What is it about this word “toast”? What is it about browned, slightly crisp, cooked, buttered bread that so conjures up comfort for people that they say things like “toasty warm”? When I think of this word “toast”, I keep coming back to toasted, as in “I’m totally toasted”, when you’re completely loaded. Or what about, “we are toast man”, when you’re totally in trouble? Maybe that actually means the opposite, completely not in trouble, like when you’re being toasted at weddings, for instance. The best man tries to say something that moves everyone, or makes them laugh, or both, in the best case, neither in the worst, and then they all lift their glasses and clink. It’s odd. How would you explain that to say, an alien? Why don’t they clink their heads or their heels, like Dorothy? Hitler did that but it didn’t mean the same thing as when Dorothy did it. That wasn’t a toast, it was more like, punctuation. But it wasn’t just Hitler, lots of military people do that. They click their heels, pull one hand up perpendicular to their head, and call it a salute. Maybe it is a toast.
Who invents these things? And then, how do they become habits? What about clapping? I’ve never seen monkeys clapping for some other chimp’s great behavior, although I have seen babies doing it. Did their parents teach them that? When did that first come about, and does it mean the same thing to humans everywhere?
Then there’s praying. We bring our two hands together, in the neighborhood of the heart, fingers pointing towards the sky, heads bowed towards our selves, and the Earth. I love that. And the more dramatic forms, where people get down on their knees, fold in half, and put their heads right on the floor, arms stretched out. Or how about, when people lay their whole bodies down on the ground, face to the Earth, arms out in front. You can feel that when you see it. It says: humility, offering. I remember bowing in India, with my teacher sitting in her chair. I ‘d wait, my head cooling on the marble floor, until I could feel my shoulders, my breath, and then my whole body just drop and then, the rush of gratitude. That’s when I knew it was time to get up again. That’s a kind of toast, isn’t it? Here’s a toast to you God, to you Debra, to you Life, Whole World and every speck in it. Thanks, I can go on again now, one more day, one more incredulous day. This, I believe, is like coming up for air after being under water for too long.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.