I have never known my husband without his beard, a fact that disturbed me in the early years of our relationship. What was he hiding: a weak chin, a saber scar, a slothful nature, a psychological need for a barrier between himself and the world? But as time passed, I no longer felt the need to ask these questions. I now know my husband, and the beard is part of who he is. This seems to me to relate to the question that the anthropologist Gregory Bateson raised about the old man with the cane: Where does the one end and the other begin? Impossible to say, Bateson concluded, since the two cannot be functionally separated. A beard may seem less functional than a cane, but the choice to grow a beard has a function, though it may not be singular or simply articulated.

 

If the Olympic Village descends into orgiastic debauchery this summer — as it did during the 2004 Olympics, when 130,000 free condoms were given away along with 30,000 sachets of lubricant, or during the 2000 Sydney Games, when the Durex supply had to be supplemented with an emergency shipment of 20,000 extras — athletes in Beijing will be only be upholding the finest traditions of classical Greece. Back in Plato’s day, sex and sport were always intertwined: In classical gymnasiums, Greeks competed stark naked beneath a statue of Eros, and the workout rooms were prime pick-up spots. In the first Olympic Village — an enclave in the rural city of Elis where, every fourth year, the cream of ancient athletes gathered for 30 days before the Games — this lusty atmosphere reached a frenzied pitch, with groupies arriving… More…