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An Incredible Egg And The Meaning Of Life

We balanced an egg on our counter top this morning. It’s an equinox ritual at the Goldsmith home. Vernal and Autumnal, we take out a raw egg and, after a bit of futzing and few false starts, we get it standing on its end and the kids smile for this semi-annual Facebook post. I don’t remember when I heard that eggs balance on their ends during the equinox but I love the idea that because the earth’s axis is vertical as we hurl through space at 1,000 miles an hour, we can balance an egg on the smooth surface of our kitchen counter.

What began a few years ago as a 30 minute project with toddlers has evolved into a two minute routine before running out the door to school and work.

“Wait! It’s the first day of spring. We’ve got to do the egg!” “Daddy, won’t we be late?” “No. We got this!”

And, sure enough, for two minutes, the rush falls away. We stop thinking about permission slips and homework, phone calls and paperwork. Instead, we laugh as the egg rolls on the counter time and again until we get a moment of egg enchantment. “Quick! Smile before it falls!”

I capture the moment and post it on Facebook where it will live for all time.

Something so transient made permanent. Something we can only do twice a year that becomes –- somehow –- routine. I appreciate that odd tension, the seeming contradictions embodied in that egg. Routines have that power, ritual does, too. When we have the discipline for any kind of regular ritual, we create benchmarks, sign-posts along the winding paths of our lives. They help us to create order and predictability and, therefore, comfort. Thanksgiving dinner or Passover seder, Shabbat candles or the Sunday newspaper, annual or weekly, rituals let us know that no matter the chaos around us, something steady, something more enduring, plays at the edges of creation.

It’s all very high-minded, but in the crazy lives we lead, who’s got time for ritual? So many religious traditions and self-help books teach about achieving that sort of mindset. Through meditation or prayer, through guided imagery or mindfulness exercises, the gurus tell us to “be here now,” to focus on our breath, to let our concerns melt away. I’m not sure what world they live in, but in my suburban world with two elementary school kids, car and mortgage payments, the schedules of two busy professionals and a to-do list a mile long, that kind of mindfulness seems years away. And so, when I find something like the egg, something that can transport us for two minutes of laughter and smiles, I treasure it.

We can actually find moments like that all around us: things that happen all the time that we fail to notice and things that we can do to help us smile, to help those around us smile. The fresh, crisp air we breathe when we go outside to get the paper off the driveway. The way kids yelp for joy on the playground at school drop off. The sun glinting off the water as the train passes over the Harlem River. And those things we can do for others: Letting cars merge onto the highway. Opening the door for others or giving up your seat for them. Over-tipping the barista. Sending a note of hello to a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Commenting on a friend’s Facebook post. All of these, the things we can notice and the things we can do, take less than a minute. All of them give us a moment of joy, a moment apart from the rush of our lives, a moment to smile.

A friend once told me that you can actually balance an egg on its end any time of year. It felt a bit like being told that the tooth fairy does not exist. And so, I have not experimented. In our home, we only stand up the egg twice a year and each time we do, smiles and laughs and a great Facebook photo surely ensues. Happy spring!

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