In Praise of a Quite Gratuitous Ornament

*In my preparatory reading for our upcoming snow retreat, I came across this celebration of beards by Augustine in The City of God.

There are some things, too, which have such a place in the body, that they obviously serve no useful purpose, but are solely for beauty, as e.g….the beard on [a man’s] face; for that this is for ornament, and not for protection, is proved by the bare faces of women, who ought rather, as the weaker sex, to enjoy such a defense. (XXII, 24)

One of Augustine’s biographers, Peter Brown, summarized the same section as follows:

Think of the intimate wonders of the human body, even, the quite gratuitous ornament of a male beard! (Augustine of Hippo, p. 329)

Many of my favorite people have, or have had, beards, such as my dad, the former intern, and one of the hairiest men I know. For good measure, I’ll thrown this one in, too. What’s more alarming than any of the linked images, is that this is not the first post I’ve written about beards.