Taking a Stand

While teaching for a private college some years ago, I was privileged to teach the philosophy class.  A single class was all that was offered, and the intention of the class, stated in the catalogue, was to introduce students to the basics of Aristotelian reasoning and its place in modern thought,  to provide an introduction to formal and informal fallacies and the like.  With the permission of the administration, and the students, we expanded the course to do two other things.  The first was to take the ideas presented and tie them to practical decision making situations, situations that students would find themselves faced with on a daily basis.  The second was to begin reading some of the philosophical writers of the twentieth century.

The class was an amazing experience, and it became a highlight of my time at the college.  It continues to be a high water mark in my own life experience.  Some of the students told me that it was the same for them.

Perhaps part of the reason is found in the beginning of the class, as we sought to define philosophy.  While semantically philosophy can be described as the wisdom of man, and while the dictionary defines philosophy in terms of grappling with questions of knowing, we allowed the definition to encompass the basic approach we take to life.  We began to discuss philosophy as the principles that guide our behavior, and the study of how those principles become so powerful.

Invariably, this type of discussion causes people to bump up against deeply held beliefs.  College students, like most people who are still forming views of society, struggle with the ambiguity of multiple points of view being allowed to influence a single discussion, so it was hard for them to deal with this part of the process.  In getting past this I asked a few questions.

First, I asked them to take some time to write down what experiences led them to accept the world view (philosophy) that they currently adopted.

Next, I asked them to think about why others might struggle with their choice, and how they could respectfully explain their choice without disparaging another’s choices.

Eventually I asked them to think about the similarities they found in philosophies other than the one they ascribed to.

It was a good experience.  It taught them that standing for something is not always about convincing someone else that the way you see things is right.  Sometimes, standing for what you believe in must include allowing someone else to stand for something different.

I would hope that my children would learn that standing for something is critical, but that allowing others to stand for other things is appropriate too, and that the best way to stand for what they believe is to listen to others without backing down and without feeling threatened, but just with a mindset toward understanding.

Ultimately, we all want the same four things.  Our various philosophies give us boundaries for determining whether or not we are pursuing those things wisely.  As you stand for yours, especially during the election season, remember that respectful disagreement can only happen after honest listening.

And an individual who can truly listen is one who is worth listening to when he or she takes a stand.

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The Shoes! Part 3

In previous posts, we have looked at a critical piece of any gentleman’s wardrobe, his shoes, and discussed the elements of function and style.  This post will finalize our treatment of shoes by discussing the role that materials can play and making some general observations about choices in the arena of footwear.

Materials can be divided into broad categories of organic vs. man made.  They can  also be divided into smooth vs. textured, decorated vs. plain, and various other categories.  Keeping with the theme of previous posts of this series in dealing with non-athletic footwear, this post will look at materials in categories of leather, man made leather and fabrics.

Leather shoes typically are seen as the most reliable and the most serviceable in the long run.  They wear well and, when taken care of appropriately, can last for decades.  Leathers show up in smooth finishes that take polish, natural finishes including nubuk and suede that have an unfinished feel to them and are often used in outdoor and more casual footwear, and even in casual looks, like trendy sneakers and boat shoes.  leather tends to conform to the foot more and hold odors less, so it is a natural choice when the price is right.  That simple factor of price, however, keeps many of us from buying high quality leather shoes.

Man made leathers are seen more and more in today’s fashionable markets.  They can carry much of the appearance, at least for a time, without the investment of full leather shoes.  they do not require polish at the same levels, but they do hold up better with simple care.  However, they will not last near as long as a good leather shoe.  Eventually the material will crack, and as soon the cracks begin to be seen, the shoes are done.  Additionally, man made materials don’t breathe as well, so odors tend to be held longer and be more noticeable.

Finally, we have fabric.  Shoes made of fabric will most frequently fall in the casual realm and tend to be less expensive.  However, they allow a level of flexibility in color and combination that rarely exists in the world of leather and man made leather shoes.  Casual looks are often combined with more formal clothing, allowing the shoes to become a statement as much as simple footwear.

So what is to be made of all of this?  Why these three posts?  Simply this: make choices, but make them thoughtful choices.

Every man should have one or two pairs of formal shoes for events that require them.  If your formal events are rare, man made leathers can be a fine choice and will require little if any care.

Every man should have one or two pair of semi formal shoes that can dress up jeans and not look out of place with a suit.  If you are more interested in riding the tides of fashion, man made leathers may be a fair choice.  If you tend to be more conservative in taste and can make the investment, a fine leather shoe is a wonderful choice.

Every man should make room in his closet for three or four pair of casual shoes, and these can be selected based on function.  A pair for wet, sloppy weather, a pair for sunny days, a pair for wearing when walking for hours may be on the agenda and a pair for hanging out with the family in the back yard around the barbeque.  Leather or fabric, expensive or downright cheap, these are likely the shoes you will feel most comfortable in, so allow yourself to enjoy those selections.

Even if they happen to be an old pair of athletic shoes once in a while.

Something That Scares You!

When I think of my dad, I remember him being a powerful man, a man of resolve and a man who was always up for an adventure.  That was powerful to me.

In fact, it left me with a zest for life myself. 

Not every dad seeks out adventure on the side of a mountain or in the competitive environment of athletics. But by the very fact that they are dads we can know that they don’t shy away from adventure.  Indeed, every day spent raising children is an adventure.

Tomorrow, I am going to embark on the conclusion of one of the biggest adventures of my life:  I’m running a Marathon.  26.2 miles, non stop,  and I will be the first to admit that I am more than a little intimidated by the prospect.  But I am doing it.  I’m doing it in part because my own love of adventure spurs me on. 

But I also do it because I want my own children to grow up being inspires to take on adventures of their own.  Whether it is something as grand as finding a cure for a deathly malady through researching tirelessly in a high tech lab or something as simple as being a father themselves.

Whatever their choices, they will find choosing adventure is always interesting, rewarding, Amd satisfying.  Hopefully I still.feel the same tomorrow!