Take a Shave: Staying Sane Amidst Chaos
That's right, the man with the beard has changed his ways.
In college, I was one of the first of my friends to grow my beard out. I loved the steady stream of people nodding approvingly and saying in admiration, "Nice beard."
And it was indeed, a nice beard.
Ask anyone who knows me well as they can tell you that I have a long list of "beard proverbs" that I can trot out at a moment's notice to a half-unwilling listener.
"Growing a beard is a real lesson in patience."
"Growing a beard teaches you to appreciate your body's natural look and shape."
"Growing a beard makes you approximately 100x more likely to secure a career as a lumberjack in the Alaskan bush."
Okay, maybe not that last one. Jokes aside, however, I was attached (no pun intended) to my facial hair. Sure, I'd shave once in a blue moon for the sake of variety or an event; but there was no question in my mind that I'd grow my beard out almost immediately. It really wasn't that hard, after all, all I had to do was let time pass.
Then, one day, I started thinking about my grandfather.
One of those things I remember most about visiting my grandfather as a child was the sense of routines that surrounded him. He did crossword puzzles everyday, drank orange juice out of familiar blue glassware, and had a garage full of old tools organized in a manner indistinguishable to anyone but himself.
While it's been some years since my grandfather passed away, I find myself thinking about him now more than ever before. I live, you see, roughly one-thousand miles away from the little patch of Pennsylvania where I spent the majority of my life up till now. A lot of things have changed, and change is rarely easy.
Knowing that things must change, how can we maintain our peace of mind in spite of it all? This is ultimately a metaphysical question that we'll return to in another post next week. Yet it has a practical dimension that it'd be foolish to ignore. There are, after all, some things that enable us to face change head-on. And one of these is ritual. My grandfather lived through all the turmoil of the second-half of the Twentieth Century, moving from a world of ice-boxes and early radio to the information age of the World Wide Web. He managed to do this, incredibly, without becoming an incoherent wreck by the time he was thirty. I think he did it, in a sense, by shaving. For the past hundred years, men shaved regularly, embracing a ritual of smearing shaving cream across their chin and dragging steel along their face each morning. The act of shaving, in itself, was perhaps not all that important. The regularity of it, though, and the stakes involved--these were meaningful. After all, while shaving (hopefully) not a high stakes game for most of us, it isn't a mindless act either. Shaving requires care and focus, especially when using a straight or safety razor. If one is shaving the legs, as is still common for many women in the western hemisphere, then the risks become even more serious--owing to the abundance of large veins and arteries in the legs. Either way, it's an act that requires some degree of focus.
There are times in life to let a beard grow out, to shake off the appearance of orderliness and embrace a call to adventure. There's also times when it's necessary to "take a shave" and institute some regular and disciplined practices into life. Given the current chaos revolving around the advent of the coronavirus, it seems like its time to start shaving. Or reading a bit of a book each morning. Or meditating every evening before bed.
Or exercising after lunch.
With many of us making the shift to work from home, there is no better time to implement some structure amidst the chaos.
So take a shave.