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WORLD CONGRESS DISCOURSE. EL PORTUS 2006
25th FEN ANIVERSARY
By Charles Obergfell
INF-FNI Vice-president
A worldwide friendship chain – common points in naturism
Caroj amikinoj, kaj amikoj, saluton a tiu trideka kongreso de la INF-FNI!

In the three languages of the INF-FNI, I would have said: “dear friends, welcome on this thirtieth Congress of the INF-FNI!”

In a symbolic manner, regarding our international context, I started this greeting in Esperanto, that language which was invented by a Polish doctor, Dr Louis-Lazare Zamenhof who published in 1887, after 13 years of hard work, his first handbook upon this form of expression with very simplified rules, imagined to provide all the inhabitants of our planet with a universal tool for communication. Zamenhof affirmed in particular: “the human beings are equal, they are creatures belonging to the same mankind. They all have a heart, a brain, generating organs, an ideal and needs, only the language and the nationality differentiate them”. He added: “I acquired the conviction that an international language can be only a neutral one and not a language of a nation”.



 
This eminently humanistic reasoning was resumed a few years later by the followers of our movement which is also essentially founded on humanistic bases. Allow me to dwell for a few moments on this word. In a broad sense, it indicates the philosophical position affirming the higher value of the human being. The historians rather think on the intellectual movement which flowered in Europe under the Renaissance, which had taken as a starting point the heritage of the philosophers of the Antiquity and which inspires still today very largely the bases of our democracies. But actually, the ideas of the humanists of the 15th and 16th century were basically rooted in the above mentioned general standard definition. The works of these humanists are collected in very preciously preserved manuscripts and incunabula, they are generally written in Latin which was the Esperanto of their authors. One of them, a particularly brilliant Dutchman, left such a deep imprint that he became the common good of many generations in Europe until these days. I evoke, as you might understand, Erasmus, this wandering prophet of Rotterdam who spent his life preaching happiness and human freedom against the rigorous positions of the spiritual authorities of his time with divergent tendencies. He made fun about it and tried to unify the points of view, while trying to moderate the dogmatic intransigences. He particularly bequeathed us “The Praise of Folly”, an obviously ironic title because nothing radiates as much the good sense as this famous work.
 

 

 
Thereafter, humanism continued to appear under other alternatives. Non-violence is one of them, even if it is more orientated on protest than it seems. Thus, when Mahatma (the great soul) Gandhi, inspired by the largest sages of all times, mobilised the crowds with naked hands against an armed adversary to lead to a victory which was supposed to be impossible, he never ceased working actively for a world of peace and love. A similar combat was led in the United States by Martin Luther King. These two great persons paid with their life, yearning for humanity without hatred and based on the friendship between all the peoples. They consciously took the risk of the supreme sacrifice.

In the decades of the middle of the 20th century, without having to pay such a heavy tribute, other philosophers and artists cultivated this dream, creating a current of thoughts for the rapprochement between the people who found a participative echo among all the social strata of many countries. At that time, the passion for the amateur radiostations on the short wave was an example which showed a real will to transpose this idea in reality with concrete cases of success. Singers, poets, writers, even sportsmen whose list would take a too long time to enumerate now, continued to celebrate the cult of friendship among the people living freely in osmosis with nature while relativising the significance of the word "border" and for whom world fraternity had a paramount importance.

 

 
Some of them felt in an instinctive way that the rapprochement between the human beings can only be slowed down by the artifices of dissimulation developed during centuries. The acceptance of oneself, which is the first condition to accept others, needs the suppression of all the pretences invented since the remote past. Unwisely used clothing is one of them. Nudity favours largely this acceptance of oneself and others. The unveiled authentic being refuses the dissimulation and gets in a natural way towards the truth. The truth, which can be only naked, is the base of the friendship. Likewise, the relation nudity-truth is the base of the naturism to which we refer. This relation contains and reinforces all the concepts stated previously. It represents a considerable added value to all that the ancient sages bequeathed us. The nudity, lived healthily in common, which abolishes the social barriers and facilitates in an astonishing way the relationship between the generations, provides in the same time more highlight to the personality of each member who is not judged superficially as in the textile world.

I have just pronounced the term of member, which implies adhesion with an organisation. It is advisable to stop here for a moment. Nudity in the open air is the release of the conventional constraints imposed by the society, that could let think that it gets rid of any rule. There are public places where the local authorities allow the practice of nudity. These places are generally subjected to a discreet watch and by attending them often, even friendships may be formed there. But it is less current that the users of these places feel implied in a common work as in an associative group where the feeling is forged to take part in the development of a good cause. On our grounds, we are among people driven by the same ideal; one that induces a common way on a sincerely friendly background, favoured by the frankness of the bodies which favours that of the minds. Of course, not all the members can become intimate with eachother. Naturism does not remove the differences of characters, personal affinities, the life course of each one, the realising potential which varies from one person to the other, but naturists are ready to help one another in an impulse of cordial solidarity for the realisation of a common idea. A great benefit comes upon isolated individuals who are thus brought back to the collective sense, finding a great safety and an effective remedy for loneliness. Unless when someone wants it, which would then be a choice to be respected, nobody is alone in a naturist club.

To know that this state of mind reigns, apart from some details, in all the clubs of the countries where organised naturism could be established, confers to the members a feeling of wellbeing and of safety. Some of them feel very happy in their club and do not feel the need to enjoy their lifestyle elsewhere. But the spirit of curiosity of much others encourages them to approach other regions, other countries, other cultures, without giving up to live in the convivial and open environment which characterises the naturist clubs. The examples of spontaneous confidence towards the visitors declaring their membership are legion and occur everywhere in the world. A member, from the very moment he presents his card, is not unknown anymore, even on the other side of the world. To obtain his license, he signed the commitment to share our values. Except in special cases which are quickly located, he profits from a very cordial reception. Of course, not all the clubs do always instantaneously have a specialist trained for reception, but the naturist traveller will not loose the general sense and be able to remember that also in our circles differences exist between each individual.
These characteristic points are generally common worldwide in the naturist clubs and must remain so. If I rest heavily on the associative form of our movement, it is because it remains our basic structure. In fact the clubs constitute the federations on bases of voluntariate and the federations form our World Federation, also driven by the volunteers. This functioning on a background of ideal and universal fraternity is irreplaceable. We must remain faithful to this chain which we want to be humanistic in the spirit of our founders who followed the traces of the philosophers and of the most clear-sighted specialists of nature whose visionary qualities appear very clearly today. The clubs maintain the naturist education which influences strongly the personality of the members, as much in their daily life as in the other centres and naturist places.

These other places have the great merit to exist and we need them because the clubs alone cannot fulfill the request of the many holidaymakers which are not all prepared for the community life. That does not facilitate the wished osmosis. The individualism, maintained by the modern technical means, can create loneliness and anonymity which are not precisely, as we saw, in the spirit of naturism. It is therefore important that the federations remain perfectly informed and vigilant about these places to guide and advise the holidaymakers. Works are currently carried out in this direction and it is preferable that they will be successful. Without being an absolute rule, it can nevertheless be observed that the commercial holiday centres which are run by naturists who are impregnated of the values stated here and with at most a medium dimension are the best to offer the friendly reception and the quality for a cordial stay which is usually to be found in associative environments.

Should it then be thought that it is sufficient to be a member of one of our federations to live in a heavenly friendship sphere, turned away from the rest of the world? It would obviously be naive to think that! We belong to the human kind, some hundred thousand generations preceded us and conflicts were always a component of humanity. Great progresses were made in this awareness, but that has in no way eradicated the problem. The great humanists never failed to point out to us that our state of imperfection is its major source. But educated by the teachings of the Antiquity sages, they continued to guide us how to assume the conflicts in all clearness in order to grow a little each time after leaving one. They made us especially feel that nothing is ever completely true or completely wrong. The naturists, convinced that they do not hold the absolute truth, will make the gift of their reciprocal concession in each difficult circumstance.

We are the representatives of this worldwide friendship chain. We are together only during the four days of this Congress, but this bond should in no case be limited to this short time fraction. It is our duty, wherever we are, to make the conditions available that allow our ideal to perpetuate itself through the future generations to which we intend to bequeath the better world imagined by our founders. We have to diffuse this message and to make it understandable.

If we perhaps will do it once in Esperanto, it would be in the spirit of its inventor and of the currently restricted number of its users who are in harmony with us. So, for now, I will pronounce forcefully in our conventional languages:

 
"long life to naturism, the finest of all human relations,
long life to the INF-FNI, the worldwide friendship chain par excellence!"
Charles Obergfell
INF-FNI Vice-president
September 2006
 

 

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