Lecture XXI

◄Lecture XX - Fragment XXII►

On cutting the hair[1]

He used to say that a man should cut the hair from the head for the same reason that we prune a vine, that is merely to remove what is useless.[2] (But just as the eyebrows or eyelashes which perform a service in protecting the eyes should not be cut, so) neither should the beard be cut from the chin (for it is not superfluous), but it too has been provided for us by nature as a kind of cover or protection. Moreover, the beard is nature's symbol of the male just as is the crest of the cock and the mane of the lion; so one ought to remove the growth of hair that becomes burdensome, but nothing of the beard; for the beard is no burden so long as the body is healthy and not afflicted with any disease for which it is necessary to cut the hair from the chin. The remark of Zeno was well made that it is quite as natural to cut the hair as it is to let it grow long, in order not to be burdened by too much of it nor hampered for any activity. For nature plainly keeps a more careful guard against deficiency than against excess, in both plants and animals, since the removal of excess is much easier and simpler than the addition of what is lacking. In both cases man's common sense ought to assist nature, so as to make up the deficiencies as much as possible and fill them out, and to lessen and eliminate the superfluous. Therefore the hair should be cut only to get rid of too much of it and not for looks, as some think they must, who shave their cheeks and imitate the beardless or, would you believe it, boys who are just beginning to grow a beard, and the hair on the head they do not cut all in the same way, but differently in front and behind. In fact that which seems to them good-looking is quite the opposite and does not differ from the efforts of women to make themselves beautiful. For they, you know, plait some parts of their hair, some they let fall free, and some they arrange in some other way in order to appear more beautiful. So men who cut their hair are obviously doing it out of a desire to appear handsome to those whom they wish to please, and so some of their hair they cut off completely, some they arrange so as to be most pleasing to the women and boys by whom they want to be admired. Nowadays there are even men who cut their hair to free themselves of the weight of it and they also shave their cheeks. Clearly such men have become slaves of luxurious living and are completely enervated, men who can endure being seen as womanish creatures, hermaphrodites, something which real men would avoid at all costs. How could hair be a burden to men? Unless, of course, one should say that feathers are a burden to birds also.

◄Lecture XX - Fragment XXII►

1 This discourse is fragmentary and has many gaps which are not satisfactorily filled.

2 There is obviously a break in the text at this point.