I'm a boots girl. Always have been and I'm pretty certain, always will be. There's something about a nice pair of sturdy soled moto kicks that pair equally well with worn in blues as they do with a silk maxi dress that I just can't resist.
That said, as I travel this journey inward and onward, it has come to my attention that a love of SOLE does not have to mean a lack of SOUL. And by that, I mean: it is okay to love and appreciate the many treasures of our indubitably corporeal realm, to lust after the latest fashionable trend, to set aside a fund strictly meant for sandals and stilettos... The problem appears when one's love of STUFF becomes greater than one's love of SELF.
We see it all the flippin' time: in ourselves (I know when I need to check myself when I catch myself spending too much time on shopbop and not enough time on my yoga mat); in others (that neighbor who receives multiple visits from the UPS man weekly. Can you say online shopping addiction??); in the world around us (self-proclaimed spiritual "guides" posting selfies of themselves in the act of mass material consumption (I won't name names, but feel free to go ahead and take a wild guess).
The constant and all too cacophonous message being: If you wear this, you'll look cool. If you own this, you'll be happier. If you travel here, you'll experience Nirvana. And so on and so on and so on.
Let me reiterate: in no way am I saying that stuff (having it, buying it, owning it) is BAD. It's not. In fact, it's both necessary and enjoyable.
What I am saying is that there is a MIDDLE WAY; a way we have seemingly forgotten or, for some, unapologetically opted not to travel. It's the path that appreciates fashion as art, but does not insist we create an identity based off of that art. It's the path wherein one recognizes that if they never owned a designer bag in their life, that their WORTH AS A HUMAN would remain in tact. It's the path where you save up and buy those booties you've been lusting after, but on the same day, donate your old ones to someone in need.
It's the path of GIVING, not merely GETTING. It's the path whereupon consumerism intersects with humanity; it's the path of (need I say it?) being a SPIRITUAL GIRL IN A MATERIAL WORLD.
Shopping is fun and wearing the fruits of your hunt is even more fun. But take heed: no amount of STUFF is going to fill that aching void that exists within us all. Because it's a void that can only be filled with the energy of service, of offering, of GIVING.
Toms does this. As does the company Sketchers with their BOBS line (talk about imitation! but hey, it's for a good cause, right?) and many others are following. And while that's a beautiful thing and a sure sign that our collective consciousness may be on the path to saving ourselves from utter implosion, it still has little to do with how we each, individually choose to fill our selves up.
The idea of soulful giving, rather than SOLEly consuming, continues to appear and reappear in my world. A few examples?
Check out Carly Bornstein, an old childhood acquaintance of mine, and the honorable work she has done for Sole4Souls, a charity that donates shoes to those in need. It is, indeed, somethin' wonderful. For her work spearheading the collection of over 17,500 pairs (wha?!!!) of shoes to donate to the cause, Carly has been honored (click here to read more). And after the typhoon in the Philippines, our contributions to the cause are needed more now than ever.
Lying in stark contrast to the generosity of souls like Carly, was the near collapse of the world wide interweb caused by rabid fashionistas logging on line, credit cards in hand, when Isabel Marant pour H&M went on sale last week. First off, let me be the first to say that, from an aesthetic point of view, I love both the affordable stylish wares of H&M as well as the drool-worthy apparel of French designer Isabel Marant. And the fact that they partnered up to create a line of wallet-friendly ware for those who simply can't afford or who refuse to spend $1000 on a pair of boots, was incredibly exciting. The problem is not in the purchase of such pleasantries; it's in the mindset behind it. It's in the idea that, in order to be accepted, or even-gasp!- admired, that you must have IT (whatever 'it' may be at that moment in time). I'll admit, I myself went online to see what was available an hour after it went on sale and guess what? H&M's website had basically crashed as a result of what can only be described as sartorial pandemonium.
So I ask you this: Do you REALLY want to be part of the masses? Part of the consumer culture that wreaks havoc on our hearts and souls leading us to believe that more is more? Do you really believe in your heart that if you have the "it" item or object or sweater that you will somehow be happier, healthier, or holier? Because if you do, if you truly believe that owning stuff will bring any sort of lasting satisfaction, then you've got it all wrong. I liked it when I read yoga teacher Tara Stiles say in a recent blog post: "My mission is to help others. Helping feels better than shopping... Spending resources on things to decorate myself has always been a silly game in my book."
Okay, so I personally wouldn't necessarily say it's "silly" to decorate oneself — I mean, whatever makes you feel good about yourself, whatever you love in life, yeah, sure, do that. I'm the first person to admit to a life-long appreciation of fashion. That's how this whole Spirit & Sole thing started, non? But I'm also the first person to bail when the crowd lines up to conform, to grasp wildly at the illusion of fulfillment in the form of some fabric. That's when I immediately want out. It's also when I remember that strange law of the universe wherein it is only in the giving that one can truly receive.
And anyhow, I like my boots best broken it, like they've lived a little, supported me on a few of my life's travels. The scuffs on the worn-in black leather are merely signs of just how far I've come. And any desire to replace them? A sign of just how much further I have to go.
This Thanksgiving season, let us not simply give thanks for what we've been given, but give to those who have not been as fortunate as ourselves. If you'd like to reach out, here are a few links to help you get started: