Thursday, April 17, 2003

Yul, Telly, Smeagal:

Well, following Adam Tow and Seth Golub's recommendations that one should do this at least once in one's lifetime, I shaved my head.

I can understand now why people do this as part of a ritual -- I have never felt this... clean. I can't keep my hands off my head. The initial feeling is one of extreme, almost unbearable, sensitivity. It's like having a newly exposed fingernail on your skull. Lying on a pillow was very strange -- I dreamt last night that I had woken up and already had an inch of hair back. But no, this morning the truth was still there, waiting to set me free -- a pasty white dome, slightly shiny, bobbed in front of me in the mirror on someone who couldn't help laughing nervously. Someone I didn't quite know yet.

So far, it is like shedding a personality, and being able to adopt whatever direction you want. A new start. Like the feeling when one wears a new suit. It is a small rebirth.

The need for this kind of ritual renewal is deeply written in our genes. Initiation rituals have an importance which we rarely realize - the feeling of belonging and progression along a well-understood path are important to aiding the constant struggle against our own insecurities.

Che l'affani, giganti guerrieri
Dan l'assalto al mio coro

-- after Dante, "...that worries, those giant warriors, attack my heart..."

(I am sure I have mis-remembered and mis-quoted Dante, because I have never been able to relocate the source. Somehow this phrase is cemented in my memories, but I believe it is incorrect -- it reflects that pounding of the heart when one is fundamentally unsure. )

I agree with Joseph Campbell when he said that gangs provide acceptance for youth where other social ritual has failed. In the suburban, grey world, education and professional advancement are supposed to fill this basic psychic need, but they do not do it very well. Graduation rituals, promotions, and training courses are no longer mystical events at all.

Perhaps this is the root of much employee dissatisfaction. The psyche has a need for exterior reinforcement -- confirmation -- that is almost constant. It is certainly what is provided by friends, family, and spouses, in settings that are regular, and ritualistic. Dinners, social events, intimacy -- they all follow certain codes and expected patterns which help make us feel comfortable, and part of the social group. But the environment in which we spend most of our time, the workplace, is devoid of a deeper meaning.

Shaving one's head is perceived as an act of rebellion. It is seen as a rejection of 'the person that came before.' And I can see, in the co-workers who cannot look at me, a certain discomfort. Perhaps they feel they no longer are able to predict what I will do. I have become unreliable in their eyes. I represent change and deviation from the comfort of habits well-defined.

For others, the change is a strong assertion of personality, and they seem attracted to it, as if this rebellion implies that I hold a new key to productivity,

Me? I am still me. I keep forgetting I have no hair, and then either reach up, or see a flash in the window off my pate, and am reminded --

I am the Easter egg. I am Ptah.