With the beard grows the man, and, of late, my thoughts have climbed to the tops of mountains. Although my pursuit of pogonological perfection has not yet led to nirvana, I have literally been thinking about mountains.
Just as Samson’s hair made him strong and George Constanza’s abstinence made him smart, I’ve found that my new facial hair has made me more philosophical, both in mind and in appearance. Name me a philosopher without a beard and I’ll name you threestubblysophists who could reason him into growing one.
Were I a true social scientist, I would endeavor to find someone who has not shaved since freshman year of high school to act as a sort of control in this experiment. Alas, I am not a scientific man. Suffice it to say, however, a carefully cultivated beard, I believe, will in turn cultivate other aspects of one’s life.
So anyway, yes: mountains.
It dawned on me one evening that growing a beard is very much like climbing a mountain. Neither is an activity you launch into impulsively: Each requires preparation and proper planning. Discovery Channel specials and mediocre movies about mountain climbing have shown that scaling some of the largest peaks in the world is never just a base-camp-to-summit affair. Teams of climbers usually trek part way up the mountain, establish a camp, spend the night and then trek back down to base camp the next day.
This process is repeated as each established camp brings the climbers closer to their ultimate goal of reaching the summit. Such a deliberate method facilitates a safer ascent, allowing the climbers’ bodies a gradual adjustment to the change in oxygen levels at each progressively higher altitude.
Studies conclusively show that more people have died attempting Mt. Everest than those who have attempted a beard. The tally stands at Everest: 207, Beards: 0. Yet a clean-shaven face is also not conquered overnight. Growing a beard, like the ascent of Everest, takes time and reflection.
Despite a long line of elite, bearded scholars, Northwestern’s Department of Philosophy remains surprisingly shiny-faced, with only one and a half of the 11 male professors sporting facial hair (a half a point is awarded, upon review, to Charles W. Mills, John Evans Professor of Moral and Intellectual Philosophy, for his moustache). At least Philosophy Professor Kenneth Seeskin does past philosophers proud by letting his beard grow free.
So, in closing, I implore the Department of Philosophy to perhaps focus less on the musings of Nietzsche and more on his moustache. Because if knowledge comes from anywhere other than a book, it must come from a beard.