I have mentioned before that I am slowly (very slowly) working on getting a second degree in photography. The class that I am in this semester is all about studio lighting. As the end of the semester approaches we are beginning to work on our final projects. I decided that I wanted to do something for Unshoes… I wanted to photograph something to illustrate the concept of minimal footwear. As it turns out, it is much easier said than done! I have been thinking quite a bit about society and how/why we all got conditioned to think that we need over protective footwear. I have come to the conclusion that although our feet don’t really need shoes, our minds do.
Keep in mind that when I say “our minds” I am referring to society as a whole. So how does wearing shoes affect the psychological state of our minds? (I should write a disclaimer here that I do not profess to have any authority on psychological matters… what I write here is my own opinion which has been derived from my own experience and thoughts.) I recently read a comment thread about barefoot running where a debate ensued about evolution vs. creation. The person arguing for a barefoot running was saying that evolution has given our feet the capability to run and that is what they are built to do. The person arguing against barefoot running professed that he/she does not believe in evolution and thus could not be convinced. I don’t understand what difference it makes if you believe in evolution or creation or both! Either way it makes sense that our feet are built to walk and run. That is their purpose. No matter how complicated people try to make things, it really is as simple as that.
Despite the logic that feet are for walking, people still feel like they are helpless and weak. That, I believe, is where the root of the problem is. When it all boils down, we as a society do not have confidence in our own physical bodies. We perceive our feet as being weak and helpless unless covered, padded and protected with layers and layers of rigid material. This is where the need comes in. If someone who is used to shoes removes them, they are forced to come face-to-face with the fact that they think they are weak. Nobody wants to admit that they think they are weak. So in order to avoid thinking about it, we just keep on wearing shoes. The easy solution is just to keep the problem buried and continue to buy into the idea that the more technology we throw at our bodies the better we are.
Here are some more examples: The tendency to go straight to drugs to mask our pain rather than trying to address the actual problem. What about fad diets? People are trying to lose weight and get “in shape” without really having to do real exercise and without eating a balanced, nutritious diet. Mothers are convinced that it is impossible to give birth without an epidural. I’ll bet you can think of more.
Of course there are times when we need protection and help. I don’t want to condemn anyone who really needs drugs, shoes or a special diet… every situation is different. My intention is NOT to convince everyone that all modern conveniences are bad but rather to encourage people to think critically about what we really need. I want people to realize that they are stronger than they might think they are. The human body is one of the greatest pieces of engineering. I think that Leonardo Da Vinci summed it up when he wrote, “Human subtlety…will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature, because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.”