I am beetle-browed and uni-browed. Not so bad as I once was because I plucked for a decade. Then I let it all grow back. In all its glory. It’s a beautiful monster which I pet each day, whispering kind words of admiration.
Our weaknesses are our strengths.
This brow taught me how to fight.
First time I can remember someone mocking the brow, I was six years old. He was a fellow Greek kid and my best friend at the time. We were the champion marble team on the playground and he felt that, in our last session, I had chosen the better marbles from our takings without his consent.
As he walked up the hill from the playground, the teachers calling us in from recess, he simply shouted so that everyone could hear: “Whatever. Nice eyebrow.”
Emphasis on the singular.
I threw a rock at him. My intent was to kill. The rock connected with his head. He did not die, but when he charged at me, my punch finally put him down.
I put down twenty or so kids before my sophomore year of high school. That’s when my girlfriend at the time asked me to shave the linkage. I decided to do it, not because she promised me a fine reward, but because I had come to understand that it had to be done – for the good of civilization.
The brow taught me that, beneath it all, people fear that which is ultimately uncivilized. The brow is wild. It is prehistoric. Neanderthal. It speaks to that quiet barbarian in all our hearts — and those who can’t accept that we’ve still got one foot in the swamp see the brow as a billboard of barbarism.
They want a civilized, Scandinavian brow. One that forms a straight, decent line.
One they can trust to negotiate amicable treaties, fund public works sufficiently, design clean-fuel automobiles and functional furniture.
They want a brow that adorns rather than confronts.
My brow confronts you with the fact that, beneath its awning, there lives a disordered, irrational, unpredictable creature. But don’t worry. I’ve been tamed.
Rather, I recognize the advantages of pretending tameness.
Make no mistake though. I am just “passing” for a civilized human being. Truth is, I don’t buy any of this. The highways. The birds of steel. The arrows pointing every which way, the iconography. The high-rises. The rows upon rows of corn and wheat. The cell phone towers that look like pine trees and the shopping malls.
All this order is purely a means of sublimating our beastly rage.
These are not things I know. These are things the brow tells me, whispering quietly into my brain as I reluctantly accept sleep each night.
Some nights, I go outside and howl. I yell at the moon and spit into the wind. I break the weak branches from the trees and beat the walls until all the branches’ leaves have fallen away. I crush the leaves under my feet.
Then I go back to bed.
I say goodnight to the brow.
“Ooga,” it says. Or else it says nothing at all. It is not opposed to being impolite.
The brow has always told me when to fight and when to run. I have, for example, been insulted often; I have had girls stolen from me, friends pummeled into the pavement right in front of my eyes, and I have always opened my hands and waved the white flag of the pacifist. These offenses have felt almost impersonal to me. Like they were happening to someone else (which, often, they were).
But, every once in a while, someone will look at me and – I can see that they find this an unwise choice almost as soon as they embark down its short path – they will go straight to the heart of matters.
They will insult the eyebrow.
Before they have completed the insult, I am upon them like a puma. Punch. Claw. Shove. Gouge. The element of surprise. The wild boar then. Squealing. Slobbering.
Humiliating my opponent is the only possible outcome.
If the opponent is too skilled or too large, I will kick them in the testicles. This “nuclear option” was taught to me by my karate sensei. A fourth degree black belt and this was his advice: “Remember. If it is a real fight, there is only one objective. Victory at all costs.”
My karate teacher was a wise Lebanese immigrant who moonlighted as a lawyer to pay the bills. He was an awful lawyer. Couldn’t write a grammatically correct sentence to save someone else’s life. I wonder, sometimes, what happened to him. Then I find it more interesting to care about something else.
All of this bravado I’m expressing probably has you wondering if you should insult my eyebrow, just to test whether I’m exaggerating my beastliness. I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Seriously. Are you not aware of the clichés? The Hulk? Mr. Hyde? Animal?
They are all protégés of the brow.
Which returns me to what I wanted to talk about at the beginning of this “whatever-you-may-call-it.” Rant, I suppose, if you’re the sensitive type.
It’s about our compunction and pretenses towards order. It’s about how we compete over money and cars and “empires.” Competing over accolades and acumen; striving to become “our best selves” at every turn. The tussle between community and the individual – all against Nature.
It’s all a mere representation. A masquerade. Millions of layers piled on to hide the most fearful authenticity, the one that dwells in the forests of Congo and on the steppes of Mongolia.
It is this the brow wishes to tell you today:
“We are not the species that will achieve the loftiest destinies afforded by supreme intelligence and reason.
There is no ‘warp speed’ in our future.
There are too many like me out there. The ones who know. We just know that the sounds of the earth – our home – are the sounds of eternity.
We will not let you drag us up there, into the tidy vacuum of space.
We are staying down here where it is messy – mud and gore and flora and fauna.
A cold, biting wind beneath a hot, cutting sun.
We will go down with this ship.
And there is nothing you can do to stop us.”