I am going bald.
Or at least, I was. Today I went to a doctor and got a prescription for finasteride, a drug that halts male pattern baldness (also known as androgenetic alopecia). Of course, it remains to be seen if the drug will work for me, and I am unlikely to regain any of the substantial amount of hair I have already lost at my temples.
It is this last point that makes me view the record of my decision-making on this issue as a cautionary tale.
Back when I started losing hair, probably about three or four years ago, I was inclined to think: “It’s okay. This is the natural course of life. I will grow old gracefully, and learn to live with it.” This thought was a manifestation of a particular way of responding to the world, which supposes that one should reconcile oneself not just to the frailties of the human body, but also to the failures and misfortunes of all kinds. This kind of acquiescence is supposed to lead to peace of mind.
I got this teaching from Zen, and from Daoism, but I see it more often elsewhere. It also animates a kind of environmentalist thinking that abhors the achievements of modern civilisation, and thinks we’d be healthier and happier if we still lived in grass huts. It inspires some feminists to leave their armpits unshaven and undeodorised in the apparent belief that to do so is somehow more authentic than the alternatives (this is not a generalisation: I’m thinking of at least one specific example). In all its manifestations, it makes the foolish fail to act in order to shape the world and themselves in order to realise their ideals, no matter how trivial. And it makes some people, like the environmentalists and feminists I’ve mentioned, aspire to the base out of disdain for the refined.
In my case, it stopped me using the products of science to preserve my hair. If I’d believed then, as I do know, that it is right and admirable to use the power at our disposal to sculpt the world and ourselves as we see fit, I would still have all my hair. Ultimately, that is the outcome that would have made me happiest at the present moment. If we can change something we do not like, we should not be reconciled to it happening anyway.
Acquiescence is futile.