As a kid growing up, saturdays meant the family making the weekly trip to visit my grandparents farm. For me such satudays involved catching frogs, climbing trees, and a particular highlight, going to see the train.
The train signals would sing their song long before the train arrived at the railroad crossing down the road. That steady clanging sound was also the signal for my grandfather, no matter where he was on the farm, to wait for me to join him, from no matter where I had wandered to on the farm, and he would walk me to watch the train go by.
My little six-year old hand would fit into his as we would amble together towards the train crossing. The routine didn't change as the years rolled by, although at some point it would be the younger hands of younger grandchildren holding my grandfather's hand. We would eagerly await the train to pass by, and as it approached, my grandfather would gently remind us to wave at the engineer as he passed by. No matter how many times I did it, I would always marvel that the mighty hand making that powerful train roll past would deign to wave back.
We were all connected.
The waving hands of the little six-year old and the glove of the train conductor would acknowledge that we were as connected as that train was from one point to another, from its past to its future.
This week, in the wake of the train bombings in India, I made a point to express my sympathies to my indian colleagues at work. I was surprised by how excessively touched they were by my interest, since it seemed the natural thing to do. I soon learned that I've been the only person to have made enquiries about their family and friends safety back home. Out of all my canadian co-workers, I had been the only one to offer a hand to them in consolation? How could this be?
I mentioned my disappointment and disillusionment about this lack of response at the meeting tonight. I had thought that feeling the need to reach out and connect with my indian colleagues in the aftermath of the attacks should be a natural, instinctive response, shared by everyone at work. Truepeers pointed out that people have to be taught how to connect to people in this manner, that it is not natural. I initially thought he was wrong, for once, but on the way home, remembering these other trains in other times, I realize that he was right after all.
A grandfather did teach a six-year old how to connect. Week after week, lesson after lesson. The past connects to the future, a child's wonder at human progress connects to an older generation's pride of achievement. I don't remember the ritual's beginning, yet beginning there must have been. It was just something that you did, you went to wave at the train. You were connected to that conductor, as surely as the inevitable caboose was connected to the engine of the train.
We need to succeed in teaching the readers of the koran how to connect to the rest of the world, to get off their train that just goes round and round the same circular track endlessly, generation after generation.
History repeats itself, but in outline, in pattern, not in detail, as they believe.
I can wave at the reader of the koran, why will he not wave back at me?
This week's meeting was pleasant company discussing unpleasant events in the news. We meet every week in the Vancouver Public Library to do this. If you are in Vancouver, please connect with us.