Polar Bear Run: get naked, shed inhibitions

By Andrew Mintz

If Sherlock Holmes had been here these past few weeks, he would surely have proclaimed to his sidekick Watson, “You know trusty sidekick, I do think we are on to something!” Watson, not perceptive enough to realize what the great detective meant, would have surely asked, “What?” I am no Watson. For that matter, I am not quite a Holmes. I am a student here at the good ole U of C, but I say to you anyway, “We are on to something.”

Ah, the joys of being an undergrad here. There is the cold weather, the midterms, (the two rounds of tests/papers each quarter that clearly do not believe in acting as their names would suggest), the weirdoes who think they are cool, the freaks, the geeks, and all the rest that fall somewhere in between. But despite the depression that should seem imminent, each of us has something here that alleviates the masochistic pain we feel — we each have our own individual outlet. For some its drugs, for a very rare few it’s sex, for most it’s claiming they do one or the other. But, as an entire student body, we do have something that we can all proudly call our own. We have the Polar Bear Run.

This event is truly in the realm of the extraordinary. The idea of running naked outside in the snow, wind, and ice should not seem appealing to anyone, but it is. Everyone likes it whether they will admit it or not. There is something about this naked run that strikes us deep down in our cores. The feeling we get is almost inexplicable, but it trumps the harsh obstacles that would normally prevent us from indulging in our pleasure. To express these feelings would be impossible, so I can only give a rough estimation of them. First there is the “Hey, that’s cool,” reaction when the event is first explained. Then there is nervousness and anticipation as the day draws close. These last two sensations increase while waiting to see all those breathtaking students in their respective birthday suits. Next there is the excitement that builds as the runners take their marks, as they get set, and then reaches a peak as they go. Finally, there is the sense of overwhelming glee as they run past. I would even go so far as calling it a form of ecstasy that one feels when freedom from the social norm is not only touched but is completely grasped in one’s hand. Unfortunately, there are people on this campus who will deny these sensations because to accept them would not be cool. Obviously, they think its cool to not be like the rest of us who revel in the nakedness that we witness. Either way, they don’t really count.

But the rest of us do. For those of us who did get that hair-raising chill travel down their spines as the runners flopped on by, they know that there is something else. The Polar Bear Run was only scratching the surface for us. Think of a lining of wallpaper in an old house. All that we know is the wallpaper we see on a daily basis. We are used to the world we interact with on a daily basis. But the Polar Bear Run is like the little asshole kid who rips a gaping hole in that wallpaper. While we are yelling and bitching him out, we all of a sudden realize that there is something beautiful underneath. You see, the wallpaper that we were used to was nothing compared to this beautiful wallpaper that has been revealed from underneath. The top layer was an off-white tint that had the power to take away our ability to see. Below is a stunning red that restores our lost vision. This naked run has scratched the surface, but what it has revealed is quite confusing.

I propose that it has shown us something that we all truly desire: to be naked. Admit it man, you have always thought it’s kind of weird that we are always wearing clothes. And you, over there, I bet you want to be naked! Alas, we are not. That off-white paint has jaded and conformed us so. We now fail to recognize the possibility of the flaws in it. Why are we clothed? What are we so embarrassed about? Simply, it is just another vast capitalist ploy to keep us in place, comrades! Seriously, if we were all naked, we would have our priorities straight. I guarantee neither money nor knocking the competitor out of business would not be on the top of our “to do” lists. It’s just an idea, but damn, it really is interesting.

So, what’s the point of all this rambling? I know that none of us are going to start living our entire lives naked: it’s just too damn cold here, for one thing. But I don’t really believe that anyone alive has the ability to separate his or herself from the constructed world that we are forced into. Instead of asking for the impractical, let’s have some fun with our newfound desire. Once upon a time there was a little thing called the Lascivious Ball. From what I understand, it was the Polar Bear Run to the 10th degree — naked people galore, not only running, but walking and dancing as well. No surprise it happened here: we always seem to be on the verge of finding that “something else.” Well, let’s bring it back, either true to the history, or in some slight variation. Why not? It won’t cause any harm, it’s all in good fun, and it’s just another release to take the minds off the tedium of life here. It’s also a really good lesson for us all. To be comfortable not only with one’s own body, but with others’ as well, would be to move eons ahead socially. Once we realize that on the outside our differences aren’t all that great or interesting, we can train our brains to ignore our fascination with external features. This fascination creates not only our desire to feel physical attraction, but to focus solely on physical attractiveness. In the same way, it creates our compulsion to notice the color of someone’s skin. Lacking the mind paralysis that forces us to see body instead of mind will allow us to immediately appreciate the good shit, the stuff that’s underneath all that skin. And in the end, isn’t it the underneath stuff that creates true attraction anyway? If you ask me, the quicker we get rid of this physical beauty hang-up, the better. This whole idea now seems more like calisthenics for the mind than anything else. Man, everything at this place digresses into a damned learning experience.

Still not convinced that it’s worthy of some serious thought? How’s this for impetus: I hear that Watson has this HUGE naked thing. He wants to come too.