Monday, June 19, 2000

Bald and Proud

We at Classics Corner have seen the moment of our greatness flicker. We have heard the eternal coatman snicker. Our head (grown slightly bald) has grown older and fatter.
It is a disturbing matter.

We try not to dwell upon the the fleshly expanse at the center of our head. So long as we need two mirrors to see it, we enjoy the illusion of youth. Our friends know better than to bring it up. Photographic evidence is immediately destroyed.

We fear the day that our thinning crown meets our high forehead and turns us into one of those pathetic old men who comb their three remaining hairs over the shiney area above their eyebrows .

Yet, this can also be seen as one more instance in which advanced age allows one to better appreciate the richness of classical literature.

In our youth, for example, we were always puzzled by 2 Kings 2:23-25, which, as most of you will no doubt remember, is a pleasant little story about the Prophet Elisha.

The elder Elisha was on his way from Jericho to Bethel when a number of small boys came out of the city and jeered “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!”

Elisha cursed them in the name of the Lord, and two she bears came out of the woods and mauled 42 of them.

We used to think this evidence of a cruel, vindictive, and arbitrary God. Now, in our great maturity, we see that the little shits had it coming.

Socrates, with his bald head and pot belly, has rescued our self respect. He was ugly as a satyr, but through pure force of personality and intellect managed to be the Patrick Stewart of the ancient world. Alcibiades, the heart throb of Athens, the biggest playboy of the 5th Century BC, wanted to jump his bones so bad he could barely stand it.

In Plato’s Symposium, the beautiful, brilliant, desirable Alcibiades details his labors to seduce the old man. He corners him at the gymnasium, gets him drunk over dinner and crawls under a toga with him afterwards; he openly professes his love: the poor man tries everything.

But Socrates was too good for him. His brilliant, unattainable, bald head shown forth as a beacon of virtue in the night. Bald was beautiful baby.

As if further evidence of the virtues of baldness were necessary, we also have the testimony of Herodotus, who lived about a generation after the Great Socrates. The far-ranging historian tells of the Argippaei, a people of the north, who lived in the foothills of the Urals in what is now once again known as Russia.

These mysterious people lived under trees and evidently thrived upon cherries, which were strained through cloth and then concentrated into cakes.

Herodotus, who leaves the only extant record of this amazing race, says the Argippaei needed no weapons, for they were “accounted sacred” and no one would attack them. They were in fact sought by neighbors for their wisdom in settling disputes.

These tree-sitting, cherry-eating, dispute-resolving holy people were said to be snub nosed and to have large beards. They were also completely bald, from birth, men and women alike.

Kojak was never this cool. One can almost see the Argippaei, sucking on their cherry cakes, saying, “Who loves ya baby?”

“Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.”
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.”

Apologies to T.S. Eliot, upon whose poetry we leech.

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