Wednesday, November 19, 2014


We are going to have a little fun with the article this week. Earlier this month brother challenged me to no-shave-Novemeber. The challenge is simple: Uh, don’t…shave…until…December 1st. It is growing fad that has gained some traction in the last decade nominally as a men’s health awareness follow up to October’s breast cancer awareness.

In Australia the event is called “Movember,” ‘mo’ being the slang term for a mustache. The theme is the same essentially – grow a mustache for prostate cancer awareness. The trend has popped up from Canada to the UK to Taiwan and everywhere in between.
What does this have to do with economic development you ask? Well, prepare yourself for one heck of a segue way: Hard work. I can’t find it in any history book but I think Novembeard can be traced back to a Roman emperor named Marcus Aurelius.

Many of you will recognize M. Aurelius as the Santa Claus looking guy from the beginning of Russell Crow’s movie “Gladiator.” He ruled the Roman Empire from 161 until 180 and was known as stoic philosopher. The precepts of stoicism are quite mid-western and can summed up very roughly as ‘suck-it-up-and-git-r-done.’
Aurelius was one of the five so-called “good emperors.” Good because their efforts, as rulers, focused on public works and the good of the people as well as relative peace. Oh yeah, and Marcus rocked one sweet beard.

The good emperors put an end to hundreds of years of tradition and clean shaven egocentric leaders. In their day it was not as easy as pulling out an electric razor and cleaning up. Only the rich shaved because only the rich had the time to devote to it and the slaves to sharpen the razor. The good emperors essentially said, “We are too busy doing our job to worry about the perception of our station.” (A lesson there I think)

Marcus Aurelius said, “We ought to do good to others as simply as a horse runs, or a bee makes honey, or a vine bears grapes season after season without thinking of the grapes it has borne.” And he said it with a bristly smile.

Aurelius spent the first half of his reign building the greatness of the Empire and the second half of it fighting to keep it safe. Little wonder he didn’t have time to shave. To this day the beard still stands as example of rugged individualism, pioneering spirit and hard work.

So join me in a salute to all the hard working folk out there this month: The shaggy farmers combining twenty hours a day and the intrepid Special Forces climbing the hills of Afghanistan and every bearded rogue in between.

I’ll leave you with one last thought from Marcus Aurelius to ponder and scratch your pate, “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”

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