A Meditation on Being Shorn
I am here in the bath tub, with a razor-blade pressed against my scrotum. Snagging a pernicious pubic hair on a leathery sack grants me focus and acuity.
My concentration reveals that I am infinite and my existence is both conditional and unavoidable. I am in the league with celestial bodies that sowed the preconditions of my existence Whatever the truth of the universe happens to be, I am infinite because I am here and shaving my balls.
I am not infinite in some religious sense. There is a certain ceremony to my ablutions. The ritual of a weekend bath with candles, bubbles and wine feels very sacramental. My temporary egotistical awareness does not clings to fairy tales. No myths succor my inability to accept my own mortality. I am present in my situation. Death awaits. Suffering more so. One knick and I will be very mortal indeed, suffering through pain and embarassment.
I am infinite because my matter and energy is infinite. My understanding of reality will be ever incomplete. Even I was an astrophysicist obsessed with time, I would really never know. My scientific rigor would force me to accept that there might always be a deeper, more accurate explanation. I would start off with a question. I would have to accept that I might never have shaved at all.
Sometimes, I would be very different. Sometimes, I would be a woman fighting similar battles with my vulva. Sometimes, I have nothing to shave due to an unfortunate accident involving opiates, heavy machinery and caustic chemicals. Any plausible model for the universe points the arrow of time in the direction of the grain of my follicles and the branching of my legs.
If I am infinite because my realities are splitting like hairs, then I diverge at every junction. My many selves are like fractals following precise patterns.
If I am infinite because my matter and energy are bouncing back and forth through time and space, I am stratified across time. I am layered with possibility. I slide through timelines like my soapy testicles rolling back and forth between my hands.
If I am a simulation on repeat, I am a calculated result as some alien debugger replays my sequence over and over. I just hope my extradimensional observer appreciates my efforts. They must study me to know how difficult it is to shave my anus without knicking my sphincter. I evolved body hair to become obsessed with removing it with care. Those myriad mes shitting and worrying about infection for the next week all do too.
In that tender moment, I grasp a small part of infinity’s meaning. In those perilous moments, I am granted a keen view into myself. Whatever the nature of my infinity, I am here and aware of it.
Granted, I have been reading Borges in the bath as I awaited the softening of my follicles. My predilection for amateur Buddhism makes this view all the more enticing. Less reincarnation and more the cyclical nature of things. I want to dissolve myself like the masters. They shave their heads. I shave my balls. I am practically precepted.
If I am infinite, all things are. Time and space include me and all versions of me. I never die and I have died many times. Our pattern-seeking brains discard sameness. We optimize for a focused, linear existence, looking for threats in the differences. We must fixate on the razor’s edge.
If I lived for a hundred years and focused on one thing from being to end, I wouldn’t make a dent. I doubt I would even get through the catalog of possible combinations of grooming rituals and body modifications. Thus, I must ride loose with the nature of infinity much as I must keep a steady, but pliable grip on the handle. I only have enough time to be ignorant, filling in the gaps and making up the rest.
If I am infinite, I have done everything. I am a proud husband and writer. I am a child molester and a mass murder. Soldier, coward. Survivor and victim. The good guy, the bad guy, the feckless impotent. Through the possible iterations, my shared versions must pondered their pubic hair no matter what they did.
I am either mundane or dead from the myriad fatal things in our infinite universe. Blood loss? Infection? Some home intruder or jilted murderous ex-bursting in when they knew I would be occupied and distracted. Ergo cogito something.
In one universe, I am laughing at the preposterous nature of my belief. In another, I have given my heart to Jesus and castigating myself for even touching my crotch. In many more, I am unconcerned with these sort of philosophical questions. I am just trying to keep the hairs out of my partner’s mouth.
If I am infinite, nothing really matters. Neither bald-smoothness, racing stripe or heart-shaped topiary atop my pubis make a difference. Oh, this slippery precipice of nihilism has enticed many goths and post-modernists alike. How I have tried to be so robotic and abstract about my nature. It never works.
It would be so damn convenient to remove all personal responsibility. We try to toss ourselves into the endless ocean of meaninglessness. We ride the waves of philosophy and literature, clinging to amorale codes, kicking away from the eternal questions. We paddle with our crotches looking like a kelp garden. It works until we see ourselves reflected in the water and try to reconcile who we have become. Our authors are dead. Our reasoning unmoored. Once again, we grab the razor and try to exert control. Absurdism at its finest.
The state of my pubic region simply does not matter. If I have done everything, experienced everything, I have no free will. Without free will, I have no culpability and no real responsibility. Yet, I am here, grooming myself, trying to accept and to change.
Any of those versions of me grappling with this question have the shared curse of a sense of self. Even if it is a series of rationalizations after some behavorial response, we want an explanation. The universe may not be concerned with meaning, but we most certainly are. We want to know why we did something. We’ll find a purpose for our shorn pelvises no matter what.
If I am a thread in some tapestry of the universe, I do have a certain role to play. I wield the razor. I cut the shapes. Like the Goddess of Death, Morta, I chose which threads to snip. In this current universe, I am human, an American, born of my parents, subject to my upbringing. I had my priorities dictated to me. Even my rebellions and evolutions came from somewhere else. Some teacher, some book, some encounter changed me.
I started shaving my balls because of an article in Cosmopolitan in my sister’s bathroom. I am writing this with a sweat rash of inflamed follicles because I shaved and went for a hike. I own the mistake and rub the balm on my epidermis and appreciate the infinite series of events that lead me here. I appreciate how they could have lead me somewhere else. Somewhere, I wore hiking pants and applied skin cream before I walked thirteen miles.
While I have been born to many different parents at many different times and in many different forms, I am here. I am writing this article, living this life and trying not to scratch.
Thus, I am given autonomy and meaning by my mere presence. It’s like Descarte, but without the waxing or the Latin. It’s Camus without the French cut and the timelines where I did not choose suicide. Even if I doubt my egotistical certainty or make up my own meaning, I am still present. A stage play of genotype and phenotype can turn the hygenic into the metaphysical. I believe I am infinite simply because I am here.
Thus, I must accept I have made a series of concessions that shape who I am and what I can do. Something compels me to squat over a mirror to make sure I have removed every offending hair. My motivations are derivative and unique to my course. Another me would have just gotten defoliated with a laser.
Much like I want to be hairless, I have many other wants and needs. I do not want to go to prison, so that prevents me from doing most crimes. While there is a possibility that I could get away with it, Foucault’s view of Bentham’s panopticon makes a convincing case. I do not commit crimes for the same reason I could commit crimes – the unassailable possibility of the unknown. I might be observed. I might get caught. I might get away with it. I might not. I am an unmeasured situation waiting to collapse. If I know I am being watched, I change my behavior. Left to my own devises, I am left only with my choice. Some versions give in. Some don’t. The universe iterates and I remain.
In this incarnation, I choose not to commit violent crimes. In many others, I have raped sixteen people and murdered four others. I am in prison. I am not in prison because I remember to discard my bloody boots. I am dead by capital punishment. I am scribbling out a rejoinder in solitary confinement on a pad of paper and a government-issued Bic. Even if I live a life free of any guilt, I am only lucky. I am one injustice or timely mishap from a similar fate despite my perceived agency.
Would I even be able to shave in prison? Would I have to use those disposable single blades that go blunt the moment you take the cover off? How do you practice meticulous grooming habits in a public shower. Part of me fantasizes about that situation.
This current version is bisexual and a complete slut. This version would have no trouble earning his safety on his hands and knees. This version only hopes that good behavior allows him to have a proper hygiene kit. This version, like all versions, will do anything to survive.
Every imagined situation has a similar theme - action through perceived consequence. I love my wife, so I do not beat her. I love my friends, so I have given them miserable times. Yet, in so many others ways, I have divorced her, married one of my friends or died old and alone. If infinity means possibility, I must accept the possibility of it all.
Thus, I conclude my thighs are smooth enough. I have removed the offending hairs to the best of ability and to my current standards. I commune with an infinite series of me through the state of my gentilia. My actions matter for selfish reasons. In reality, they do not matter all. Yet, I act like they do for I derive my own meaning. I try to present myself to the universe at my most beautiful. Yet, even my own standards are subjective. If I am infinite, then my colleciton of atoms has done everything for every reason, and I have clogged an endless series of drains.