I was thinking about feet today.
It has been a particularly nice day outside here at Cedarville University, so I decided to spend some time sitting by the lake to do some reading, praying, journaling, etc. My feet were tired of being in shoes all day, so I took my shoes and socks off and enjoyed the feeling of the grass between and around my toes.
All my feet ever feel is cotton.
Not ready to return to their cotton-obsessed dwellling, my feet opted to walk back to my dorm naked and unafraid.
There’s a subculture here at Cedarville. Those that insist on walking barefoot anytime they are outside walking anywhere. Initially I labeled them as the hippies or the environmentalists or the “somehow-I-think-I-am-better-than-you-shoed-snobs” group. Now I think they are onto something. I noticed things that I never noticed before. The feeling of grass and leaves under my feet. How cold concrete is. How uncomfortable those little rocks are that sneak under your feet and cause you to hop for a few seconds while you try to get it out from being embedded in your skin.
I read an op-ed article at the New York Times earlier this week. It quoted a doctor who has been researching long-distance running and its impact on the human body. He found that the body was built for running long distances. Its only since we added fancy cushioned shoes and artificial surfaces to run on that people have associated running with extensive injury and pain.
I can’t help but wonder if our shoe-wearing is somehow causing us to miss something.
I read somewhere once that in certain religious and cultural groups, the feet are always associated with being human and finite, so any depiction of a deity or supernatural being shows the being without feet. Feet are our connection with the ground, with earth and life and death. Feet are what make us human.
In our insistence on wearing shoes and protecting our feet with cotton and laces and leather and rubber and canvas, I can’t help but wonder if we are also masking something about our humanity. In our quest for divinity and perfection (or at least the appearance of so), we distance ourselves from dirt and mess and pain, elevating ourselves on soles of rubber while our souls of humanity and pain and confusion and uncertainty try to match that similar elevation, failing in the process.
Its kind of like we are trying to hide the very thing that makes us who we are as humans. As if colored canvas could make us somehow more like God.
It seems to me that we have this habit of forgetting that we are human, of forgetting our place in this world and thinking that somehow, we’re all there is. We prop ourselves up on soles of rubber (or power or theology or money or looking good) and in the process forget what it is and what it feels like to be human and to be part of this world in all its dirt and confusion and beauty.
Maybe Jesus came to remind us that we have feet.