The beard of Sisyphus

Hi, is Amy home?

Hi, is Amy home?

I’ve shaved off my beard. Again. I try to grow a beard at least a couple of times a year, each time believing that this time will be the time that I keep it, this will be the time when I will become a bearded man. But I always give up and shave it off at around four weeks. Sometimes it’s because it feels uncomfortable, more recently because I think it makes me look old, but mostly I do it because it somehow feels like it’s not me. But how can it not be me, if my beard is literally a part of me?

Surprisingly, I was unemployed when this was taken

Surprisingly, I was unemployed when this was taken

Do I not recognize myself when I see myself with a beard? Perhaps it’s because the beard is outwards-directed, forcing me to try to see myself through the eyes of others. According to pop-Existentialist Gary Cox, “For Sartre, the moustache becomes the emblem of unthinking men with no inner life. A man can not see his own moustache, at least to the extent that others see it, so a moustache exists primarily for others and a man with a moustache is a man who has undertaken to exist for others rather than for himself.” Makes sense, facial hair as bad faith.

But I doubt this is the case for me. My wife, for example, has never been enthusiastic about my beard, so it’s not for her approval that I do this. And it’s not her disapproval that compels me to shave it off, either, as I started growing and shaving off my beard years before I met her. Maybe the question really should be what drives me to attempt a beard, knowing that in the end I will give up again?

That's a cat ear on the lower left

That’s a cat ear on the lower left

Camus offers an answer. As he writes in The Myth of Sisyphus, “One always finds one’s burden again. […] The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” Mine is Sisyphus’s beard. Imagine me happy.

And thus, months from now, I will again begin the process. As that fetishist of failure Samuel Beckett put it, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

2 responses to “The beard of Sisyphus

  1. James Howard

    I think you just need to change a bit how you are doing that. Buy some good trimmer and keep your beard short and accurate. It will make your look clean and stylish and won’t make you look older. Of course, it takes some time to groom a beard regularly, but I don’t think it’s a problem.

  2. Thank you for your helpful comment. I recommend that all my anguished readers visit your site to address their existential questions.

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