My Feet

" And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.
- Kahlil Gibran

Till a few years ago, my most favored way of expressing derision used to be, "My Foot." And I never really thought about this till I read a lecture by Rabindranath Tagore which contained these passages -

"Naturally the soles of our feet are so made that they become the best instruments for us to stand upon the earth and to walk with. From the day we commenced to wear shoes we minimized the purpose of our feet. With the lessening of their responsibility they have lost their dignity, and now they lend themselves to be pampered with socks, slippers and shoes of all prices and shapes and misproportions. For us it amounts to a grievance against God for not giving us hooves instead of beautifully sensitive soles. 

I am not for banishing footgear altogether from men’s use. But I have no hesitation in asserting that the soles of children’s feet should not be deprived of their education, provided for them by nature, free of cost. Of all the limbs we have they are the best adapted for intimately knowing the earth by their touch. For the earth has her subtle modulations of contour which she only offers for the kiss of her true lovers—the feet. 

I have again to confess that I was brought up in a respectable household, and my feet from childhood have been carefully saved from all naked contact with the dust. When I try to emulate my boys in walking barefoot, I painfully realize what thickness of ignorance about the earth I carry under my feet. I invariably choose the thorns to tread upon in such a manner as to make the thorns exult. My feet have not the instinct to follow the lines of least resistance. For even the flattest of earth-surface, has its dimples of diminutive hills and dales only discernible by educated feet. 

I have often wondered at the unreasonable zigzag of footpaths across perfectly plain fields. It becomes all the more perplexing when you consider that a footpath is not made by the caprice of one individual. Unless most of the walkers possessed exactly the same eccentricity such obviously inconvenient passages could not have been made. But the real cause lies in the subtle suggestions coming from the earth to which our feet unconsciously respond. Those for whom such communications have not been cut off. can adjust the muscles of their feet with great rapidity at the least indication. Therefore, they can save themselves from the intrusion of thorns, even while treading upon them, and walk barefooted on a gravelly path without the least discomfort. 

I know that in the practical world shoes will be worn, roads will be metalled, cars will be used, but during their period of education, should children not be given to know that the world is not all drawing-room, that there is such a thing as nature to which their limbs are made beautifully to respond? 

Ironic. How even a simple phrase of contempt is so laden with conditioning. And how far one must go to get rid of this..this cage.

On a very different note, here is how a barefoot runner thinks of his feet.

Even Leonardo Da Vinci said, "The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art". But I am not sure that he meant what Tagore did.

Pic Courtesy:


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