It is said there are shoes to fit every foot and great teachers only appear when we are ready to learn. Think about it. If you look back at those who’ve taught you the good stuff, the things that have changed your course for the better, you already know what I say to be true. Four teachers challenged me this week to heat up the forge and pour myself out in 750 words. Period. No more, no less. Famous as shape-shifters, these, my most recent flight instructors chose to incarnate as two black and two brown.
In keeping with my anal retentive tendencies, the shoes I wear the most are lined up under our highboy dresser like airplanes in a hangar. [Reference: https://dan4kent.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/handles/] My black dress shoes are in first position. Next to them, my beloved brown Cole-Haans, though there is some debate as to their skin tone. When I pull out the Kiwi polish, the tin proclaims ‘cordovan’. What’s a cordovan? Sounds like something a camel might carry along an ancient spice route. Being a simple man, I settle for ‘brown’…OK, being a simple gay man, ‘brown with a burgundy tint’. [That little display of too much information is going to cost me in my word count. No matter]. Next to the browns are the canvas deck shoes with my black leather Roxbury tenny-runners filling out the rank. Sandals, outliers by definition, do not have a place in the hangar. They’re just fine being outside.
The other morning and before the Sun, I’m dressing for another long day. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I mindlessly went through the motions of reaching for my footgear, putting each on, left foot first, then the right. Being an over achiever, I’ve had this one down for decades. But this morning as I’m donning my right, the rote action is interrupted with the brief thought, “Why are the laces so much shorter?” ‘Come on Dan, let it go. You’re burning daylight. Chop, chop. Places to go, people to see, things to do.’
On my way to the kitchen as my last stop before taking off out-the-door, I’m still hearing a quizzical conversation beneath and behind the normal routine already in motion. “No. Left is on left. Right’s on right. Laces tied.” But despite passing the pre-flight checklist several times, the voice of my soles refused to go quietly.
Flipping on the light to pack my snacks, lunch and trusty water bottle into the canvas brief case I carry as my knap sack, I look down, rub my eyes and pull back hard on the stick, putting myself into a hard U-turn back over to the bedroom. You, my ever so brighter-than-I reader, already know what’s afoot. Left was black and Right was brown.
While grateful for a lack of witnesses, there was one and it was me. “Really?”
Back on bed-edge position, it hit me. Yes, I’ve been doing this shoe-putting-on thing for years. Yes, it was dark and yes, I am sleep deprived and, but there are still lessons to be learned inside what I think I already know. Like any habit, the longer we wear our shoes, the more our footwear become finger prints, uniquely formed to the foot that fills them.
Yes, you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes and the change-in-perspective will show you things, but this is different. The intimate match of contour between foot and shoe has taught us each shoe is working when it matches the natural slant of our foot — big toe on the inside out to the smallest digit on the outside flank. There’s a reason Left goes on left and Right on right.
In this, logic and statistics join Darwin, old wives and their tales in implanting the axiom of ‘trial and error’ deep in our social conversation. After all, scientific method depends on it.
Or does it?
I am officially taking exception to the adage and filing a formal complaint with the Old Wives Tale Commission (OWTC) as well as the Darwinian High Council (DHC) regarding the word ‘error’. I am proposing the commonly held truth be amended to read: ‘trial and new data which will be applied at the next opportunity’. Granted, it’s not nearly as catchy rolling off the tongue, but it does make my point.
Sometimes, the message we need to hear inside isn’t logic or the frenzied sales pitch we sell ourselves to rationalize one thing or another. There are times when other people make your life a very noisy place, telling you what’s right and what’s wrong. And what are you left with? I would propose we trust our Soles. Because sometimes what we need to hear the most is already there; an organic sense down to the bottoms of our feet telling us something isn’t quite right.
So I’m all for it. Try new things. Explore. It’s what we Humans do. We’ve been doing it since the morning we stood up as an upright species. And then, we adapted and applied the new information even if it was only new to us. Early cave dwellers didn’t learn about fire from a newsletter. And sure, a few villages were torched along the learning curve, but they figured it out. So will you and me.
Think about it this way. What part of our body is furthest away from the earth underneath us? You are correct. It’s the brain. And depending on what’s going on, our thoughts and emotions can lie. They are trained to be oh so slick. If you have doubts, watch a three-year old work their grandpa. Next question. What part of our anatomy is closest to earth? You are correct, again. It’s our feet. And what’s between our feet and the earth? That’s right. Our Soles. It is the first point of contact with where we came from and where, one day, we will return.
Facing big challenges or heavy burdens this week? Ain’t no big deal. Follow Jed Clampet’s advice. “Take your shoes off. Sit a spell…” and listen. Answer the questions your feet are asking you honestly and you’ll soon be cleared for take-off. With a new appreciation for your Heart as the Left and your Sole as the Right, you are now free to move about the country.
PASSAGES and other value-add departments will return next week. The teachers have spoken.
1056 words and I’m not going to edit down. I got their point. So it is written, so it shall be up in the wide blue yonder.
Banner Coastal Redwood Forest by Eric E Photography is used with permission.
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