Nowadays, most adults seem to shave. Women shave a larger surface area than men, and they usually do this in the shower. Men have traditionally kept their shaving to their faces, standing at the sink in front of a mirror. Of course, recent fashion has made things more elaborate for some members of the hairier sex.
We might suppose that very few people genuinely enjoy shaving. For most of my life, I have found it tedious. My whiskers grow in all different directions, and I essentially lather up and shave twice each morning. For years, I pursued methods that would be faster. And for a while, I succeeded in minimizing the time I spent in front of that mirror. Modern razor cartridges with three or four blades could shave closely and minimize the potential for nicks. I appreciated this.
Then came mindfulness and meditation. Then came a slowing down of my routines, along with a closer examination. As mindless moments dwindled in number, each began to stand out and take on greater significance.
Then came…the accident.
If we imagine the shaking of an old-fashioned oral thermometer to settle the mercury before taking someone’s temperature, we can understand the danger of my doing that with a razor after shaving each day. I would rinse the blades, hold the handle, and shake the water off before putting my razor back in the cabinet. Over a few decades, I probably did this thousands of times.
But one day, the blades somehow caught the tip of the index finger of my opposite hand. I simply had not thought of the possibility. It was not a serious injury, but it took over a half an hour to control the bleeding and required considerable attention to care for the wound as it took about a week to heal. My friend Antonio learned of this and suggested that I use a safety razor.
A safety razor? Like the ones from the 1940’s? I did not understand his logic. Our other buddy Don joined the campaign, explaining how much better the shave is.
The word “safety” in “safety razor” has a wider context to consider. It only offered safety relative to the kind of razor available until its arrival: the straight razor–a two-to-three-inch length of deadly sharpness taken to one’s face or throat with no protection other than the user’s dexterity and concentration. The safety razor’s design embedded a disposable double-edged blade into a securing assembly that at least minimized the depth to which the blade would penetrate someone’s skin. That was the safety.
A safety razor is not remotely as safe as modern cartridges.
Still, I thought about it. My cut finger was the unlikely result of a hurried process that had escaped my application of mindfulness.
When Antonio gave me a few days later the gift of a brand-new safety razor and about a hundred replacement blades, I took up a new routine that has remained with me since. I now take roughly twice as long to shave, and it has become yet another daily exercise in mindfulness. This, of course, is essential, as my life may now depend upon it.
Yes, I will inevitably nick myself, and only with minor consequences. A quick rinse afterward and the application of an alum block fully addresses the matter.
I would not say that I enjoy shaving now, but it is a ritual that enriches my mornings. It has become one of those activities that remind me of the significance of every moment and the value of thoughtful, conscious attention and witness.
And this all becomes a fortuitous pun as I offer my meditation on my safety razor as this Tuesday’s Slice of Life as inspired by one of my favorite blogs, Two Writing Teachers.