Imagine, if you will, a time before time, 13.7 billion years ago. [i] The four fundamental forces—gravity, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force—abide, properly speaking, as a single, unified force with no differentiation. Everything that is, is huddled tightly together. The universe (which can’t yet really properly be described as a universe) is the size of a pinprick. All is static and immobile.
I am a terrible basketball player, maybe the world’s worst. That is not an exaggeration. When I was seven years old, my mother registered me for a summer basketball camp. Each morning camp began with a simple warmup in which all the boys dribbled the ball up and down the court, first walking, then trotting, then finally running as if on a fast break. I can still recall the flummoxed look on the coach’s face when I, during the slow-walk part of the drill, couldn’t keep the ball under my hand after the second dribble.
“Glorious day,” read the opening to many entries in my great-grandfather’s journal documenting the harsh life on the Texas frontier. “Glorious day,” as he wrote about carving out a farm, a living and a legacy, from difficult terrain, not unlike that of Australia. “Glorious day,” became for me, a sign of an unusual quality in extraordinary individuals able to stare down the toughest life has to offer and celebrate it.
On Monday I wrote a sermon. I drafted it, let it sit overnight, worked on it some more, and then had Jill read it. She gave it the clergy spouse seal of approval, so I was ready for today. It was a pretty good sermon. As I always am, I was relieved when it was neatly printed and placed in the center of my desk. (I’m fastidious like that.) But I’m not preaching that sermon. Late in the week I deep-sixed it in the recycle bin. I’m preaching something different.
This holiday is unlike any other. Over the years, people faithful to this day have observed it in myriad unforgettable ways.[i]
I suppose its unavoidable that the day would become commercialized, but at least in this case companies that hope to capitalize on it have been creative. For instance, in 1998 Burger King used the holiday as the opportunity to advertise the “Left-Handed Whopper,” a brilliant culinary move from the standpoint of this left-hander, who has suffered under the discomfort of eating right-handed foods my entire life.
When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet. [i]
Many of a certain generation will remember the scene from the Mel Brooks film History of the World: Part I, when Moses stands atop Mount Sinai looking down upon the Hebrews with three large stone tablets balanced precariously in his hands. Moses (played by Brooks himself, of course) says to the Israelites, “Oh, hear me! All pay heed! The Lord, the Lord Jehovah, has given unto you these fifteen…” At which point Moses drops one of the three tablets, and it shatters. He pauses sheepishly, mumbles “Oy,” and then says, “Ten! Ten commandments for all to obey!”