Click for a soundtrack to this post: Washington Post March
Once again March 4 is here. I still get pleasure, probably a little childish, saying to people, “Today is my favorite day of the year.” I enjoy springing my March forth idea. Whoever I ask smiles, raises his eyebrows, and hazards the same guesses: “Is it your birthday? Your anniversary?” “No,” I say with a slight uplift at the end of my voice, urging him to guess again. I wait for the pause, the little chuckle, the slight wave of his right hand, as if wanting to gently bat this moment away, the faint shrug, the shake of the head, “I don’t know. What?” I deliver the punchline: “It’s the only day of the year that makes a sentence.” Another pause, eyes slightly a-squint, head cocked a few degrees to the right, thinking, and then, getting it, his eyes roll up and around, the universal reaction to a pun, “I get it. March Fourth.” “Right!” I raise my own hand, a loose fist of decisive energy. “March forth! To Victory! Onward!” At home here, when our children were young and still now, I play Sousa marches and, in fact, we march around a little, laughing and enjoying our own private joke. Once again we get it and after so many years of humoring dad, it now humors all of us.
I’ve been thinking a little differently about it this year. For me, the boldness, the decisive marching forth is becoming trust in something bigger, in Some One bigger, call it the Universe if you’d like (I don’t mind), but I’ll call it God. Always in the past I’ve focused on the boldness of the marching. Now, especially after making several big life decisions over the last few months, I realize taking the bold step needs a bit of faith it will land somewhere solid.
I’m chuckling again this year, pondering not just the well-worn but still-funny pun (I never tire of it), but this oxymoronic duo: decisive trust. The word decisive (as in marching forth!) feels active and bold. The idea has always been at the root of the word-play. Trust, however, carries a sense of passivity. It is when my nine month-old grandson leans back, relaxes, knows he’ll be cradled safely in the arms of his mother or father. Trust is the unthinking confidence anybody puts in food out of a can or a package that it won’t be bad. It’s turning the key in the ignition and, almost miraculously it sometimes seems to me, hearing the engine roar to life yet again. It’s setting the alarm at night, day after day, trusting it to awaken the sleeper so he’s not late for work. To trust a clock to wake you up in time to labor for your daily bread is an amazing bit of passive faith. You can let yourself sleep, knowing, trusting the gadget will do its job at the appointed time.
I’m thinking today about a passive activity, a marching forth, that knows the next step will land securely, firmly on Terra Firma, both actually and figuratively, the solid ground of this earth, the firm rock of God.
I’m thinking today’s marching forth can be, should be, must only be an active passivity, an action trusting the next footfall to land where it ought, in fact not even thinking much beyond that next solid step, knowing that worrying and wondering about the step after that is, well, at times at least, premature. Give us this day our daily, not yearly, bread.
I’m thinking today that John Philip Sousa’s lively strains will accompany a celebration of brazenly trusting God in a boldly passive marching forth, step-by-step, minute by minute, starting right now and continuing, continuing, continuing as it will to who knows, exactly, where.
Happy March Fourth!