With the combustion that happened


Hello everyone,

From the book Thank You for Being Late by Thomas Friedman.

All of us, and there were many others propelled by this small town, either grew up in St. Louis Park or went through its public schools or Hebrew school in roughly the same fifteen-year span. The Coen brothers based their 2009 movie A Serious Man on St. Louis Park, circa 1967, and our Hebrew school. When they were young, the Coen brothers often hung out at Mike Zoss Drugs on Minnetonka Boulevard, a few miles from my house. If you look closely at their classic film No Country for Old Men , you’ll see that the pharmacy just across the Mexican border that the lead character, Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem, enters to steal medicine after he blows up a parked car is called “Mike Zoss Pharmacy”—one of many homages in Coen brothers movies to our hometown and its unlikely Jewish community who settled in these wintry midwestern plains and called themselves “the Frozen Chosen.” To this day I am not sure any of us knows what was the dynamic that unlocked all this human energy, but in my mind it had something to do with pluralism—with the combustion that happened when a new generation of American Jews got unlocked from their Minneapolis ghetto in the mid-1950s and were thrown together with a bunch of progressive Scandinavians in one little suburb. If Israel and Finland had had a baby, it would have been St. Louis Park.

I’m confused by the word “combuston” here?

3 violent excitement; tumult.

With this meaning, it sounds to me like something that happened in some countries during the Arab spring (street or square protests, rallies), but I don’t think it is the case in the context above.

Would it be correct to say that “combustion” here means something like “intense activity”?

Thank you.


It is a little tricky, because as you have hinted at, “combustion” often has a negative connotation, like “Watch out, this is a combustible situation.”

But here it is actually being used in a positive way by focusing on the fact that combustion takes place when there is fuel together with oxygen. When they combine, it produces light and energy. So we have the Jewish people interacting closely with the Scandinavians and combusting in a controlled, energy-producing way rather than an uncontrolled explosive way.