Sunday, 30 April 2006

Parachuting into Antwerp


Diamonds are for mugs
My most recent escape from the Netherlands in the light of the over-subscribed Queen's day celebrations had me hop over to Antwerp, in Belgium.
Antwerp is considered the diamond capital of the world in terms of the commercial and processing activity.
However, if you ever have the good fortune of having your relations in tow, they would like magpies be attracted to the glitter of fool's gold that adorns the shopping windows of the jewellery shops that make up the neighbourhood of Antwerp Central Station.
Besides, work is at hand converting the cul de sac Central Station into a conduit station so that visitor do not agonise about the possibility of getting lost when the train they have boarded goes in one way and reverses out in continuation of the same journey.
Could it be the stench of diamonds?
That work which has been going on for about 3 years has created a London moment in an area that could be 4 kilometres square as the digging has definitely ruptured the sewage systems that no hotel has the blessing of good breathable air to which the residents are already accustomed.
That London moment refers to the 19th Century parliamentary contract to clean up the Thames which had an unbearable stench that the lawmakers just could abide; it would however take more than a parliament in Antwerp to find the source of those odorifiers. More so, I am amazed that the good citizens of Antwerp have not yet had their fill of the situation to demand appropriate action.
Then, as I walked down a street, I came upon an advertisement in Flemish - Dutch spoken in the Belgians - this on translation would read in context.
"Your mind is like a parachute, it works better when open"
Too true, the function of a parachute is to harness the invisible but tangible properties of air to ensure a gradual and safe landing or to stop a high velocity vehicle.
The parachute of the mind
The use of parachutes requires knowledge, preparation, application, timing, deployment and poise as the exercise comes to a halt.
So, also, the mind, free of the ignorance that is coloured by generalisations, prejudice, hypocrisy, stubbornness, rumour, gossip and every perpetuating influence that keeps truth from having precedence, is open to assess information, objectively, meditatively, contemplatively and ruminatively to arrive at decisions, if necessary.
We have however been caught up in situations where the mind is not open, just as the parachute should open.
Jumping to conclusions
In an exchange between a parachute instructor and a pupil in a class as the airplane reached jumping height, this ensued.
Instructor: Class, I have taught you all you need to know about parachuting.
Pupil: Sir, what if the parachute does not open?
Instructor: Then, my friend, you will be jumping to a conclusion. [1]
Many a time we have jumped to conclusions, but thankfully, not as conclusively as a hapless and unlucky parachutist.
It concerns me though that the Iranian Nuclear Crisis already has a conclusion of regime change - Iraq, comes to mind. Its resolution could probably be more about how the Americans allow their parachute to open than how the Iranians decide whether or not to use a parachute.
[1] (Recalled from an article I read in the Reader's Digest years ago)

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