Wednesday, January 05, 2005

three minutes of silence

I sometimes wonder if I am short on empathy. World events don't always have the awful effects on me which they do on my friends. In the instance of the world trade centre, or the tsunami over Christmas I am shocked and fascinated, but my response feels as much intellectual as emotional. Much of what I think is how could all those people be 'gone'?, how decisive, how powerful was that event?, rather than how would I feel if that was me?. That said, there are always moments where you feel tiny and swept along with the awfulness of it. Lots of people criticised Michael Moore's 'Fahrenheit 911' but one thing I really admired about it was the treatment of the towers crashing in; just that black screen, the noise, the aching, shuddering music he had imposed on top. It was a moment when I felt really, purely moved. I'm quite one for crying at moments of yawning sentimentality in films and TV programmes, but those moment's don't compare with the real, clinging moments of grief. Yet I wonder if I suffer them too rarely.

We just did the three minute silence for victims of the Asian Tsunami at work and while it didn't make me want to cry, it was a valuable opportunity to think about what has happened. The office is big and there was no formal announcement that the three minutes had started, so the building seemed to wind down into a slowly imposed silence. But it wasn't until the last voice faded, rebuked, that the volume of the silence became apparent. It was chasteningly quiet; I didn't spend exactly three minutes paying tribute to the dead or anything so focussed, but I found the silence both intimidating and liberating. It made what I was doing here at work seem as nothing (whether that be: working, pointlessly, or timewasting, pointlessly - both different things) and the untidy hubbub of my mind seem just wasteful. Part of me posits this in the wider scale of things and part of me just thinks... what do we achieve by being so frenzied, so busy? Why was I fascinated by the story I posted earlier, the man adrift on a tree in the middle of the shifted sea? Maybe because he was so alone.

Can't we impose this silence more? There was no formal acknowledgmenet when it was over, either. For a little bit, it seemed that people wanted it to linger further, this unexpected moment of calm. After a little while people began feeling awkward, unwilling to be the first to speak yet now oppressed by the silence. In the end the strange silence was alleviated by people beginning to type, over-loud. So the silence here ended in a crescendo of relieved taps, and then we were back to normal.


Anonymous said...

it doesnt sound to me like you lack empathy. that's a beautiful description of your 3 minutes.

jonathan said...

Thanks! Glad you liked it :-)

Anonymous said...

Gaybo poofta, Mike moore is fat n stuff

jonathan said...

He is fat, that's true. Ah.