Actually my beard, and I did cut it. After shaving my face clean I am beardless for the first time in many years. It is an interesting experience to see my simultaneously recognizable and unrecognizable face staring back from whatever mirror I happen to look in. I confess the lack of that all grey beard does indeed make me look quite a bit younger. That being said I am already growing it back, because as I always say, it beats shaving.
It is an odd thing, how we see ourselves, how we understand our own identities. It isn’t something we pause to think about all that often, but every once in a while it catches you and hits home. A lot of it at the end of the day is surface level. The clothes, the hairstyle, the beard (or lack of one!), the home, the car, all of the material items that become part of our image, even in our own minds. But peel those things away and there is some kind of core, independent of all of the societally imposed images and ideas of who we are and who we should be. Here is the thing, almost counterintuitive – that core is invisible, in some ways undefinable, untouchable, but it is stronger, more powerful and profound and true that all of the accoutrements. There is a wonderful verse from I Samuel, chapter 16: “God does not see the way people see, for people see the outward appearance, but God sees the heart.”
It is that heart that we should strive to see, both in ourselves and in others. What was it that Polonius so famously said to Laertes in Act 1 of Hamlet? “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
And so to ‘Almost Cut My Hair,’ the title of this post. It comes from one of my all time favorite rock and roll songs, and is the title of the third track on the classic CSNY album Deja Vu, released in 1970. In one of the great recorded rock vocal performances, David Crosby rants against the ever intensifying pressure to conform to expected norms. ‘Get a job! Clean up your act! Dress like a normal human being! And last, but certainly not least, get a haircut!’ In the end the song’s protagonist stays true to his own values, and makes the decision to walk his own path, difficult as that may be. Here are the lyrics from the song’s first stanza:
Almost cut my hair/ It happened just the other day/ It was gettin’ kind of long/ I could have said it was in my way/ but I didn’t, and I wonder why/ I feel like letting my freak flag fly/ and I owe it to someone…
Every once in a while you have to let your freak flag fly. You owe it to someone, and that someone just might be you.