October 28, 2022 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Pierce Sullivan | Illustration by Elizabeth White

This past block break, along with many other Colorado College students, I made the annual pilgrimage to Moab, Utah. While most people remember this iconic trip for the stellar biking and climbing, the tranquility of the desert, imbibing heartily around a campfire, or gazing at the full moon glistening above one of Moab’s many geological arches, the highlight of my trip lies elsewhere.

While tearing down United States Highway 191 southbound towards Moab, I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw my dear friend’s green Toyota Tundra, its bed practically overflowing with mountain bikes, rumbling down the left lane, closing in on me.

I barely had time to act. I turned to my right and proclaimed that someone must take the wheel. Artful navigation down the winding canyon road from my shotgun riding co-pilot, now manning the helm, allowed me to jump into action.

Seatbelt tossed to the side, belt undone, and just in time, my bare behind pressed firmly against the cold glass window of my truck.

I glanced over my shoulder to see the reaction of my friends in the other lane and to my utmost delight, I saw that he was displaying his full moon as well, glistening in the light beneath one of Moab’s many geological arches.

The absurdity of this situation is what I seek to address. With no prior communication, and without ever having done this before, both of us decided that traveling at 70 mph down a canyon road was the time to moon each other.

The events that occurred earlier that day cannot be separated from this magnificent event which took place southbound on U.S. Highway191. From a rowdy group bike ride that morning, to putting our trucks through their paces in the dirt and basking by the river, we were bubbling with stoke.

There seems to be an intrinsic relationship between this giddiness and revealing one’s derriere to a dear friend. The oddity of this, however, stems from the fact that this act, commonly known as “mooning,” began as an insult.

With origins dating back to the Fourth Crusade in 1202 A.D., mooning has historically represented the gold standard of insults. The entire Byzantine army, after defeating their Western European foes, all turned in unison, and dropped their pants, revealing their buttocks to their fleeing adversaries. In the later Middle Ages, this was expounded upon, with gargoyles, which sat atop fortifications to intimidate the enemy, presenting their bare rear ends to those below.

But when did the connotation of this formerly egregious act change so fundamentally? Neither me nor my fellow mooner sought to embody the classical motive of mooning — to strike fear into each other’s hearts — instead, I think it was something much deeper.

The literature examining the modern history of mooning and its changing connotation is lacking, however, I have noticed that mooning always occurs when “true happiness” is experienced.

The Roman philosopher, Lucius Annaeus Seneca, once stated, “true happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence on the future.” This quote perfectly embodies the modern interpretation of mooning. It is a brief, yet complete rejection of worries and care. Exposing one’s buttocks to the open air allows for a repudiation of external pressures. It allows one to give a hearty middle finger to their problems.

The correlation between biking and mooning is also worth some healthy examination. The CC Cycling teams GroupMe chat, which serves as the primary form of communication for the team, features a profile photo of a rider stylishly flying through the air off a jump and in the background, there are three full moons from fellow riders shining at the camera.

Biking, along with other outdoor, adventurous sports, carries a multitude of parallels with the contemporary motives of mooning. The attraction to mountain biking seems to stem from the childlike urge to continue to play on bicycles. Mooning, in turn, allows one to harken back to their childhood days and escape from the confines of impending adulthood.

Contemporary mooning gives one the place and freedom to briefly escape one’s qualms. It serves as a reminder that we are still children at heart and we should never take ourselves too seriously.

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