Friday, June 29, 2007

It never snows in Joburg

That's what they say, at least.

The truth is, I remember the last time it snowed in Johannesburg. That was in September 1981. Everyone was so excited, especially when they let us go home early from school.

It's not that there was much snow, but we enjoyed it. We threw snowballs and made 10cm snowmen. By the next day, the white winter was gone.

For a few more years after that, I waited expectantly for snow. Each winter, I'd look out at the crystal clear blue sky- and hope.

But, it never came.

People explaines that it never snows in Joburg, how '81 was a freak incident.

Eventually I stopped hoping.

12:30 a.m. Wednesday- a thunderbolt shook my children out of bed. Their knocking on the door woke me.

As I calmed them and prepared to return them to bed, something prompted me to look out of the window. Before my unbelieving eyes, I saw hundreds of little flakes floating down.

By the morning, everything was covered in a light coat of white. Ok, there was less of it than there had been 26 years ago, but it was snow.

The children scooped it up in their hands (unaware of the need for gloves), slipped and slid and had a wonderful morning.

"Snowburg" the newspaper headlines cheerfully proclaimed.

As people marvelled at the white wonder (everyone seemed a little happier than usual), the snow made me think.

About things that we believe will never happen. About how when they takes longer than expected, we start to imagine it will never happen.

It made me think about Moshiach.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Lessons from the NY subway (part 2)

So, I was riding the D train from Boro Park back to Crown Heights. My fellow passengers all sat cocooned in their reading or music, waiting for the moment when they return to life and exit the car.

As I got off and merged with the human sea of the Atlantic avenue station, a staccato voice reverberated across the platform: "All passengers on the D and N trains, we regret to inform you that all D and N trains will be temporarily delayed as a passenger downtown requires emergency medical assistance!"

You may believe that your world operates independently of the next person's. But, when one person is in crisis, it derails us all.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Lessons from the NY subway (part 1)

I always enjoy the New York pulse. It's exciting. It's electrifying. It energizes.

New York has got to be one of the most animated cities on our planet. No matter the time of day or night, you will see people. The streets are alive with business executives, tourists, hawkers, sidewalk evangelists, yellow cabs, and, nowadays, lots of cops.

Beneath those bustling New York streets there's the shadow-life of the subway system. For millions the subway is an integral part of life in New York. It is here that you can observe the people, their quirks and habits- and their attitudes. You can learn much about life from watching what happens on those trains.

Back on the subway a few days ago (it's been nine months since my last NY visit), I again noticed the prevalent isolationist attitude of commuters.

Some spread newspapers to shield themselves from their co-riders. Some read books or magazines, while others escape into the Hip-Hop that pulsates through their Ipods. Those unequipped with the tools to create the required barrier simply avert their eyes.

It's as though the common thinking is: "I am an individual. My life is absolutely independent of yours. We have nothing in common and no shared experience. Please, leave me alone."

Just then, the train lurches forward- and every single passenger lunges back the same distance, at the same time and the same velocity...