In all the vast zoo of creation - including the sloth, the slug, the platypus, the tick - I can think of no creature as homely or hapless as the human foot. My own feet look like frightful anemones or squids risen from the ocean depths. Their prehensile toes suggest that I was designed for hanging upside down. I can provoke my family to cries of disgust by dining with a knife and fork held between these grotesque, though dextrous, digits.
Sharp, stabbing pains shoot through my feet, even when I'm sitting down. I have all the major foot afflictions including hammer toe, heel spur, plantar warts and bunions. No part of the body causes more grief than the lowly foot. It makes the case difficult for the proponents of Intelligent Design.
Imagine a pair of feet with collapsed arches, ingrown toenails, corns and calluses, lined up along with all the other animals, trying to gain access to Noah's ark. Noah, if he'd had any standards, would have blown his whistle and shooed them off. Think of the agony and embarrassment he'd have spared us if our feet had washed away in the flood, become extinct and we'd evolved with claws or hooves.
It would never have occurred to me to associate the foot with sex, but in "Foot Talk," by Dr. Barry H. Block, I found a chapter on the "erotic" foot.
"The visual sensuality of the foot's contours, convolutions and toe cleavage make it an organ of erotic association," writes Dr. Block. In "The Sex Life of the Foot and Shoe," William Rossi writes: "The human foot possesses a natural sexuality whose powers have borne remarkable influence on all people of all cultures throughout all history:The shoe is no simple, protective housing for the foot, not a whimsical decoration. It serves chiefly as a sexual covering for the foot's natural erotic character. Footwear fashion is poderotic art."
Remember, this is the same item for which Odor Eaters were invented. Nothing makes me sadder than an ankle bracelet, a toe ring or the sight of some woman painting her toenails - as if a coating of garish lacquer could transform those "baked potatoes" into objects of beauty. "Cover them up," I say, "or you'll turn us into pillars of salt. Have you no sense of decency, no sense of shame?"
Dr. Block dwells on fetishes of the foot and shoe known as "equus eroticus" and makes a number of assertions about slippers and toes that are in such deplorable taste that I refuse to dwell on them. Some libertines, I've heard, actually play "footsie," a decadent kind of foreplay. To my knowledge, the Bible is silent on the practice, but if it's not a heinous perversion I don't know what is. Somewhere they cut off hands for various offenses. Should the penalty for playing footsie be any less severe? Off with their feet, I say.
But perhaps I shouldn't be so judgmental. What right do I have to mock or criticize deviants who are infatuated with feet? No doubt, I have my own shortcomings and quirks. After all, our feet are there to remind our bloated egos that that we are earthbound and made of clay. According to "Foot Talk," the feet of active people absorb the impact of 5 million pounds every day. And was it Descartes - or Liebnitz - who thought that the foot was the seat of the soul? If my heart were in the right place, I'd become an organ donor and bequeath my feet to anyone who wishes to dote on or worship them:
I was picking up my lawn mower at the fix-it shop the other day when I noticed a gentleman wearing a T-shirt with the imprint of a pair of feet and the words "Blessed Feet Ministries." Had my prayers been answered? Was there a preacher who specialized in the healing of feet? My heart leaped with hope. "Bunions, be gone," I said. "Hammer toes, get thee hence."
"Excuse me, sir," I said. "Can you tell me if the Blessed Feet Ministries actually addresses defects of the feet?" "No," he said with a smile. The ministry simply took its name from Romans 10:15: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Good News of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things." Alas, divine intervention was not available for my wretched feet.