In many cultures around the world, the human body has not been an object of shame to the extent it has in our society. Many peoples, prior to exposure to "Western" values, Have simply lived naked, if their climate permitted, or wore a modicum of decoration. As missionaries covered the globe, this began to change. The message of shame and modesty is forced clothing on people who have virtually no need of it. With child-like trust they listened to the bearers of the message that equated nudity with sin. Sometimes these changes, along with changes in diet and social structure have had unfortunate results.

As the missionaries "helped" the so-called "primatives", we moderns have taken upon ourselves to condition small children who come into this world with no concern about their unclothed state to feel embarrassment or shame. From the start they are not at all self-conscious about being naked -- in fact they would usually prefer being nude if given the chance. But often they aren't allowed that freedom. They must be taught to fit in with the rest of us.

Innocence and it's loss are themes which reverberate through cultures around the world. The banishment from Eden is more than a myth. It is a reality that plays itself out every day. And the scars this process leaves are incalculable. Nevertheless there are ways to heal the wounds of guilt and shame which fester beneath the facade of propriety and self-deception. There is a way to return to the sacred grounds from which our spirits sprang in the bright yesterday which we often chose to forget since the sense of loss is too great to bear. We have to learn to honor the child within -- to become, in fact, children in spirit. Only by returning to the fertile lands of imagination and open-hearted trust can we find ways for our souls to grow beyond the calcified confines within which time and cynicism have encased them.

We must, in short, reverse the process which has brought us closer to death and left us languishing in the coldness of our own ruinous logic. For while our minds have and willl continue to serve us and show us the way through life, it is only when we allow our hearts to be partners in the process that any of this will have any meaning at all. With a new awareness of love and goodness -- the integral elements of the innocence so many of us have lost -- we can restore ourselves and give our children the kind of guidnece which might help them avoid the mistakes we've made. Entering the world with such an attitude of truthy takes courage, however -- more courage than is required, perhaps than anything else we do. Not doing so, however, is the signal to us that hope has ended and our lives have lost their meaning and purpose. We have the potential to take the step -- it's just a matter of doing it.