Yesterday was a great day for me. Even though I was sleep-deprived, I woke up early and did Tai Chi- I try and make it a habit to do every morning when I wake up. Just on a brief tangeant, I’ve learned about 74 of the 108 moves, so I’m really excited that the end is in sight. I’m really looking forward to practicing with my friend Jess, who learned the system on which my form is based on.
Anyway, reading Love as a Way of Life on the train, I got thinking about the nature of kindness and the joy it brings. I admit, I’ve been so obsessed with straightening out my own life I’ve forgotten how happy it makes me to go out of my way to help someone. I’d like to find more of a balance between giving freely to others and looking after myself.
I got to work and had lots of fun shredding enormous piles of paper and lighting incense. Massages were given, coffee was made, everything was really awesome. Soon after there was a mild crisis where someone came in sobbing hysterically, and the pessimism of one of my workers was really draining of the energy of the morning. But I went shopping for medical supplies (yay! I can’t believe how exciting it is to have a company card to buy whatever you deem necessary for the company) and went out for a two hour lunch at Annalakshmi with my co-worker Rachel, whose lifestyle and attitudes continue to inspire me. It was probably a little longer than necessary, especially since it was a paid break, but Thursdays are supposed to be recreational days for the young people. It’s just none of them came. It was really awesome that I work in a place that lets you do that.
When I went home I decided that I’d not trouble Mum by calling and just walk the 25 minutes to my house. But I had this really strong, really weird impulse to do it barefoot. So when I got to the train station, I put my shoes in my bag (probably a bad idea- my bag smelt like feet for a while) and just hit the road.
When I was a kid I used to ignore shoes. They were a waste of time- you had to bend over to put one on and then the other. And don’t even get me started on these “laces”- the shoe stayed on fine if you just slipped it on and off. Thongs were convenient but they were too flimsy to really help, unless you were riding your bike or climbing the chains on the playground. The rest of the time, barefoot was the way. More grip, you could feel the sand and the grass better, you could run faster. Sure your feet got dirty and your Mum made you wash your feet before you stepped inside the house, or you’d have to stand on an old towel and shuffle to the bathroom for a shower, but it was totally worth getting a healthy caking of dirt and water for a few hours.
Those days are long past. Everyone covers their feet now. We were rubber and leather and other shoe-related materials to prevent us from having contact with the ground. Our feet grow soft, and a little smelly, because we don’t want to touch the floor with our skin. And admittedly there’s good reason for that- cuts, disease, dirt in general. But I think by cutting off that part of ourselves we’ve lost something important. So, in resolute defiance of society, I walked home in my jeans without shoes. It was so fresh, so relieving. Sure the bitumen was a little painful at first, but only for a little while as my feet got used to the sensation. Sure I had to jump over a large pile of horse scat (how on earth did it get there, and why yesterday of all days?), but I would have done it anyway with shoes on. Sure I had to walk in mud, but that was kind of refreshing, and it came off just by the process of more walking.
I’m not suggesting everyone stops wearing shoes. But I think we’re losing a lot by covering our feet in artificial casings. Just watch Avatar and see the look on Jake’s face when he starts to run and stops to feel the soil of Pandora. Maybe, just once in a while, we can take off our shoes and remember that we are a part of this earth as much as any creature, even if we cover it with road and pavement and floorboards. It’s kind of fun! You know, just for kicks.