By Curtis K. Shelburne
When you need a good brain surgeon, you really need one. But for most of us, most of the time, a good barber is of a great deal more practical use.
I like barbers. Come to think of it, I find it hard to imagine a more honorable line of work.
When a barber’s done and the “snip, snip, snipping” sounds fall silent . . . When he swings the chair around with you in it, and with bull-fighter finesse, swishes the cloth from around the neck you’ve just entrusted to him, aims you at the mirror and awaits your approval, he’s done you a real service. Real work, requiring real skill.
You could make a good case that not only does a good barber serve each of his customers, his is a service to the whole community because, after all, we do have to look at each other, and we spend a good deal more time looking at our fellow citizens than we do looking at ourselves (I hope).
Your barber gives you a good excuse, in a hyperactive society so sick that you may need one, to do something really simple: sit still for a moment. It’s sitting still that’s most conducive to thinking. We ought to try it more often under the stars or on our porches or in the back yard in a good chair under a nice old tree. Most of us aren’t that disciplined. But, disciplined or not, we do grow hair. And so we’re pretty much required to sit down for a few moments at least once a month or so. Once we’ve sat still long enough to have an occasional thought, well, behind us happens to be a real person providentially provided for us to bounce a thought or two off of while our ears are being lowered and our cell phones are mercifully muted.
I even like what you’re sitting in while you’re thinking, listening, and talking about real life with a guy who is not burdened by having to look across a desk, or through a bureaucracy, or around a horde of indentured servants trying to eke out a living.
I quickly admit that some of the figures behind those desks do indeed manage to stay connected to real life and real people and do great work, but it’s harder. Such connecting comes a good bit more naturally to a guy who is as close to real life as crotchety customers who need their eyebrows trimmed.
Oh, yes, I was going to mention that chair. Have you taken a good look at your barber’s chair recently? Chances are it’s almost beautiful in its antiquity. Built as solid as an anvil, it was crafted with some style and class by someone who took as much pride in his work as does the guy swiveling you around in it to see what you think about the work he’s just done on your behalf.
I put a lot of faith in my barber. And I like knowing that while he’s working and my excess hair is floating downward like snow (and, aargh!, almost that white!), the God who numbers the hairs of our heads is still taking care of us both.