This meaning is lost to us now, but centuries ago, the word “legend” referred to the life story of a saint. Legends were to be read in religious services, to celebrate the example set by the holiest of believers, the divinely chosen. But if we are used to thinking of heroes and their miracles as fixed in the past, we are in no way prepared to recognize a legend unfolding before our eyes.
That’s where TikTok comes in handy. The video-based social app hosts all kinds of pretenders to legendary status — husky-voiced hustle bros, cringe rappers, self-styled witches and, of course, “Sexy Willy Wonka” — and you’re free to follow as many of these false prophets as you wish. (In fact, the algorithm has probably foisted a couple of them on you already.) However, the true and rightful king of the platform arrived there just a few short weeks ago, on Monday, November 23, whereupon it was immediately hailed as the thing that would “save 2020.”
Behold… the spherical egg.
This stunningly round egg and its dedicated accounts belong to four students enrolled at Kenyon College, a small liberal arts school in Ohio, who are currently living together in South Carolina and pursuing their studies remotely. As the Kenyon Collegian reports, a junior named Konrad Christian was the housemate who discovered the oddity when he set out to make scrambled eggs. He and his friends quickly recognized it as a valuable rarity and have committed to preserving its unusual form. Allegedly, spherical chicken eggs are one in a billion.
After all we’ve been through this year, the isolation, upheaval, election chaos and still-rising tide of preventable deaths, why put all our hopes in a single unlikely egg? Conventional wisdom warns against this kind of foolishness. Maybe, though, the fragility of the spherical egg is what gives it such immense power and spiritual depth. A residence full of college boys would seem the least safe place for this delicate artifact, yet the lads lovingly tend to its shell with mineral oil and enshrine it on a protective throne made from toilet paper tubes and a Solo cup. In the midst of chaos, the egg not only survives — it thrives. Which means that humankind, too, can weather the fiercest storm. Even unfertilized, an egg represents potential, the energy to carry onward.
“The egg is doing great!” the egg’s PR team tells me in a Twitter DM when I ask about their cherished prize, adding that the coat of oil “is supposed to keep it fresh for up to nine months.”
Of course, not everyone is prepared to accept the blessings of the spherical egg. Skeptical TikTok users continue to argue that it’s only a ping pong ball, despite a number of visual proofs to the contrary: It’s bigger, it doesn’t float and its organic interior can be seen in detail when you shine an iPhone’s flashlight through it. Apart from hating for hate’s sake, or as a casual troll, this disbelief must be down to a collective reluctance to accept the beautiful and pure into our timeline. We do not deserve an extraordinary egg, so we invent a narrative to deny the object.
“We think that when you have a one-in-a-billion find, haters are inevitable,” the egg’s four caretakers acknowledge via DM, “but it’s nice to see plenty of fans in the comments section sticking up for the egg and its sphericalness.” Indeed, the fans outweigh the naysayers.
What the critics must not realize is that all bird egg shapes are something of a riddle; the regular, elliptical chicken egg is an outlier among those produced by all avian species, and there’s evidence that a species’ eggs being pointier or rounder is an “incidental consequence” of how their bodies have (or haven’t) evolved for flight. Or, to put it in philosophical terms, they have their shape because that’s the shape they are. The egg is always a cosmic proposition.
And while we’ll never know whether the chicken or the egg came first, we can say with certainty that this legend of an egg — this perfect little moon-like ovum — was laid by one very special chicken, a creature totally oblivious to the havoc of 2020, doing what came naturally. The egg itself has come to achieve that implausible serenity, a spotless orb that rolls toward the infinite.
“The egg was discovered in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, but it will be spending the holidays in Chester, New Jersey,” its owners inform me. “We have a couple TikTok ideas for the future, but we are mostly hoping for a safe and cozy holiday season for the egg.” They also express a desire that it “will bring some good luck to the year 2021, considering 2020 was not the luckiest of years.”
In some way, that would be an extension of their sublime fortune in accidentally acquiring it. “We do feel like the egg chose us as its keepers. … Only two out of the four of us actually eat eggs, so it took some convincing to purchase a carton each week. Luckily, this egg was able to overcome adversity and find a group of guys that would appreciate its uniqueness.”
“As for what’s inside,” they go on, “it’s a mystery. We thought shining a light underneath the egg would give us an idea of what lies within, but to this day, it is still unclear. We believe whatever is inside must be as amazing as the one-in-a-billion exterior.”
As ever, some truths must stay beyond the horizon of understanding, lest we forget the limits of tiny organisms floating in a vast universe. Look to the egg, for the egg does not question — it simply is. And we marvel at it as people bound by a story, the legend of an egg not like the others. We hold history in our hands.