"The foot feels the foot when the foot feels the ground." - not the Buddha

Found in Ernest Wood’s 1971 “Zen Dictionary” (page 91-92), in an essay which tries to explain the term “Naturalness”: “The foot feels the foot when it feels the ground.”. The words are Mr. Wood’s, and not the Buddha’s as commonly misquoted. Each one of us may have different interpretation of this philosophy. It sounds intriguing yet meaningful.

The story of the barefoot Bandit is most intriguing as to how did this 19 year old teach himself to fly with no formal education or training? He allegedly had been stealing to survive in the woods for many years as a child and living barefoot. He was quoted as saying “Shoes are for losers!”.

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Criminal in Nature

Colton Harris-Moore (born March 22, 1991) is an American criminal and former fugitive. Harris-Moore, a.k.a. the Barefoot Bandit, started his naturalist journey by living in the wild at the age of seven, and would break into vacation homes, steal blankets, food and water before disappearing into the forest for days.

He was charged with the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars in property, including several small aircraft, boats, and multiple cars, all committed while still a teenager.

He fled to the Bahamas on July 4, 2010, allegedly in a plane stolen from Indiana. Harris-Moore, still only 19, was arrested in Harbour Island, Bahamas, on July 11, 2010, after police shot out the engine of the boat in which he was attempting to flee. Kenneth Strachan, security officer at Ramora Bay, spotted the Barefoot Bandit, helping police nab the man who had eluded authorities in three countries, leading them on wild chases as he stole planes and boats and dodged the law while amassing a huge following on social media as a kind of renegade folk hero. 

In the end, the Barefoot Bandit turned out to be a tired teen ready to surrender from an adventure that simply got out of hand. Two days later, he was extradited from Nassau, Bahamas, to Miami, Florida, and transferred on July 21 to the Federal Detention Center, SeaTac in Washington.

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He became known as the "Barefoot Bandit" by reportedly committing some of his crimes barefoot, once leaving behind 39 chalk footprints and the word "c'ya!". Despite the widely reported nickname, officials said that he more often wore shoes. His ability to constantly elude law enforcement further added to the folklore surrounding his alias.

Today, Harris-Moore is out of prison, paying restitution to his victims, and hopes to be a pilot. Why did he do it? He can’t answer that. He has however said he didn’t turn himself in at the time because he truly felt like he was on a “spiritual journey.” “There is no other life that I would want and I’m happy with the person I’ve become,” he said. “I’m proud of how far things have come and it could be totally different… Not too many people come out the other end still looking at what I’m looking at.” says Harris-Moore.

An interesting perspective of the events is by Erica Sayers titled Putting Shoes on the "Barefoot Bandit": Stories from my State Department Internship in the Bahamas. 

JULY 2019