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Nothing to be said - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
Nothing to be said
I was wrong. Somebody had noticed the date after all. At 11:57, one of the helpdesk people came over and said rather awkwardly "We're having a silence at noon, you know, for the bombing people. We thought we'd have it in our room, if you want to come along."

Motivated mostly by the lack of a wish to seem not to care in the eyes of anybody who might be offended (and how much more diluted could an impulse be before it dissipated entirely?), we filed along the corridors past unoccupied rooms, empty chairs at empty tables, and took our places in the large open-plan office, small clusters of people standing beside desks and water-coolers.

"It's about thirty seconds to twelve now," said the self-appointed organiser. There was a pregnant pause, during which people seemed to be unsure if they should be pre-emptively silent now, or make noise to throw their silence into sharper relief.

"Twelve."

And we stood still, many people with their heads bowed as if in prayer, others looking furtively around the room, observing others' reactions. If I wanted to argue such things, I might argue that thinking about our reactions, and our relation to those around us, was a valid way of engaging with the event. That the imposition of silence allows a time for contemplation, insofar as such contemplation is useful, of what happened and what it may have meant to us and to others; not a tribute of any kind, because what kind of tribute is silence?

But we stood, and we were silent. For what it was worth. And what was it worth? A great big nothing: the 0 of a mouth that's open throughout an unfamiliar hymn, pretending to sing but not knowing the words.


Appendix: Further reading

Church Going

Once I am sure there's nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in awkward reverence.

Move forward, run my hand around the font.
From where I stand, the roof looks almost new -
Cleaned, or restored? Someone would know: I don't.
Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
'Here endeth' much more loudly than I'd meant.
The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,
And always end much at a loss like this,
Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
When churches will fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show,
Their parchment, plate and pyx in locked cases,
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

Or, after dark, will dubious women come
To make their children touch a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort will go on
In games, in riddles, seemingly at random;
But superstition, like belief, must die,
And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,

A shape less recognisable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he be my representative,

Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation - marriage, and birth,
And death, and thoughts of these - for which was built
This special shell? For, though I've no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,
It pleases me to stand in silence here;

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognized, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.

   -- Philip Larkin (1922-1985)

Silence

There is a silence where hath been no sound,
There is a silence where no sound may be,
In the cold grave--under the deep deep sea,
Or in the wide desert where no life is found,
Which hath been mute, and still must sleep profound;
No voice is hushed--no life treads silently,
But clouds and cloudy shadows wander free,
That never spoke, over the idle ground:
But in green ruins, in the desolate walls
Of antique palaces, where Man hath been,
Thoughl the dun fox, or wild hyaena, calls,
And owls, that flit continually between,
Shriek to the echo, and the low winds moan,
There the true Silence is, self-conscious and alone.

   -- Thomas Hood (1799-1845)
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Comments
miss_newham From: miss_newham Date: July 14th, 2005 02:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was on a bus and the bus driver stopped for two minutes and I thought that was worth something.
j4 From: j4 Date: July 14th, 2005 02:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad to hear it. I'm certainly not saying all the silences that happened today were worthless.
miss_newham From: miss_newham Date: July 14th, 2005 02:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Then I see your point, dude.
j4 From: j4 Date: July 14th, 2005 02:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the silence we had here was, at best, meta-pointful. In that it made me think about silences and whether they're worthwhile or not, and questions along the lines of "What is this all FOR anyway?" and stuff. And about other people's reactions, and not putting my clodhopping great foot in it.

You'd think that with size 4 feet there'd be a limit to how many toes I could tread on in one go. YOU'D THINK.
From: fluffymormegil Date: July 14th, 2005 02:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
How many toes can dance on the head of a pin?
venta From: venta Date: July 14th, 2005 07:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
My office did no such communal observing, though by choice I did my own 120 seconds of contemplation at my desk (presumably no different observably than me thinking a bit about the code I'm writing).

I had 6Music on at the time, and they broadcast two minutes of silence. I found myself wondering how they were going to get out of it - the DJ can't very well say "right, that's that over with, back to business", can he (or she)?

In the end, they went straight from the silence into Svefn G Englar by Sigur Ros (slow, melodic ambientish stuff if you don't know it), which actually worked pretty well. I probably can't spell that track name.
hairyears From: hairyears Date: July 16th, 2005 12:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
The trading floor was eerily silent: phones off the hook, TVs on 'mute', not a word spoken.
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