“Best of…” 2009-a

J. P. W.

Subject: Tongue tied and walking without shame — Part I

Dec, 2009


After I did a TV spot I realized I couldn’t quietly go barefoot without getting some attention. I was getting asked about it and was starting to attract both positive and negative attention for it. I felt I would either have to don shoes or own the bare feet thing. I knew there was no way I was going to break the barefoot habit so I took ownership.

By that I mean that I wasn’t going to let myself feel sheepish or ashamed about it anymore. I had a bad habit of that and I couldn’t allow it anymore. I thought to myself this is what I enjoy and there is nothing wrong with it. In fact, I feel happier and healthier for it. When I was younger, I used to go into businesses with this sort of “I am doing something wrong” notion in my head. Not surprisingly, I got into trouble more often then. Now I walk with confidence and go barefoot around 99% of the time and I haven’t been kicked out of anywhere in a year or so.

When it comes to dealing with society, I just think of it as a public service. I am okay with the fact I am confronting people with something new and different. I think it helps people to grow when they see someone behaving entirely different. It is a wee little challenge to the default world all around us. I am a firm believer that pluralism makes us a stronger and richer society.

I make a point to be open and positive about the inevitable encounters. There is no way any of us can expect to go out in today’s modern society in bare feet without attracting attention. That is just the way it is. I caution against the notion that everyone who confronts us is doing so with a negative opinion. I have found it not to be the case and there is no doubt if you go out there expecting hostility, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Besides, going out with a negative outlook makes you an unhappy person and being barefoot is fun. Perhaps Rule No. 1 should be….

1. Be happy. Go barefoot!

I have to say to those of us who walk without shame, you should be proud of yourself. It takes some major cajones and personal strength to defy social mores in such a way. Especially if you are about in a big city in bare feet in front of hundreds of people. I always remind myself of this after something ugly happens. I have made some strides in not escalating confrontations with shoe police. I always strive to be the bigger person… leave the shod grouch with all that anger and pettiness but never accept his idea that you are doing something wrong.

I have to say walking without shame has made things better for me. I think most people think of me as quirky and eccentric in a fun way rather than a weirdo. I am fine with that. I enjoy being a bit more colorful than your average person. I am an artist after all so some quirkiness is expected. I think if you can walk without shame or hostility out into the shod world, you’ll get farther and be happier.


Re: Tongue tied and walking without shame — Part II

Dec, 2009


[Another SBL member responded to the post above: “I believe that everyone has the right to defend themselves from abuse, and I certainly do not see doing so as a manifestation of being angry at the world. Nor do I believe that the act of objecting to the abusive behavior of others is being angry at the world either.  We are going to have to agree to disagree on this one.”]

[J. P. W.’s reply:]

I don’t know if we disagree so much. My post was more about adopting an open attitude rather than a militant one when venturing forth. I don’t advocate a Messianic pose when confronted and abused though I strongly suggest not sinking to the level of those who assault us.

Personally, I have never been abused physically and I certainly would not tolerate it if it were to happen. Sure, comments happen and I haven’t the time or desire to address them all. “What is it to you?” I might say but mostly, I don’t bother for the obvious reason that it is a complete waste of my time to worry about such nonsense. Nor do I engage in any sort of Quixotic fight with any business or institution that gives me grief about my feet. I just don’t go there again.

What I don’t share is a inherently pessimistic view that everybody that I meet hates my being barefoot because they don’t. I don’t believe kids are inherently worse now than before because they are not. Every elder generation has some curmudgeons that say that about the next and they are ALL WRONG. Sorry. Kids grow up dealing with the world as it presents itself as best they can. They are not suddenly genetically endowed with some sort of defect that makes them ruder and cruder than the last. They do, however, look at the world differently… and they should.

The world is a complicated evolution and not everything goes our way or even for the good. I have been greatly saddened by the rise of misinformation and overt propaganda in my once great democratic nation. Still, I really don’t think the issue of bare feet is going to change that much. Shoes are inherently uncomfortable for everyone. That will never change.

Personally, I see positive change in the horizon about the issue. The age of indulgence in useless crap is coming to a close. People will again question the value of things… even shoes.

J. P. W.