On the Art of the Shave: A Treatment for the Soul

( Barber  | Devanath)

(Barber | Devanath)

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

Once or twice a month, I go to the barbershop and participate in the millennium-old ritual of the razor shave. Facial hair is making a renaissance but for me, like the crops, what is sown must be reaped. The shave brings me to balance.

To use a blade to shave another is work. To do so without cutting them is craft. I must yield to the craftsman and let go. This connects me to the craftsman, to a tradition, to a time when blades were standard. When they served utility; when they weren't only seen as objects for harm, but also as instruments of healing.

The razor shave dates back to the Bronze Age. For most of history, barbers were as highly regarded as doctors and priests. Through this ritual, I am in communion with an unbroken chain that links back to Egypt, to the birth of Western civilization. When a treat didn't mean food, money, drugs, nor something you gave your pets or children; when a treat meant self-care. (Today, most treats can be considered forms of self-harm.)

I grow more appreciative of good craft and skilled craftsmen. For artists to flourish, we must appreciate artistry in all its day-to-day forms. The shave is a splendid experience.

Especially now, there are so many desires, we are always in a poverty of achievement. But there are simple satisfactions that are always within reach if we are willing to take them. For men in particular, that's the shave.

The towel is hot, you must give in. The blade is sharp, you must give in. Your life is in someone else's hands, you must give in. You learn to sit with it. (To sit with yourself.) You learn to relax. You learn to enjoy. There's a tingle that starts in the back of your neck that travels up to your scalp. A pleasure you forgot existed. The feeling you got as a child when someone whispered to you that you were special. You're relearning gratitude.

Lay back, put your feet up. You are now part of a slice of history. An art mastered over the ages. You are vulnerable yet comfortable. You quiet down and think, and you start to enjoy your own company again. You become a simpler you. You become free. It is a shave but it is also a treatment for the soul. A treatment that gets us out of our usual mental states. You are exposed. No shield. No barrier between you and the blade and all your bullshit.

It is ubiquitous to say one is spiritual but not religious. That is the shave, an ancient spiritual practice that leaves you feeling tremendous without religious guilt. You leave feeling better, better than when you entered. We're not looking for a shave or a clean face, we are looking to remove, loosen, and dissolve the weight that's been accumulated. (Shaving off our stresses.) For a sliver of your day, you forget your ambitions and get comfortable with yourself. You free yourself from the hairy adult you, and allow the towel to return you to your mother's womb. After the tonics and antiseptics, you leave feeling reborn.

Find a good craftsman, learn the history, and give the barber a nice tip. They are our keepers to the past. Reconnect with your former self, the one who was happy just to be alive.

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