Yesterday’s running of the Kentucky Derby was classic, in that the winner was known and identified well before the herald trumpet called us to attention, the race about to begin. For days in advance, it was speculated that California Chrome was going to run away with the roses and become the owner of spot #1 in the Triple Crown, the sought after and seldom won three win trophy.
I have to say that what I saw yesterday for the first time was a horse that commanded respect. It is no surprise that this strong, aggressive and talented horse shot from the pack and led down the stretch to win the race with little competition. Another way of saying that is to say that California Chrome was redoubtable…unlikely to be beaten. The competition was strong, but there was no way that any one of those other eighteen horses was going to beat California Chrome.
Another way to say it would be that Chrome was formidable. Both words are testimony to the unique set of qualities which we find in a Kentucky Derby winner. Just being able to run a flawless race in front of 165,000 people is testimony enough.
Redoubtable is a good word to describe California Chrome. It is a word that comes from French and has a meaning close to the meaning of the word fear. One dictionary says that redoubtable means that someone or something commands respect. That is a good way of describing what it means to have great respect for someone. Fear is not exclusively a negative word. It is used in theology all the time to identify the way in which someone finds themself before God. “Fearing” God is not necessarily to be afraid of God…rather it is to find one’s self to be overwhelmed by the power of God and the capabilities God possesses. Traditional theology tells us that God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. How’s that for a resume? Pretty good reason to be humbled before God.
Similarly, something or someone who is redoubtable commands respect. True respect, to take the matter one step further, is what one feels when the person actually deserves the honor shown them. Many people demand respect, but the truly redoubtable person…a formidable person, has earned that respect.
I remember the first time I met Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I was overwhelmed to be in his presence, to say nothing about being given the privilege of speaking with him and sitting next to him having a conversation. I have described it before. I brought one of his books to ask if he would autograph it. He talked with me about myself, then took the book and said he would sign it and get it back to me later that day. When he actually came looking for me to return my book to me, I was overwhelmed. He was truly a redoubtable man…not because he lorded his power over me. In fact, he was quite humble. But the awe I felt in his presence made him redoubtable … commanding my respect. Not because he required it, but because he earned it.
Redoubtable is one of those words I want to reserve for special people or beings. To throw it around casually in order to aggrandize someone does an injustice to the power of the word. Just think, in one short blog I have connected a horse and an Archbishop, both of whom are, indeed, formidable.
Photo Credit: Morry Gash