Now Jove, in his next commodity of hair, send thee a beard!
~ Shakespeare, Twelfth Night III,i
You wouldn’t think it to behold my rugged, bearded visage today, but once upon a time I presented to the world something less than a vision of omnipotent masculinity. Age sixteen, I recall, someone told me there was a loose thread dangling from the sleeve of my T-shirt. “Oh, sorry,” he corrected himself, “I guess that’s just your arm.”
Every man chooses to be present at the shaving of his own beard (though there is no rule without an exception)…
~ Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy
I’ve had this beard for more than two years, though I keep it fairly short. I might have shaved it off a hundred times already except that when my children see fresh-faced photos of the former me they point and laugh and tell me I looked “ridiculous.” I think it was Meister Eckhart who said that desiring something was the same as possessing it. I doubt he counted smooth cheeks among his own desiderata. But I believe that somewhere in the mind of God or an alternate universe I’m contentedly shaving my beard this very minute. I may even be humming ‘What a Wonderful World’ …or ‘Surrey with the Fringe on Top.’ I can’t be sure which one because I’m not present for it.