Tag Archives: teaching

Psychedelics, Rebirth, Love & the Destructive Art Of Teaching

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Barefoot Justine with Shiva

Barefoot Justine with Shiva


“Look to this day,
for it is life, the very breath of life.
In its brief course lie
all the realities of your existence;
the bliss of growth,
the glory of action,
the splendor of beauty.
For yesterday is only a dream,
and tomorrow is but a vision.
But today, well lived,
makes every yesterday a dream of happiness,
and every tomorrow
a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day.”
(Ancient Sanskrit)

I went to Bolen’s Bluff park today. I haven’t been out in nature much lately. For the last month I’ve had an excuse… I had an animation job that I was passionate about and had an impossible deadline… but what’s been my excuse for the past couple of years?

I guess I keep forgettin’ stuff, and I don’t mean stuff like, “I can’t find my keys,” no, I mean stuff like, “Oh, that’s right, being outside helps me maintain my center.” I mean stuff like that, BIG stuff. But there’s more to this than all that, it’s not just about forgettin’ stuff, it’s more about known’ stuff as words that make sense to you as opposed to knowin’ stuff through personal experience. For example, one of my favorite stories George Harrison tells of becoming a devotee of Hinduism was how he’d always understood, as an Irish Catholic, that he just had to have faith in God, as God isn’t going to reveal himself to you, nor is he going to perform any miracles these days. When he told the Indians this, they bobbled their heads and said, “No, you must have direct experience of God,” as, obviously, how can you truly know something until you have had direct experience of it? In other words, when it comes to God, if you haven’t sought to see God, God hasn’t revealed himself to you. Well, as of late, I’ve been having far more direct experience with mystical truth than ever before. So, here’s the silly part, nothing I say here is going to sound like a revelation to anyone, it has all, most certainly, been said before and better, the revelation is not in the words, it is in the experience. Revelations are not in the eye of the beholder, rather they are in the heart of an experience. Revelations do not come in words, knowledge comes in words, all words do with revelations is make it possible to dimly explain the surface of our deepest experiences… our revelations; or as commonly is the case, words give us the chance to announce just how grandly we have misunderstood our revelations.

Last night, “With a Little Help From My Friends,” I enjoyed a Shamanic experience. To tell the truth, it was a bit stop-n-go, not so brilliant or immersive as my other experiences, but it taught me a lot. I went to bed feeling amazing, as my friends and I had just had a spectacular night (so far as I’m concerned) of visions, music, and chocolate mint hookah shisha, but when I woke this morning, I felt anxious and depressed. Anxiety and depression are familiar states to me, like Rakshasa demons they have possessed me, clawed so deep into me that for most of my adult life I never experienced any real joy. No matter how lovely a time I should have been having, no matter how splendid the occasion, I was stuck in the belly of the whale, battling Rakshasa Demons somewhere deep in the top of my chattering tyrannical skull. These recent plant-based Shamanic experiences have not defeated my demons, oh no, that’s my work to do (“Fight the battle Arjuna”), but they have revealed to me the many weaknesses of my deomons. Yes, Krishna, I am fighting the battles, but now I have weapons, courage, knowledge and faith enough to put up a fair fight.

“Every morning
I get up
Look out the window
I get up
See the sunshine
Beating down
Every morning comes around”
(Sun Is Shining, Paul McCartney)

So what does one do when one wakes up anxious, depressed, and deeply let down? There are two paths, one is to stay in bed and nurse that bastard demon to your breast with protective dedication, or one can fight the battle. The McCartney lyrics above are a literal reality in my little cottage room in the forest. Every morning I look out over my altars into the forest and drink up the sunlight as it lights up swatches of the lush green swampy forest. In getting up, I chose to fight the battle. On this particularly rotten morning I turned my clock around so that time no longer existed, I decided to opt out of studying Hindi this morning to instead play some meditation music and pay frequent visits to my altars. Then it dawned on me what I was to do, spend the day turned on, tuned in and dropped out. No email (sure I’m doing this blog, but I don’t wanna forget all the stuff I learned today), no stressing over regrets, conflicts, or unresolved issues, and no answering potentially unpleasant phone calls. I had decided that instead of giving in to anxiety and depression, I was going to spend the day meditating towards my center rather than spending the day spinning further from it, further into the abyss. The abyss of my inner life is rather like the tarpits into which all of my most sacred knowledge has often sunk, left suffocated and unexperienced.

I went for Thai food, fish curry, prepared specially for me by the owner’s wife, and then on to Bolen’s Bluff park. I was struck within minutes by the sign at the edge of the path: “This area off limits.” Wow… I mean, talk about living in a tree museum. “WARNING!!! Do not interact with the natural world. Stay on the path. This park brought to you by Starbucks.” Hell… I had to pay to get in! I know all the pragmatic logic behind that sign, and I know why it’s there, but none of that makes it any less perverse. To think we’ve created a world where we separate ourselves from nature by never straying from the path, only going to specially designated prisons we build to house our unruly forests. Yes, mankind, we have arrived! We have finally evolved into our utopia… just don’t step on the grass… and, for that matter, don’t smoke any, either. That notion of separation, that “Stay on the path” bit is the problem, the path is the perversion, it is not the limit of our experience with nature, at least, it shouldn’t be. This realization did not make me angry, it just amused and befuddled me to wonder how we could have allowed ourselves to become so damn perverse. I mean, exactly when did man choose to plummet so headlong into such a fall from grace?

But that didn’t last for long. No sign, or power, in the ‘verse can stop me!

I wasn’t but ten minutes into the walk when I felt seven-dozen black bats leap from my chest and skull, and one by one I watched them turn to vapor as the dappled rays of sunlight hit them. And with that… I was open. All of a sudden a lot of the stuff I had forgotten was revealed to me in surround-sound and full color. I know, I know, a lot of people like to grumble about how awful Florida is, how they can’t wait to get out of here, how shitty little Gainesville is, but to hell with them. My ambition was to move to Florida! One of my life dreams was to live where there were palm trees (I have a pair of them right out my window!) and as for me, I love Gainesville, it’s the second town I chose as the place I could spend the rest of my life, and the first town that welcomed me. But what brought me to Florida was the weather, the heat (don’t give me any of that “don’t you just love this weather!” crap when it’s cold and wet… ’cause, no, sister, I definitely do not like cold and wet, I do not like cold and wet in a car I do not like cold and wet in a bar, I do not like cold and wet Sam I Am!), but mostly it was the flora and fauna. I LOVE the Spanish moss, the cypress trees, the swamps, the alligators, the armadillos… I love all of it! Then why the hell haven’t I been taking hikes in the plentiful parks? I guess I forgot.

At some point on the walk I realized this day, this grand letting go, was one more rebirth. I don’t have them all that often, it’s not like I have some sort of new-agey daily gratitude and rebirthing fetish, no, when I have a rebirth, it means something is solidly going to change. Rebirth should be a seismic shift in perception and then in approach and practice. It often means I have to work to maintain that change, it often means I backslide, but that don’t ever mean I’ve lost. I have been heavily rebirthing for about 10 years now, just one change, revelation, devastation, lesson and grand experience after another. After cancer my body was reborn, I was reborn when I was divorced, even reborn in the hell of my foreclosure. But each devastation was a birth, a rebirth. Each tragedy or shock led to another birth. I became a Hindu, I moved to Florida without any plan, landed at SAW (which brought about my rebirth as a working artist), took up residence in the Lakehouse, and the liberation of all liberations, the one that has released me from the need to keep nursing my demon’s to my breast… wait for it… these latest, grand, herbal Shamanic experiences. They have pitched me so far out of the world of ordinary experience and reality that I have had no choice but to question not only reality and my place in it, but I am rethinking how to be if not who to become. All my demons have been derailed, the slobbering pissy mass of them has begun to retreat.

Out in the woods today as I faced the sun, arms stretched out, bare feet sunk into the lovely warm sand, I realized what birth was.

If you accept the reality of this world as illusion, and manifestations of the soul through reincarnation as the reality, then our literal maternal birth is nothing more than a metaphor. I mean, how can a birth into an illusion be anything but a metaphor? We must be reborn throughout the entirety our lives. I mean, if we are lucky, we go along happily enough, until the world and our own ways and karma weigh us down, then Shiva leaps in to destroy us. He dances us into the ground, and then it is up to us whether or not we get up or stay down. It’s Shiva’s job to destroy us, it’s our job to get back up and be reborn… but he will help you if you choose to get back up… but you have to get back up. In my life Shiva has danced me to destruction and helped reestablish me in this illusion time and again, and each time, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, I have risen stronger than before. Finally, with the latest destructions I am slowly learning exactly what it means to see this “reality” as an illusion, and my attachment to it as a source of pain. I think I might just be beginning to become aware of the ultimate truth of “self.”

Listen, group, getting knocked down is easy, it’s getting back up, it’s birth and rebirth that is the ordeal. Birth is a trial, we come out all gooey, screaming, cold and naked with some weird thing hanging off our bellies… then all hell breaks loose and we have to figure our way through the maze of this grand illusion for eighty some-odd years. Yeah, birth is just that, a metaphor, not the grand arriving. Physical birth is what gives us the chance to continue our rebirths until we figure it all out and don’t have to be physically born again. So, why are we born? As a metaphor. We are born into this illusion as a metaphorical lesson. If you can survive that transition, you can survive any destruction and any rebirth.

“BILL MOYERS: What’s my ego?

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: What I want, what I believe, what I can do, what I think I love, and all that. What I regard as the aim of my life and so forth. It might be too small. It might be that which pins you down. And if it’s simply that of doing what the environment tells you to do, it certainly is pinning you down. And so the environment is your dragon, as it reflects within yourself.”

Birth is an ordeal. Rebirth is no less an ordeal. At times at SAW, over the years, I have had students who said their SAW experience was life changing. Other students never fully engage in the full potential of the experience, others outright resist and refuse what the SAW experience can be at its best. It’s silly to set about “changing lives” as a mission, but when year after year students tell us how their year with us has changed their lives, it’s hard to not at the very least be aware of the potential responsibility. I tend to assume that people need to be reborn time and again, and that part of my job as a teacher is to dance them into oblivion once in a while, then extend my hand to see who wants to get up. In the getting up, one becomes bigger. It’s up to each person how they want to react to being danced upon. It’s not my karmic cross to bear to worry about how they will choose to respond, it’s both my job and karmic duty to dance. It’s not even my job to consider whether or not a student wants their life changed (sometimes, as Campbell said, what they want is not big enough), nor is it mine to consider whether or not they trust me enough to allow me to dance upon them, then help them up. It is my job to care, but it’s not my job to get them up, only to help them if they want reborn. One must, sometimes, be destroyed by their teachers if they are to be reborn, at least metaphorically.

I have been dancing, but I am growing tired.

Let’s take the dancing metaphor and tone it down a notch… every single year I have students who are not willing to empty their cups… so sometimes, I have to spill it for them. Year after year, a student or two might get really pissy when they get wet, but every year at the beginning of the year, I warn them that the students in the first few rows will get wet.

Getting back to having personal experience of a thing rather than taking anything on faith, well, that’s crucial to a student. Year after year I ask myself… do some of them actually believe I love bitching them out, or think that I love being frustrated, or that I’m so emotionally unhinged that I just can’t help myself? No, the point I make in class is… I can show you something, tell you something, but unless you go home and do it and do it and do it, you will have no personal experience of the thing. If you are not invested enough to dig in and do the thing in all earnestness, we are all wasting our time. Each year I have to push some of them to fulfill their end of this deal, it’s not fun, it’s painful, and it’s so damn messy! I make mistakes, some can’t take it, some rise to it, some are thankful, some wake up to it later… but boy, what a trial by fire as it’s all happening. How exhausting is all that? Though the question is rhetorical, I’ll answer it for my slower readers… It’s damn freaking exhausting… that’s how exhausting that is!

I’ve now sat out on my patio in my green lawn chairs, and am overlooking the lake, and feeling very one with it all. This ego babbling into the computer is, at least for now, only doing this, and doing so without distraction. I’ve already written my way through “Rubber Soul,” and am now working my way through “Venus and Mars,” and the birds are singing along in perfect harmony, and the eagles above the buzzing bumblebees are punctuating the rhythms like a 1976 horn section.

I haven’t really been noticing my tinnitus lately, nor barely noticing my floaters, nor my rattling inner dialog, which usually runs like a badly leaking fountain. I’m just here, like all the other eagles and birds, and the quieter the better, thank you very much.

And now I can see that the sun is getting lower, the air cooler, and I really want to get back out and think about nothing again. My center, it’s nowhere near this damn machine, is it?

Sungbo & Brian

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Oh no… the Sungbo floodgates have opened!

I just remembered this story, which is actually far more about Brian than Sungbo, but for those of you who missed the first installment of the Sungbo story arc, I’ll set the stage. I had returned to South Korea for a second year of Korean food (that’s sarcasm, for those of you who haven’t had to endure the Korean obsession with their food). No, I had returned for a second year of teaching English in a private academy in Seoul, (actually, Incheon, if I remember correctly), but this time it was at a preschool, so the adventure was quite different than the previous year. This series of events must have come during the first or second week, and it centered around a birthday party. Every kid got a birthday party in the birthday party room, and our first victim was Brian, an otherwise happy and adorable child.

We sat Brian, the happy birthday boy, in the seat of honor behind the cake and gifts, a golden crown crafted of the finest cardboard perched atop his head like a coffee mug atop a cockeyed pile of books. Brian, so full of joy he just couldn’t contain his emotions–I guess–began wailing. It didn’t matter how big the pile of presents nor how perfectly crafted the flavorless Korean cake, he wasn’t having any of it. No one, not my co-teacher, not his own mother could stop the flow of tears and the siren song of his wailing.

The other children were all sitting around their paper plates full of party foods, mostly kimbop (a sort of veggie sushi roll), and small piles of orange this and bland that, enjoying the lovely party. I have to admit, I was a tad overwhelmed and spent most of the time in the back of the room wondering just what the hell kind of chaos I had gotten myself into, and seriously doubting my latest career choice. All the while the parents and teachers in the room tried to pretend that Brian’s ear splitting cries were the gentle sounds of a Carpenter’s song playing softly on the Muzak in the background.

For reasons I will never fully understand, Sungbo stood up, and with an obvious sense of purpose, walked to the center of the room, stood in front of the cake and barfed.

And that was the end of the party.

Sungbo

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When I was teaching preschool in South Korea, I had this kid named Sungbo. This is the story of how I turned him around, and my serious doubts as to whether or not I had done the right thing.

Yesterday I was watching Molly Rose. Something transpired that, over the past 24 hours, triggered me and brought back a traumatic memory that seems to have cleansed me of some bile. In the ensuing state of reflection, my mind wandered back to South Korea, to one little Korean boy.

Sungbo was big, really big for his age. I was teaching preschool in a private academy in Seoul South Korea, and I had no idea what I was doing. I had a degree in drawing, so in the eyes of the Koreans, that made me qualified to teach. It was an adventure every step of the way, not least of all, in the classroom. The first day (and day after day), big dopey Sungbo would sit and cry (hell… “cry?” he screamed his lungs out), “Mamau…. MAAAAAMAAAAAUUUU!” Fortunately my co-teacher knew how to handle this. Soon enough I realized that the crying was only the beginning, for little Sungbo. With a spiteful face, he colored all over the page, not even trying. It wasn’t that he didn’t have any capacity, he just wanted to be a little turd and scribble. It was obvious that his motive was not innocent. I think I coined the phrase “monkey coloring,” which caught on like wildfire and was soon in use in every classroom. Now, before you judge me too harshly, wait until you see how this little monkey colorer turned out.

I could have put up with all that, but what really got me was that Sungbo not only towered over the other kids, but bullied the hell out of them. He was nasty. This went on week after week after week, and nothing we did seemed to make a dent in it. If it’s one thing I cannot abide, it’s a bully. Sungbo was mean, mean spirited, and he held meanness all over his little face. In honor of his decision to not only color poorly and bully, he was also determinedly dim, so privately I dubbed him “Sungbonehead.”

Finally, saddened, tired of watching the other (sweet and innocent) kids being bullied and terrorized by this little tyrant, I picked him up and started to take him to the next room over, which was full of older kids his size or bigger. Sungbo fought like a demon! He kicked, screamed, flailed, but I kept firm hold, marched him in and set him down in the middle of the classroom, Sungbo wailing away. I then let the big boys know that Sungbo had been picking on all the littler kids and that he needed to learn what it felt like to be little, and I left.

A couple hours later I came back and took him from the room.

My co teacher told me that she didn’t agree with the way I handled that. So be it, I hadn’t agreed with the way no one had handled it at all.

From that day forward, as if that moment were a pivot point, Sungbo turned around, and he never once bullied another child! In fact, he became sweet and helpful, a lovely playmate for the others. And his monkey coloring stopped, and he began doing amazingly creative, expressive and focused coloring, and instead of looking spitefully at me as he colored, he looked at me with pride and smiled as he showed me his hard work. He became a solid student, not too bright, but he really tried and was proud of his accomplishments, and that ugly angry face he always wore became a joyous bright smile.

But I wonder still… had I done the right thing?

I remember

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I Remember
by Barefoot Justine

I remember having no talent.

I remember how, as a young college freshman, I couldn’t even understand composition. To my ignorant ears, it sounded a lot like pretentious abstract nonsense. What a fool I was, but what did I know.

I remember how as a young student I worried incessantly about whether or not I had my own “style.” Of course, I should have been working harder on fundamentals. Not only do I remember it, but I regret it. Style forms itself around the fundamentals, but never fundamentals around style.

I remember all the long nights I wasted in the basement of my best friend’s house–what a mess that person was, dead now–watching the dumbest stuff on TV. God, if I could get all those hours back. Once time is wasted, it’s never coming back. Opportunities are like that too, once wasted, gone forever.

I remember meeting P. Craig Russell and Val Mayerik and how they took me under their wings. I remember for the first time how it felt to trust mentors enough to do what they said without question, but even that was something I had to grow into. If I remember correctly, I was a trying student. But I do remember that once I caught on I worked like a devil to catch up. I remember that I knew I had not only a lot of catching up, but a lot of growing up to do.

I remember how my parents put every obstacle between me and my becoming a professional artist. I remember that I bulldozed through every obstacle they put in my place. I remember what it felt like to have such a fire burning in my belly, a fire so bright it blinded me to everything else. I shone like a demon but flew like an angel.

I remember all the work I did, all the lonely nights tracing and drawing, and working on my own comics. I remember the dark lonely hours.

I remember when it all finally started to show on the paper. I remember how I began to bleed all I had internalized in my studies through each line.

I remember how grand it was to get published, and to be a working artist.

I remember how it felt to have realized a dream out loud.

I remember how when I met Frank Thorne and he tried to convince me of Hal Foster’s mastery and genius… how I simply couldn’t see it. The work was old-fashioned, had no style, and was boring. What a fool I was. Frank had cast his pearls before swine, and the swine had been me. I have repented Frank! I have see the light! Hal Foster was, as you knew with such certainty, a God among men. I remember the fool I was, but will never forget what I have gained in wisdom.

I remember how much it hurt that the better I got and the more my work matured, the more my audience lost interest. I remember being heartbroken. I remember aching and crying.

I remember when I broke, gave up, sold my art supplies.

I remember every moment of those two years I spent in exile in South Korea, drinking my life away and illegally gigging in Itaewan bars with my guitar in my lap, a pick in my right hand and empty shots at my elbow.

I remember how I suddenly felt compelled to draw. Two years it had been, and now I could draw like I had always wanted to draw, free, loose, wild, expressive, and I filled a whole book with ballpoint pen sketches of wild-eyed characters and tumorous creatures.

I remember being diagnosed with cancer. I remember how I suddenly knew that the tumor inside me had created a sense of urgency, and how the accursed thing, like a demon, had possessed me and came out in my drawings.

I remember how when the tumor was gone I had no more desire to draw.

I remember Jeffrey Jones. I will never forget how honored I was to have been your friend.

I remember hearing that Jeff Catherine Jones had died, right as I had been trying to reconnect with her. I remember how my heartache called me back to the drawing table with a vengeance.

I remember landing at SAW and becoming revitalized as an artist and as a woman with a purpose.

I remember Dan Adkins, and how I had failed to call you in the weeks before you died. My stomach hurts as I think about it, and I shake away the urge to cry. I remember how Jim Steranko had urged me to call Dan. I did not listen, Jim, and I will never forget that.

And when my students struggle, when they fail, when they make bad decisions, when they are blind, I can see in them weaknesses I would rather not remember about myself. And when I see the ones who struggle and rise above temptations, when I see them trusting and taking the hard road, I see the best of myself, and I am proud that they help me to remember that I am that strength and wisdom as well.

It is because I remember that I ache to make them see.

One day, I hope, they will remember, and will remember me.

Drawing Is Not Seeing, It Is Feeling

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I was teaching today at SAW, considering the act of drawing, then tonight I sat down to read “The Prophet,” and I realized something about drawing that is very important.

Drawing is not about seeing, nor about training your hand to move. Drawing is about feeling, feeling the flesh of the person you are drawing, feeling the roll of a barrel with your brush, feeling the bark on the trees as you carve them out on the paper. When I draw, when I ink, my brush never touches the page, it penetrates into the space, into the depth of the image, and it feels the world I am creating into being.

The challenge of course, is how to pass that along to the student.

Barefoot Justine Is a BAD Influence

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Barefoot Justine's bare feet overlooking the backyard

Barefoot Justine’s bare feet overlooking the backyard

Oh, am I ever a bad influence. Is it good or bad that I’m not even trying to be one? So, I’ve spent the summer teaching at an art camp at the Doris (Gainesville’s community arts center), and each week a new crop of kids. Of course there are tons of questions and lots of disbelief that I don’t own shoes and live barefoot. Yes, and many times the kids are, through me, stripped of their silly inhibitions about going barefoot, and along with those, their shoes. It doesn’t take much. One week I had a crop of girls, lovely girls, so sweet, so creative… how I miss them. Adorable. What a rotten influence I was on them.

I had written about them earlier in a post about bare feet and teaching. There was a boy in the group, but the poor boy, surrounded by estrogen as he was, he didn’t stand a chance. Anyhow, I won’t repeat the story of that week, those kids, and our bare feet, look back for that entry. But that post of mine about them all going barefoot on account of me has an addendum.

Today I was talking with one of the other women at the Doris, and she said she had visited the parent’s of one of the girls I had corrupted with my wild barefoot ways. I assume it was one of the kids from my precious class, but it could have been one of the darling daughters of one of the others in the Doris clan. Anyhow, the mother had said to the kids, “OK, get your shoes on, we’re going out.” To which one of the girls said, “Uh uh, no, I want to go like Justine.”

I do wonder if she got her way or not. Hang on little girl, one day you can go barefoot all you want!

Barefoot Justine and the backyard

Barefoot Justine and the backyard

(While being vaguely off-topic, I’m gonna go ahead and post the other pic of my feet I took that kinda goes with the one above. My big nails are still a little orange from the iron oxide stain I got from wearing nail polish all the time… been letting them return to their original glory. Watch it with the nail polish girls! Gotta let those nails breathe!)

Bare Feet, Teaching, and Kids

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disney-rapunzel-tangledI’ve been teaching a lot of art classes the last couple weeks. I’ve taught a lot in general, kids, adults, in all situations, overseas, in Ohio, here in Florida, but I’ve never taught quite in this combo. This summer I have my first job teaching art to kids as “Barefoot Justine,” meaning that I’ve never had to walk into a class full of kids barefoot and teach.

2 things happen, first off, the kids want to strip off their shoes (and socks) as soon as they begin to assume that I might not stop them. Of course, I am not about to stop them. I’m not sure I want to be responsible for starting them or encouraging them down this path, not kids. Kids can be careless, can get hurt just ’cause they’re reckless. Yet, as a kid I spent most every summer barefoot, as did quite a few of us… then things changed. Here in the States the environment grew very uptight, very conservative, very Purell, and bare feet are, of course, sensual, daring, and in the minds of most people “dangerous,” and definitely not Purell. Of course all those negatives may be true if you’re not vigilant. Yet in all good conscience I can’t discourage a kid from the simple joy of being barefoot no matter what. Hell, I survived many many barefoot adventures as a kid, and I think perhaps my hesitation to encourage kids to do the same is hypocritical on many levels, and a sign that even I have been corrupted by the irrational foot-phobia of America as it is now. I guess the bottom line in my thinking is… screw this new and frightened America, go barefoot kids, have fun, get dirty, get hurt, get over it! Be free, live free, live barefoot!

One thing I know, no question in my mind, is that kids (people) don’t want to wear shoes. Kids haven’t had the joy of being barefoot beaten out of them by an irrational culture of phobic frightened adults. Given the opportunity, unlike most adults who would never consider stripping off their shoes in public, kids are free of programming… off go their little shoes.

And the other thing that happens are the questions… lots of questions. Today the questions with this group of kids were endless, penetrating, exploratory, revealing. I’ve never endured such a lengthy interrogation about my being barefoot. I realize that what most tugged at the minds of my classroom of little barefoot acolytes was that I am so hardcore. See, the first questions are, “Where are your shoes?” What shoes? I don’t own any shoes.

Usually this is followed by a few questions or satisfaction, so off go the kids, but not today. These kids interviewed me, editorialized, considered, and talked about this for nearly the first half of the class… all the while we worked on our projects. They wanted to talk about everything: what do I do about going into stores, don’t my feet get cold, and on and on. One wanted to tell me about someone in their family who hates shoes. More than once I have had a girl tell me that when she grows up she’s never wearing shoes. Well, good for her!

OK, sure, you might think being barefoot is risky… so is skiing, kayaking, biking, playing sports… get it? Ask yourself how many dangerous skull-cracking activities you participate in in your spare time? Are they more dangerous than being barefoot? I bet they are. But there is something more important than all that in there… being barefoot in public means you haven’t bought it. You haven’t bought the socialization, the Purell, the fear, the conformity, the deadening of your senses. Bare feet are rebellious, alternative, and anything but conservative, safe, or boring.

Of course I don’t push any of this one way or the other, but if they ask I will tell them, and I will tell them the truth.

So, as far the kids in my classes, go for it! Free your feet, free your minds!

The right to shoes, the right to choose, I choose barefoot.