Jewish World Review Jan. 11, 2002 / 27 Teves, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- MUCH of the mighty American nation has been humbled in recent days by itty, bitty drops of water.
These moist fragments have frozen and fluttered to earth in the form of snowflakes, many of which have landed uncharacteristically south of the Mason Dixon line. I live in Washington, a northern-southern town. Motorists here react to even the slightest bit of dampness on pavement by acting as if they were driving on an ice rink. The mere appearance of sleet and snow seems to unsettle the locals, causing them to spin and whirl -- filling up ditches and snapping many an innocent utility pole.
The experience provides an apt reminder that we often overestimate our grandeur and underestimate the power of things that may seem innocent, irrelevant or powerless. In many cities today, you will hear two things if you lift open your window -- the gentle whisper of falling flakes, and the angry whine of tires carving cusps in the new fallen snow.
Guess who's winning that fight?
Investigators have discovered that dogs can laugh, which can't be too big of a surprise.
Pet lovers know that animals sometimes understand us better than we do, and the annals of human sin and desire provide plenty of stories to drive the point home.
For example: A mynah bird in the Chinese city of Chongqing has just plucked his master's feathers. The bird has a habit of chattering madly whenever the family phone rings. Its choice of comments "I love you" "Be Patient" and "Divorce" recently aroused the curiosity of the mistress of the house.
She put two and two together and concluded the pet learned the terms when her husband was talking with his lover.
Last week, the wife sued for divorce, hoping to use the talkative mynah as a star witness. Even though her attorney says the court is unlikely to accept the testimony, the bird's word stands -- and her spouse probably wishes now that he had gotten a smiling dog instead.
I have learned one important lesson this year, and it may not bode well for our consumer-driven economy.
Here it is: Kids don't care that much about glitzy stuff.
Our three children requested a series of exotic toys for Christmas -- robotic animals, videogames and the like -- and they didn't get any of them. Santa delivered one present to each child -- simple gifts, only one of which required batteries -- and my wife and I gave a couple apiece -- and that was it.
Liberated from the challenge of plucking one item from a roomful of new and exotic playthings, our kids spent their holiday playing happily enjoying not just the toys, but also some of the gift boxes. This confirms something my wife and I long suspected -- that when it comes to such things, less really is more.
Our kids have never
played longer or harder this year, when they got the best gift possible --
the chance to get some fresh air and set their imaginations