Today would be a great day to be born. Monk would love to have been born on a date that is so perfectly ten. (In case you’re listening, Baby Shuler…consider this encouragement to make your appearance any time before midnight. Of course, you’ll be welcome any time…but really, how cool to have this date as the date of your birth?!)
Ten is just one of those numbers.
I grew up in the land of the Big Ten Conference: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, and Wisconsin. When I moved to Florida 8+ years ago, I was afraid I’d left college football and basketball fever behind me in the midwest. I was wrong, of course. The only conference I was aware of beside the Big Ten was the Big Eight. Ten, of course, is better. Except for Nebraska.
I also grew up in this long era of Top Ten lists. I think people would make these lists no matter what, but David Letterman (also, by the way, from the Midwest) certainly contributed to making them as American as apple pie and baseball.
I wonder what magazine editors would do without the top ten list. Really, they’d have to be all sorts of creative without this simple structure on which to hang their year-end or season-beginning or summary feature stories. Pastors and teachers can also thank the genre for giving them a format that seems less commanding than lists of ten had historically been.
I refer, of course, to the Ten Commandments. That is a whole other kind of list of ten.
I remember reading the text of the 1987 commencement address at Duke University delivered by Ted Koppel (ABC Nightline moderator). Here is a paragraph from that address:
“We have actually convinced ourselves that slogans will save us. Shoot up if you must; but use a clean needle. Enjoy sex whenever and with whomever you wish, but wear a condom. No! The answer is no. Not because it isn’t cool or smart or because you might end up in jail or in an AIDS ward, but no because it’s wrong, because we have spent 5,000 years as a race of rational human beings, trying to drag ourselves out of the primeval slime by searching for truth and moral absolutes. In its purest form, truth is not a polite tap on the shoulder. It is a howling reproach. What Moses brought down from Mount Sinai were not the Ten Suggestions.”
This is, no contest, the most significant TEN in our lives.
There are, of course, many less memorable tens. Our number system is based on 10 and that has influenced the denominations we use for our money. $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100… Had a different number dominated, we could have $1, $8, $16, $40 bills.
And I can hardly leave out the ten monkeys who jumped on the bed. I suppose my recent interactions with various monkey and ape species at the zoo in Singapore had me thinking about primates and may have triggered this thought.
You’ve likely thought of some tens I’ve forgotten or, in all honestly, intentionally left off the list.