Convention, Free Thinking, and the Reality of Dirty Socks

I highly recommend thinking for yourself. Free your mind. Don’t blindly follow convention. But sometimes, following convention is a good idea. The bottom line is to check in with reality. Here are a couple examples revolving around the stark reality of dirty socks.

Using Your Freehood and Questioning Convention

In fall 2006, I was traveling around Guatemala with an Australian guy and a Swedish woman. That’s always what happens to me when I travel: I travel alone but I end up meeting people at hostels. We share a conversation, a meal, or travel together for days or weeks.

Anyway, the three of us were traveling together for a couple weeks. Elin, the girl from Sweden, was complaining about how she only had a few pairs of socks left and so she had to pay to have her laundry done every few days. Ray and I said: “You know you can wear them for more than one day in a row?”

Elin was shocked. She certainly had the freedom to wear the same socks a couple days in a row. But she didn’t have the freehood to question that convention. “Really? Don’t you have to wash them every time?”

“It’s best. But, it’s not a big deal. Especially if they’re dark colored socks.”

She took the information to heart. A couple days later she informed us she had tried it. I still remember her beaming smile and wiggling with glee when she told us. She wore one pair of socks for an entire week straight after that.

I’m kidding. I’m not sure how much she continued the practice. But I’m glad we freed her mind: by way of her feet.

So, it is true that it is possible that you can occasionally wear socks more than one day in a row without causing any damage to your feet, your socks, or the noses of those around you.

It’s occasionally possible… but not always.


The Reality and the Consequences of Dirty Socks 

I have a confession. I’ve gotten athlete’s foot on a couple occasions. It sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it? It’s not. It’s when you have a fungus growing on your feet that causes a painful burning sensation. Not fun.

I studied up on athlete’s foot and the best natural ways to treat it. Turns out soaking your feet in a mix of plain old vinegar and water will do the trick. I did that for 20 minutes, a couple times per day, for several days, and the athlete’s foot was gone. I followed other bits of advice as well.

Apparently, diligently changing your socks every day is also important. The vinegar kills it but you can reinfect yourself if you don’t put on clean socks every day.

I was talking to an American woman named Betsy. You might describe her as a hippie. She’s not one to follow convention. She has a lot of freehood.

I discovered she had had athlete’s foot for awhile. I told her about the vinegar. I also asked her if she changed her socks every day.

She said, sort of matter of factly and with a little pride, “Oh no, I wear the same socks for a whole week sometimes.” She wasn’t joking.

I explained to her that in this particular case following the mainstream convention of changing your socks every day was actually important if you wanted to heal yourself.


Question How You Question Convention

This is of course, a very small example about socks. Personally, I spend a lot of time thinking about how important it is to question things and have freedom, and personal freehood. But there are times when the prevailing convention happens to be the wisest thing to do. And honestly, when in doubt, it’s often best and safest to follow convention.

One of the things that bothers me the most is when people decide they are beyond the convention of being kind and considerate to others. They think they’re so much smarter or more genuine than others that they can flout silly conventions like treating everyone with respect. Maybe

The most extreme example of this comes from art: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky and the movie “Rope” by Alfred Hitchcock. Both stories feature people who think they are beyond being punished, or caught, for murder. Actually, most murders are committed by people following orders in armies or gangs: people who do not question enough. But again, these stories are extreme illustrations of how far you can go if you question convention too much.

On a lighter note, as the comedian/philosopher Jerry Seinfeld once said:

Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.

Other times you can start down a path that will make you very unhappy or cause great harm to others if you don’t question convention!



People who have the courage to question convention are very valuable to this world. I’d just like to urge people to not question blindly. We need to inform ourselves of many viewpoints and be ready for the possibility that the conventional approach might be best in some specific instances. We’ll be that much happier, more courageous, and more valuable to the world if we do.


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