Opinion: Above The Clouds, Or With A Little Alp From Our Friends

June 26, 2021

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One of the vivid memories that I have about the period in my life spent on planes, was taking off from Zurich airport on the way to Munich early one November morning. It was a dark, cold, wet morning. No one looked happy and few seemed filled with the joy of living, which might have been expected considering that it was Switzerland where a smile is no one’s resting face. It was so dank that when we had boarded the flight, it was impossible to tell if the water on the window was rain or cloud moisture.

As we began to taxi, the captain welcomed us on board and gave us some details about the short flight. The weather in Munich was apparently much the same, but the flying conditions would be good. Because, as he explained, “It’s a beautiful day a few metres up.” Shortly after, we took off and he was right. It took seconds for the cabin to fill with sunshine. Suddenly, everything looked colourful and bright and I am certain that even some of the Swiss might have smiled. On the ground, in the grey and in the dark, it would have been impossible to imagine what a magnificent day awaited us.

Recently, South Africa has felt like Zurich. Without the chocolates, banks, the Alps and electricity. And water. And watches. And trams and snow. It was similar in that it felt dark and grey and it was impossible to know what was the causing the water on the windows. Was it Covid or the infrastructure failure or the vaccine delay? Was it the fact that we can’t socialise again and that we don’t laugh nearly as much as we need to or that it is hard to imagine the sun shining again.

I bumped into a friend when I was walking on shabbat. After he asked me how I was, he gave me his theory as to why it’s particularly bad at the moment. He said that bad things have always happened. People have always died before their time and things have always gone wrong. But normally there is more balance. After a difficult week we can get together with friends, have a drink and laugh. Now it feels like all that we have are the funerals. I wanted to disagree with him. I wanted to tell him how blessed we are as a community; how fortunate we are to have all that we have in this country and how wonderful South Africans are. I would not have been wrong. But to say it would have been.

It also doesn’t help to repeat that it is “darkest before the dawn,” that “this too shall pass” and that there “is light at the end of the tunnel.” And that “every cloud has a silver lining.” All might be true but none are helpful.

What helps me during a time like this is to find a role to play. We each have a “job” and a way that we can assist in helping other get through this time. Purpose is a life saver. And it has saved my life even before it helped others. It also helps me to think of that November morning in Zurich when it was hard to imagine the sunshine. Until we took off and within seconds we saw what magnificent day was waiting for us. Just where we couldn’t see it .

Howard Feldman is Head of Marketing & People at Synthesis.

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