Shaving as Slow Spirituality

I don’t really know why I felt like I needed to change. Perhaps I’m just susceptible to advertising. But I was running out of cartridge refills for my shaving razor, and options started bombarding my mind.

I could join the Dollar Shave Club. Why? Because it’s relatively cheap and I always forget to get new cartridges, and I really don’t care about shaving–so I could not care, someone else could care on my behalf, and razors would just show up.

But in the back of my mind, I knew that the really cool kids were doing something else. They were “wet shaving.” They were using something called a “double edged safety razor” that seemed to me anything but safe. Merkur 38C

And I always wanted to be one of the really cool kids.

So now I am in the 10+ minute per day shave club. When the two roads diverged in the yellow wood, I chose heightened attention rather than outsourcing concern for my shave.

There is a whole experience involved here: not only the fearful blade of the double-edged safety razor, but also the badger-hair brush creating shaving foam from a block of shaving soap.

And the experience must be repeated. Not just the next day, but three times in succession. Talk to anyone who uses a double-edged safety razor: you do three passes of lather and shave.

And, strangely, I begin to care.

Not just to care in the moment–something absolutely essential as you take an exposed blade to your face. But to care more generally about my shaven face. To care about what my state of being clean-shaven communicates in contrast to my default mode of lackadaisical disinterest.

In the slow business of shaving, I’ve found myself falling in with a broader theme of my life: slowing down.

(As evidence of my slowness, behold the eight years it took me from the time I read Andy Crouch’s article until the time I adopted his shaving practice! But I digress…)

In a fast-everything society, we prize speed. I like speed. I like to act quickly, to speak quickly. The spiritual discipline I have been striving toward for the past two years is to embrace slowness.

I do contemplative prayer, no words, to slow down my mind enough to listen. To remind myself that I don’t have to say everything that comes into my head.

My blogging has been turned off, and only restored at a trickle, to remind me that I don’t need to tell the world every thought that comes into my head.

So I sit. To be. To listen. To shave.

Fast food presents the same problem as the fast shave: not taking time to do it feeds a lack of concern about what it is, which in turns feeds the desire to get it over quickly.

Taking time and caring go hand in hand. They each feed the other.

There is a depth of being that we cannot attain by quickly devouring everything in our way–every song, every book, every bit of knowledge. There is a depth of being that comes only from being slow.

There’s another word for that depth of being. It’s called “wisdom.”

The book of James encourages us to attain to it by being slow. Yes, we should be quick to listen, but slow to speak.

There is an important place for slow.

I embrace that reality in the 10 minute ritual that is my morning shave. No, don’t think I’ve gone a day, yet, without cutting myself.

It looks like wisdom lies yet in my future.

(Update: I changed the link on the Andy Crouch article to one found freely available on his own website:

16 thoughts on “Shaving as Slow Spirituality”

      1. You could contemplate the process by which necessity becomes virtue.

        … when you’re ready to Move Up, I’ll send you a straight razor I used to attempt to use. If I can find it.

  1. As someone who has been shaving with a safety razor for a year now, starting just when I lost my steady job, and who is still mostly unemployed, and as someone who still has a lot to learn about waiting, taking things slower, listening to God rather than talking at him, this resonates with me.

    1. Oh bummer. I didn’t notice. Maybe my CT subscription clears the way for me? I look forward to hearing of the spiritual lessons you learn as you walk over to the library to retrieve a March/April 2006 version of Books and Culture!

  2. I confess I read this article primarily to feel good about my life choices. Two years into wet shaving, I still very much enjoy the morning ritual–I never enjoyed cartridge or electric shaving. And good news Daniel, you’ll improve and cease to cut yourself; it’s a skill. (Tip: think of this as beard reduction, not beard removal… You don’t need to apply pressure like wih cartridges. After all you’ve got three passes!)

  3. I thought all Fuller faculty were supposed to wet shave with a safety razor. A church gave one to me as a gift for doing a series of talks for them; now I’m trying the tube shaving cream (travels a bit better than the round of soap).

  4. @Ron If a church gave me a straight razor they were expecting me to apply to my neck I would not be sure what message they were trying to send.

  5. The suggesting of slowing down is good. I do not rush getting ready. Sixty-two year old bones and muscles prefer it that way but so does my soul. The slowness stills the heart. But you have not convinced me to give up my triple-edged blade and return to that flesh ripping double edge. My chin forbids it.

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