Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's more than a beard

I'm about two weeks in and I'm digging the beginnings of my beard and for more than the appearance. It seems the beard on men has a long, but often sporadic, history. It's been linked to intellectuals and crazies, sometimes they are the same person. It has been used as a phrase for disguising oneself, either one's sexuality or an affair. But, my intentions are no disguise at all. If anything what began as a unity gesture with my favorite baseball team has evolved into a deeper societal message.

 In the 1960's the hippies re-introduced the beard. It had been hiding from society from the early 1900's, through the roaring 20's, our depressed 30's, our World War II fighting 40's, and finally through our "I Love Lucy and My Three Sons" 1950's. It was a revolution after all: Down with the man. The man being society, the corporations, and the government that was initiating Vietnam. It was the culture, free-spirited, marijuana smoking, enlightened, fighting against perceived injustices. There was free love, Woodstock, and iconic music as social policies were being pushed by demonstrations and collective voices for singular causes. It became synonymous with outsider and hippies. Eventually mainstream musicians and actors supportive of those views began their own beard growing as well, but if you look before 1960 you'll be looking for a while.

The first president to sport the beard was Abraham Lincoln, and it was during that time that the beard became linked to intelligence again. Many intellectuals of the time began growing beards. It no longer was rustic though Lincoln had started growing his beard only in 1960 at the request of an 11-year old girl Grace Bedell who wrote to him telling him his face was too thin and that he would win the Presidency if he grew one. Lincoln who had always been clean shaven won the White House and then obliged. His elaborate words and eloquence was added a dose of ruggedness and rural appeal that he had lacked before. Now his image is linked forever to his beard even though he only wore it the last three years of his life in office.

Before Lincoln you would have to go back even further. The most famous beard before Lincoln belonged to one of the world's most menacing pirates Blackbeard in the late 1600's and early 1700's. Before Blackbeard you would have to go back to the Middle Ages and even further to ancient Greece. There the beard was a symbol of the greatest ancient minds: Socrates and Plato. In the movie 300 about Sparta and the men who fought against the Persian Empire in the Battle of Thermopylae some of the men in the film wore beards, including King Leonidas, and yet some did not. But in fact all of the soldiers then would have likely worn beards, as punishment for cowardice the Spartans would shave a man's beard.

King Leonidas in 300
Nowadays we only see beards on television during the playoffs. The San Francisco Giants Brian Wilson's dark beard has brought forth the catch phrase "Fear the Beard". And with his crazy eyes and personality Wilson carries the persona well. I started growing my beard in the same spirit of the playoffs. Then as I walked around the Ashland SOU campus and saw the same counter-culture from the late 1960's and early 70's I realized my beard served a higher purpose. It isn't going to be grown in solidarity with a sports team (well..maybe a little), nor am I going to grow it to fight "the man" i.e. corporations, though that would be a valid fight. Nope, I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about women and relationships, about men and society.

I've noticed a lot more women on my Facebook, on television, and everywhere that are no longer into men exclusively or in some cases at all. Some of them are younger and some are not, but it made me think about the way our society has been in the last twenty, thirty years. I don't fault anyone for their sexual preference, and truthfully when given a choice between an emasculated feminized male and a female I understand why women would go with the female version. It's the true version. We've lived in a pretty boy society for the last twenty years. Men have become metro-sexual. Men are more in touch with their feelings. Men are taking more care of their hair and their attire. Some men get manicures. Men are more concerned with their six-pack then ever. They aspire to be the "Situation" or Zack Efron instead of themselves. They've become too concerned with being beautiful themselves then actually appreciating how incredibly beautiful women are. It's no wonder we see more women going bi, or saying bye-bye to men. Men have been making that trip from themselves for the last couple of decades.

I am going to grow my beard because society says that it is not attractive. Because society says it is not polished, that I should look more smooth, more shaven, more feminine. I'm not in competition with women. They will always win based on looks, and I'm grateful for it. It's not about the appearance, it's more than that. I promise that I will not shave it for appearance reasons, but it can be kind of uncomfortable and I'm really only in week two. I imagine it's gonna get worse, but I'll persevere. Of course if a beautiful woman pops into my life and tells me to shave..all bets are off.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A boat, some tar, and a few words

Business Statistics and Business Operations should be my primary focus, only they aren't. I can't seem to motivate myself to tackle them. I am stuck. Stuck between the drive to finish and the desire to stay here. Stuck is a place I've been a long time in my life. Not sure what the next move will be, hoping for inspiration but also knowing if it comes there is a good possibility I will let it slip away. For a while I was able to use a job to distract me and then a relationship, and well now I have neither so I'm really stuck. Like the Brer Rabbit with the Tar Baby, the more I try to change the more things stay the same and I get even more stuck in the process.

I say I want to be a teacher then I watch the show Teach with Tony Danza and see how miserable the job looks. How the heck could I teach anyone? And if I'm a teacher what does that say about our educators? I certainly haven't learned anything myself to be a teacher for others. I am barely making it through this thing called life as it is. I am pretty sure I no longer have the stomach for banking, at least in its current form which has become more of a sweat shop than a respected industry. Gone are the days when there was dignity to the profession. I think I need a job where I can respect myself in the morning. Of course, a job period would be nice. It is hard to accept being a full-time student at 33, when I have worked my entire life. I just can't wrap my head around it.

My ex-girlfriend's sister's wedding was yesterday. I was supposed to go on that trip to Boston with her and her family so that was a weird feeling and maybe why I was in such a bad mood yesterday. I don't know, it's been several months and I guess this is supposed to get easier, but it doesn't. I guess I'm eventually supposed to feel better, but I don't. I'm not doing really well in this game of life lately. I wish I could get sent back to the minor leagues and improve my game and come back up when I'm ready. I'm not sure where to start though.

Statue of Christopher Columbus in Barcelona
Today is Columbus Day and whatever you feel about the man personally, and over the last several years his image is taking a beating, he was a great explorer. He may have been a horrible human being, but his accomplishments in exploration can't be forgotten. He did not discover North America, the Vikings did that in 1100, but he did set sail and land in the Caribbean. He bravely took a ship overseas when the chances of survival were not always guaranteed. It took over two months of sailing to reach landfall in 1492. While I travelled Europe I saw the statue of Columbus in Barcelona. It shows him looking out into the sea, even though he departed on his journey from southern Spain. He did however stop over in the Canary Islands as did we, so I feel like I almost joined in the journey, except that I was in a plane flying overhead 520 years after the fact.

Even knowing the atrocities of his actions we still must admire the boldness of his journey. He may have believed he discovered Eden or thought he was closer to China then he really was, but he took a voyage most men would never dare. Whether his discoveries deserve a national holiday is not the issue, it is his courage to undertake it that we have to appreciate. I'm envious of the time when such journeys meant something and wonder what there is left to discover now. It seems the journeys are either in outer space or in our head space that we have to look forward to. Personal discoveries within ourselves, but what if we discover that what is up there isn't as grand as we once believed. What if the genius we thought we had inside of us is merely some island south of North America. What if there is no Eden, and it's just tar.