha said clearly, 'I contract never to say anything to anyone that might spoil the memory of this week, your reputation, or the pleasure of those still to come.'

With a similar seriousness that failed to completely conceal their distress at leaving, the other nine repeated the gesture.

'Thank you, gentlemen. I have never before been so honoured. Now it's time to present the certificates you have well and truly earned.

Zeno handed out ten beautifully printed, named certificates stating that the bearer had earned the honourable title of Woodsman because of his insight, appreciation of, and experience in the natural environment.

While the boys were cleaning, hanging the spotlessly clean mattresses up to air, and unwillingly putting on clothes and packing bags, Jarek took Zeno into their room, heartsick that the boys were going; relieved it was over.

'I couldn't have done it without you, Zeno, he whispered, drawing his friend into a sad hug. 'It was only the knowledge that you were always there in case I fouled up that gave me the confidence to go on.'

'Thanks, although I felt useless sometimes,' Zeno said softly. 'You were magnificent, Jarek! Honestly! I had no idea what it was to be a real man until I saw the way you treated those kids.'

'You're too generous. Now of course I'm worried about the next lot. They're a different sort of lad so you'll tell me if I'm going about things the wrong way, won't you? I depend on you more than you realise.'

'Of course I will. Stop worrying, it'll be great. To change the subject, are you sure you don't mind Cador spending the weekend here?'

'Mind? I'm very, very pleased. I need to get away for a few days to unwind and was hoping you and he would act as caretakers. Do you think you could manage?'

'Zeno's relief was evident. 'We'll be fine, and thanks. I know you're only doing this because you'd feel in the way, but you wouldn't be.'

'Liar. I'd be the proverbial gooseberry. After we've left, take my ute and I'll meet you at Edgar's once I've finished talking with Stephen.

Zeno shook all the boys' hands, watched as they boarded the minibus, waved goodbye and locked up the cabins.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead