There is an old Greek legend of a king named Sisyphus. This lawless man deceived the gods, murdered travelers, and was generally a bad egg. After his death, the gods punished Sisyphus in the afterlife by forcing him to push a huge boulder up a hill. The boulder was enchanted to roll back down the hill before he could push it all the way to the top. Sisyphus was doomed to an eternity of maddening repetition, rolling the same rock up the same hill over and over again, never reaching the top.
I am growing a beard. Like Sisyphus, I am making yet another pointless attempt to reach an impossible goal. Just as the boulder rolled away from Sisyphus before he could make it to the top of the hill, my beard will certainly end up a failure. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
As I ponder my Sisyphean situation, rubbing my stubbled jaw and thinking gloomy thoughts, I recall my last attempt to grow a beard. It was an abomination that caused desolation. What could persuade me to unleash such a loathsome thing once more upon an unsuspecting world?
Oh, that’s right. I was playing Metal Gear Solid 4, a video game whose tough-as-nails protagonist has a rugged beard. I can only call it a jaw-beard: a line of thick stubble along the jawline. Since my own beard was strongest along the jaw, I wondered whether I might not manage a respectable jaw-beard. My hope is a forlorn one, but in a moment of quixotic stupidity, I resolved to try.
Why? Why have I returned to my folly as the dog to its vomit? What insights can I draw from my Sisyphean attempt to grow a beard? This is an opportunity for philosophical introspection. What can my patchy jaw-beard teach me about myself?
Is my beard a reaction to stagnation? After months of stressful transition, I have finally reached some shaky semblance of consistency—thank God. Does some small part of me rebel against the comfortable predictability that has settled over my life? Is my latest attempt to grow a beard a subconscious effort to escape the numbing influence of familiarity? That’s one possibility.
Is my beard an attempt to feel more grown-up? For all my twenty-something years, I don’t feel particularly competent or mature. I don’t feel very grown-up. Perhaps my beard is an attempt to instill some sort of confidence in myself as an adult—a hideous emblem of putting away childish things and embracing adulthood—a preemptive preparation against whatever grown-up challenges lie ahead. That’s another possibility.
The simplest explanation, of course, is that I think jaw-beards are cool. If that’s the case, my beard is merely a childish attempt to ape the good looks of a computer-generated character in a video game. Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
A final possibility is that my beard has no sane explanation. It may be no more rational than the impulse a man feels when standing on a high place to jump to his death.
I suppose it doesn’t really matter. Like Sisyphus, here I go again.
This is probably a good time for me to mention that this blog post is fairly sarcastic, and not meant to be taken seriously.