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Book Excerpt - The Blind Man's Elephant

Three Creations Of Life: A Bridge To Understanding, The Blind Man’s Elephant

Bare feet are wonderful things. And when school was out for the summer, my fifth grade feet never saw the inside of my cowhide insulators [aka shoes] until the first day of the new school year. Well, not at least without a lot of complaining to my parents anyway. Every tract house in our neighborhood had wonderful manicured, dark green lawns perfectly suited for running on with bare feet when the adults weren’t watching. Sometimes my parents would walk the neighborhood in the evening, usually two or three blocks over, checking out the competition, looking for ideas to make our front yard nicer. The competition was friendly, but fierce for the unofficial title of best lawn on the block. Nary a weed lasted more than a day with my weekly twenty-five cent allowance on the line. Such was the summer of ‘57 in suburbia.

Grass was especially great for bare feet in the summer. You could tell what kind of grass our neighbor’s had for a lawn just by walking on it barefooted. Dichondra, St. Augustine, Kentucky Bluegrass, it all felt different. The Kentucky Bluegrass always came up green though and it even felt green on my bare feet. It’s still a mystery although the folks at Boise State may have finally figured it out.

You knew when a lawn had been freshly mowed by waking on it barefooted, provided the hint of new mown grass didn’t give it away first especially when the early morning Sun was drying up the dew. St. Augustine grass was rough and tickly to walk on while Dichondra, which really isn’t a grass, felt really cool, but thin on bare feet tender still the first week in July. Kentucky Bluegrass felt like, well, grass.

Grass was an excellent organic cleaning agent for bare feet that had stepped in Fido’s Finest Canine Lawn Fertilizer. You knew instantly it was Fido’s Finest and not an imitation, mud. With shoes insulating you against nature, it could take minutes to make the unpleasant discovery. By that time, I could have tromped it half way across mom’s newly Simonized Vista One Step Cleaner/Wax’d linoleum kitchen floor. It was bad enough if even one clean barefooted toe touched mom’s shiny linoleum before it was dry much less stenciling aromatic patterns of you know what across it.

Bare feet also helped a young boy discover the world he lived in. It didn’t take long on a hot summer day, probably by 10 am at the latest, to experience the difference that black asphalt driveways were much hotter than white sidewalks or Dichondra. I even cooked an egg, sunny-side up, on our driveway once just to see that it was hot enough to cook an egg like the radio disc jockey said. None of the kids in the neighborhood would dare eat the egg even though I took care to find a relatively clean patch of asphalt. When I learned in school about heat radiation and absorption, I had my bare feet, and the egg, to thank.

On a different level, my bare feet, compared to wearing shoes, gave me a connection to the world not unlike going from black and white television to color. Our bare feet connect us to the dirt, the earth from which our bodies were formed. Maybe it’s not an accident that nerve endings for our body parts are found in our feet. It’s as if bare feet interfacing with the dirt enlivens those nerves some special way. It’s a shame that some city people’s bare feet never touch the earth even once for months at a time.

I think this disconnect affects us too in other ways that we perhaps aren’t cognizant of in our daily routines. It’s as if technology has placed a barrier between life and our souls, our spiritual roots. I think everyone should walk barefooted on the dirt and grass an entire day at least once a month just to keep life in perspective given our air conditioned, wall-to-wall carpeted digital world of computers, music devices* and game consoles.

The world feels different when you walk barefooted. Even dangling my bare feet in the water during summer camp at the edge of the lake’s dock provided me an experience with the earth and creation that felt much different from swimming or running through sprinklers on a hot afternoon. It was more contemplative, even spiritual, although I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time. There was a connection with my feet in the water between creation and me.

It set me to thinking. First just about little things, like were we going to have bar-be-qued hamburgers for dinner tonight. Then, I would wonder about what my friends Walt and Jim Bob were doing. Eventually, it got me to thinking and asking questions about why water is so important to life. It seemed so ordinary. It was hard to believe more than 70 percent of my body was water because I didn’t feel I was mostly water or mostly ordinary. Besides weren’t we formed from the dust, the dry dirt of the earth? If I was 70 percent water, how much of me was dirt? I didn’t feel much like dirt either, but what ten year-old boy does?

The only dirt my mom was obsessively concerned about was on the outside of me and I had to wash that off with water! To protect myself, at times, I would run the shower but not actually get in it. My note to moms of the world: we boys figure we’ve got enough water on the inside, so what’s a little dirt on the outside? We played hard to get it, and we’d just as soon keep it there, at least until we jump into our neighbor’s swimming pool!

Dirt and water. The Biblical record says we are made from the dry dirt of the earth and my science teachers said we are mostly water. I didn’t realize the seeds of controversy concerning our origins were this basic. Even as a kid this got me to thinking that I had stumbled upon another one of those Sunday school “mysteries” the nuns talked about. I didn’t know what to believe because when I got cut, I got blood not water. When I blew my nose, well it wasn’t dust coming out of there. I mean how would it read that God formed man of the boogers of the earth!? Of course, this would have cleared up many childhood mysteries in my neighborhood.

As I got older, I realized there was a lot of discussion about lots of mysteries just like the water and dirt but the words were different ... creation and evolution. People seemed pretty much settled on the dirt and water thing. The great debate was how we got the dirt and water to start with. Some folks said God created them. Others said the dirt and water evolved into people. It seems to me that if dirt and water get along just fine in our bodies without turning to mud [another mystery], then creation and evolution should get along just fine without creating another mystery.

So, I decided to take off my shoes and walk around on this subject barefooted for a while. Creation and evolution felt differently barefooted just like those grassy lawns. I realized the answer was a lot like my childhood. Being barefooted did connect you to life in a different way. And just like life, creation and evolution don’t get you into trouble as long as you don’t step in Fido’s Finest and track it onto someone’s newly waxed kitchen floor.

*Originally MP3 players.

The above is excerpted from chapter one, Three Creations Of Life: A Bridge To Understanding, The Blind Man’s Elephant. The complete chapter is found in the PDF on the bottom of the Home page.

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