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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

The Practitioner

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I got a great haircut today.

I mean, a great haircut. I look in the mirror and I think, "Wow. Why didn't I do this before?"

It's short, but not defiantly so. The part is right where it should be, and the top blends seamlessly into the sides of my rectangular head. It's the haircut of a lifetime.

And what's most remarkable is that the barber never once asked me how to cut it.

When he first started attacking the overgrowth in the back with his clippers without a word, I but looking for. It was only after he grabbed his scissors, oiled their hinges, and took the first crunching rip off the top of the mop that I was certain: he wasn't waiting for my input.

It was too late to protest by the time I awakened to reality. Anyways, there was something liberating about it, about not having to force a vague description of how I want my hair to look (it's a no-win scenario: too much demanding detail makes you a prima donna; not enough and you're likely to hear, "Then what are you here for?").

The barber snipped and pulled and clipped for about twenty minutes. His movements were sharp and decisive, brisk. When he was done we both knew that some serious work had just been done.

The whole experience set me to thinking about the practitioners among us, those men and women who practice a craft, a craft they have honed over years of experience. Like Angry Chef.
Angry Chef knows how your food should be prepared, and so he doesn't need to hear about the intricacies of your tastes. Because nobody should have the meat sauce on their pasta, even if they ask for it. The practitioner knows enough to be revolted at the very thought of it.

The barber didn't need my input to cut my hair because he could see what needed done. He was able to size up the boxy shape of my skull. assess the length of the locks, and cut until it looked right. Any direction I would have given would have only made his job more difficult.

So much of where our technological society is going is toward the tastes and interests of individual consumers. Take just about any product or service, and you can customize it however you want. The consumer is becoming the producer. That's the idea behind a blog, isn't it? And YouTube? And Wikipedia? Fast Food (ala Burger King's "Have it your way")? Indeed, the very idea of the "professional," the "expert," is being challenged on all fronts, from religion to politics to art to commerce.

But there remain those professional, expert practitioners among us. And they know that the collective intelligence of Wikipedia is a sorry substitute for the well-developed eye and the trained palate. To the practitioner, you can have it your way if you like. But you'd better not. You're better off letting the practitioner do it her way.

Because that's the right way.


posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 1:14 PM


All of this thought about the perfect hair cut and not even one pic?
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 3:35 PM  
The practitioner is an artist; he begs you use your imagination.
commented by Blogger Not Prince Hamlet, 3:39 PM  
Unfortunately, I think the idea now (the false idea, mind you) is that we all think that we are experts...about everything.

See: roughly 45 people calling into AM radio this morning with how the Rockies should have been managed.
commented by Blogger Scott, 11:37 AM  

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