The feet of plantigrade mammals like us are remarkable things. Highly specialized for perambulation. I have elegant 62-year old feet, so I am told by mine own eyes, which behold their glory. Wherever possible, I take my shoes off. And my socks, a habit that infuriated my mother and now endears me to SWMBO. Socks are lost in and under couches and chairs, retrieved some time later covered in dog hairs. (All my socks are black, so finding a matching pair doesn’t matter.) Footwear is, on the whole, bad for feet, since though it is true that feet are made for walking, they were not made for being cooped up. Ideally, I would celebrate the sacraments in bare feet so as to be touching holy ground.
In the Middle East, as in many other places, it’s insulting to show people the soles of your feet. You have to be careful how you sit, especially when you cross your legs. When pious Jews in days of old visited a non-Jewish cities, they shook the (non Jewish) dust off their feet when they left, presumably so as not to be contaminated. ‘Shake the dust off your feet’ is the instruction Jesus gives his men in today’s Gospel. Don’t waste time with people and places that don’t welcome you—quite a statement in those days, an insult almost. The message, roughly translated, is don’t flog a dead horse. Know when to cut your losses and give them the old heave-ho as Bertie Wooster probably said.
All very well in theory, but it can be hard to do. Often, we don’t want to admit defeat, especially when we’re younger. We want to ‘win’, to impose our wills on people or things. Think how much time is wasted by organizations—especially but not exclusively churches—that try again and again to do the same things over and over again, hoping that next time things will be better. Sheer lunacy. Einsteinian insanity.
As I get older, I find it much easier to shrug my shoulders, say ‘OK, if that’s the way you want it, bye bye’, or words to that effect, and expend my energy more productively. Apparently, with gospel approval.