A Lyrical Digression on Beards
An excerpt from Vladimir Voinovich's 1982 novel, Moscow 2042, half science fiction, half cooky satire, mindful of all that is wonderfully inscrutable about Mother Russia:
"I have done massive research on beards which anyone who so desires can do in practically any library in the world. But, for those too lazy to go to the library, I will say briefly that I am deeply convinced that beards play a very important role in the dissemination of advanced ideas and doctrines, and in winning minds.
I think that Marxism would never have been able to win over the masses if Marx had shaved at some point, even if he'd been forced to do so. Lenin, Castro, and Khomeini could not have produced revolutions if they'd been clean shaven. Of course, power has sometimes been seized in one country or another, and territory has been subdued by people with just moustaches and sometimes even without.
But no beardless man has ever yet been known as a prophet.
It also should be pointed out that there are beards and there are beards.
To stand out from the general run, the wearer of a beard must avoid any hint of imitation. He should never grow a beard that could be called Marx-like, Lenin-like, Ho-Chi-Mink-like or Tolstoy-like. Otherwise, he will not be numbered among the prophets but among their followers.
Some readers might wonder whether I'm devoting too much attention to beards. People tend to think that what matters most about a prophet is not his appearance, but his thoughts and ideas. This is a common delusion which I have been trying to dispel for many years, and, if truth be told, with no success whatsoever.
A prophet's thoughts and ideas are secondary. It is not our brains which a prophet primarily affects, but our hormones, and it is for this that a beard is needed, along with all the gestures, grimaces, and expressions that go with it. Sexually aroused, the crowd mistakenly assumes that it has mastered ideas for whose sake it is worthwhile to destroy churches, build canals, and kill their fellow men.
It's curious that, while able to unleash the sexual energy of the masses, the prophets themselves are quite often impotent and have feminine voices. But this statement applies only in part to Simych. True, his voice was high, but I've heard that all the rest was in good working order, and, precisely because this ran counter to my concept, I was prevented from acknowledging him as a true prophet."
On the contentious history of beards in Christianity, please see here. For the World Beard and Moustache Championships, please see here. For killer surfer beards, you definitely want to go here. My dream in life is to grow a really manly beard. A man can dream. And now back to writing a dissertation.