In the Midst of Everything Else
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In the Midst of Everything Else • Posted: Mar 17, 2024 13:55:12Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

Had another conversation with my barber yesterday. So interesting. I don’t think we agree on much, but both of us thoroughly enjoy the discussions we have while he’s cutting my hair. When I first met him, 20+ years ago, he was married, owned his own home, and was the award winning star cutter in a salon doing both men’s and women’s hair. He was non-religious and bent on getting rich. His main topic of conversation was investment strategy. He was planning to open a number of side businesses catering to a younger crowd, including a spa, a 24 hour gym, and a salon of his own. Then tragedy hit. He was accused by one of his young female customers of provocatively rubbing his penis against her while cutting her hair.

True or not, intentional or not, both I and my girlfriend at the time, also a customer, were in total disbelief. Although, I could definitely imagine how he carelessly leaning over the young lady to better see the results of his work and inadvertently brushing against her arm could be misinterpreted by her as intentional provocation, especially if she’d previously experienced traumatizing sexual abuse. Sadly, the complaint she filed resulted in him losing his job, his license to work, his house, almost his marriage, and put him in jail for several months. Needless to say, he lost all confidence as a well-meaning human being during the ensuing ordeal. And, in hopeless retreat, he turned to earnestly reading the Bible, hoping, I think, to find both new meaning to his life and possibly protective salvation.

I didn’t see him for months. I had to get my hair cut back in Chicago or out on the road wherever I happened to find myself. At one point, out of frustration, I just let my hair grow to near ponytail length, my early 70’s self revisited. When I finally heard from him again, he was out of jail and cleared to resume “supervised” hair cutting again, this time from the basement in his new rented home. Realizing he wouldn’t be able to make an adequate living cutting hair part time in his basement, he was in the process of floundering around testing new ideas for starting his own business. He was seriously considering both a food truck and house painting. Eventually, the house painting idea began to take off and it continues today. So does his strong commitment to a faith in Christianity. And, irritatingly, so does his flirtation with proselytizing. But interestingly, these days, his attempts at proselytizing have become more an intellectual questioning of a whole host of religiously inspired issues.

A few years back he asked me if I thought DNA was the essence of identity and the soul. Not what I would normally expect from the person cutting my hair. But I was intrigued to see his interest in something beyond religious dogma. For his benefit, I ran through a bunch of stuff I knew regarding gene expression, cell differentiation and specialization, and the fact that parts of our bodies, like blood, skin, and muscles, regenerate numerous times over our lifetimes. What really had his mouth drop open and his eyes bug out was my mention of the micro-biomes that inhabit our skin and digestive tracts, cells that have completely different DNA but function as vital part of our bodies just as much as cells with our own DNA.

We’ve had numerous similar non-trivial discussions on topics ranging from small business governmental red-tape, to employer responsibility toward employees dealing with addiction, the existence and location of heaven, the gold standard, buoyancy vs. gravity, the function of government and the responsibilities of citizenship, how vaccines work, how scientists judge the date of fossils and the age of the universe, and just yesterday, a bit of string theory and the Higgs particle.

I have to say that I’ve witnessed very few similar transitions of people’s interests from hair cutting and getting rich, to the mysteries of Christianity and the fallibility of those who profess to follow its teachings, to the significance of DNA, to how one determines the difference between buoyancy and gravity, to whether Heaven exists and where it might be, and finally to the relationship between the Higgs and what we understand to be mass. Quite impressive, I’d say. And, I suspect you might agree.

One of the most troubling aspects of life in these United States today is the lack of truly interesting and genuinely edifying conversational exchanges between and amongst citizens. “Hi” and perfunctorily uttering “Have a nice day” just doesn’t cut it. Boring, to say the least. Social life with our fellows could be so much more interesting and productive if we all were to take a look at our own shallow shadows of a life and consider what we really and truly know for sure and what we don’t. The mysteries are out there, and so are the joys and satisfactions to be had investigating them. We only have to earnestly consider them, both on our own and with our fellows. We are, after all, in this life together.

Friday, February 2nd, 2024