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Mind over shoes
A new pair of shoes or new mind set?

By Sanaz Fotouhi
February 11, 2004

We just stepped into the Chinese Year of the Monkey about two weeks ago, which means that according to Chinese tradition, people are not allowed to buy shoes for the first two or three weeks into the year. It is bad luck. Guess what that means in various malls in Hong Kong: shoe sale. Money hungry shop owners reduce the prices of their shoes to lure even the most of the superstitious into breaking tradition and buy shoes. For me and foreigners like me, it is just "yey... shoes are half price."

So, a few days ago I step into this shoe shop in a fancy mall, looking around, picking up leather boots and looking at the prices, which were quartered, though still not cheap... I tried on a few pairs, of different colors, lengths. Thinking what I would wear them with, etc. And it came to me... and I counted... (the ones I could remember at least) that I have at least fifteen plus pairs of shoes. I convinced myself, after a very long time, that no matter how cheap they were I didn't need them...

That night I came home, regretting why I had not bought the pair of boots. It would have looked so well with my new jeans, and I could have looked better, and different for the new year...

Later in the night I was working on something which involved thinking about the trip I had recently taken back to Iran during the Christmas holidays when I was lucky enough to have a chance to visit Professor Hessabi's home and museum. Then I remembered something really incredible which made me feel ashamed for my regret.

In the very small scale Hessabi museum, hidden inside the vast Hessabi household, all sorts of objects were displayed, from the many diverse and various certificates, diplomas and degrees that Professor Hessabi had gained during his lifetime, along with books, articles, various personal objects and a few pairs of his shoes.

Our guide, who had also been one of the professor's students for over two decades, picked up one pair of the shoes, a black, old leather pair which had a good appearance on the outside, and pointed to the soles and the insides of the shoes. He said he remembered the professor using the same pair of shoes for twenty-five years, first as formal wear, then as in-house shoes, and finally as shoes to walk in his garden.

He explained to us that the professor did not like to waste anything until it was really not of good use. The inside of the shoes were lined with different layers of soft spongy material which the professor had put into the shoes when the shoes had been worn and gotten too loose for him. With the worn soles he had done the same.

Remembering this incident and the great impact that the museum trip had on me, I got a bit upset over my own value judgments of myself and of others. Here I was owning as many brand new shoes as the professor had diplomas, certificates and degrees, yet my greed was tempting me.

That was not all upset me. Thinking about Professor Hessabi reminded me that as a Persian I had never heard of him or known who he really was until recently.  How could a man so achieved, so grateful and wise be of such little exposure in Iran and overseas?

I did a bit of research. I searched for Professor Hessabi on the Internet with different spellings and each time a number less than 200 pages turned up, of which the ones I browsed through, maybe two or three were purely about him and his achievements.

Then try searching for Janet Jackson's breast and over 15,000 pages turn up. What does this tell us? How can we, as a nation, as a country, and as a people let our great minds go unnoticed like this, compared to a singer who gets out there and has her breasts exposed?

I am not talking about some sort of ideological revolution. I do agree that people as a whole are more attracted to scandals, entertainment and gossip. Yet, that does not justify our letting loose of our brains. Alright, maybe Jackson is a bad match. Search for Einstein (over 3 million pages turn up) or even a less profiled other nationality scientist and see how many pages turn up.

Why shouldn't we be more encouraging about our minds, to show them that there's interest and that they will be recognized. Why should the Hessabi museum be so small scaled for such a huge man? How can we let great achievers of our country be sifted out from our own view as well as of the world's view or stolen from us...

The point is it doesn't matter how many pairs of shoes you own. For, me and the likes of me, a make over should not start from the way we dress but from a shift in our value judgments. One of the greatest men of our country wore the same pair of shoes for twenty years. I don't think anyone really cares... think about it.

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By Sanaz Fotouhi



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