The Hebrew letter aleph — if I remember aright — is a “glottal stop,” something like a gasp or a catching of breath just before the sound of the next vowel flows on.
It seems fitting to think of it just now.
The dailiness of things demands its due no matter what. The morning comes. The dishes sit in the sink. The cat mews at the food dish. The children who were nudged from sleep last night to hear a speech that will be in their own children’s history books, to see now with their living eyes a sight their children will get to see in the albums of the long national story past, at present must once again be gotten up and dressed and off to school.
The strangest thing about what theologians and folks who read them call kairos moments is that they dance along with the steady flow of chronos moments, the way light dances on water. No sense of the enormity of this moment without the enormous background of ordinary moments, no sense of the newness of this sight without the long stretch of sights already seen, no mark on this particular time without some particular time in the ordinary course of things to mark, no kairos without its body in chronos.
The enormity, the profundity, the significance, the impact of whatever is astonishing — whether in pleasure or pain, whether unimaginable, or unimagined, whether hoped for, or almost given up hope for — can only be measured, only attain its full measure, in and through that course of daily things. Just as words can’t be heard until they are spoken, just as messages can’t be understood until they take their full shape in sound or text. We need the body of time, the body of sound, the body of text, the body of dailiness to communicate meaning, even — especially — those meanings that take our breath away.
But aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet for a reason, surely. We need a letter to stand for what we go through when we catch ourselves at the place where kairos touches chronos, when we catch a sight that discloses how things have been coming along in the flow of the dailiness: A gasp, a catching of breath, a cueing nod of the spirit (“now”), a recognition that something has already begun and is still about to begin, just at the beginning of what comes next.
Full text of Senator John McCain’s concession speech from the Associated Press
Full text of President-elect Barack Obama’s election night speech from the Associated Press