Wooden shoes vs. silk slippers

I like slippers.

As the season turns, I’m starting to wear my slippers again. I’ve gone through many pairs over the years. My wife bought me my current pair for Christmas. These are the real deal, by a fancy brand and everything.

I was listening to Hardcore History the other day. It’s a history podcast by Dan Carlin. He has a way of storytelling that brings the right amount of context and analysis together to make past events feel alive.

In one of his episodes about ancient Persia, he gives this analogy about the rising and falling of empires. He says it’s like a person walking up a ladder with wooden shoes and then coming back down the ladder with silk slippers. On the way up, the people are hardened by their meager existence. This gives them the wherewithal and tenacity, that grit, that allows to rise to prominence, the wooden shoes climbing the ladder. Once they’re on the top, though, they exchange that bare-bones existence for luxury, the silk slippers climbing down the ladder.

But what Dan pointed out so well is that even though it’s the wooden shoes that allow us to walk up the ladder, no one chooses to wear the wooden shoes. We want to continue walking up the ladder, but we want even more to wear the silk slippers.

Let’s take the United States as an example. We’re in the era of the silk slippers. We’re not out there living in log cabins, telling the truth about apple trees, demanding liberty or death. Technology continues to advance, but we’re not getting better as a country. We’re getting better at making memory foam beds.

I’m being facetious. As I write this, I’m sitting in a coffee shop beside a fake plant. I’m firmly rooted in these silk slippers too. No one chooses to wear the wooden shoes.

But maybe noticing it, maybe we could. I like slippers, but maybe I could set up my environment to wear the wooden shoes more often.

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