Have I complained before about life moving too quickly? (Or am I just getting old?) Today, I would like to complain about .5 of a second. It happened so quickly, but it continues to disturb me. Actually, what did not happen is what's bothering me. And what did not happen? Well, nothing is what did not happen, and it did not happen at a point when I really needed nothing.
Are you familiar with that .5 seconds of "nothing" of which I speak? It is the pause in a conversation that gives you the feeling that something meaningful is happening. It implies that the other person is actually listening and absorbing what you had to say. And then comes a thoughtful response. It is a mere half a second, but this little "nothing" carries profound meaning.
Perhaps what we need is a little "white space." A moment of silence
That pause in a conversation is just as important as the words that follow it. It may even be more essential. Look at the white spaces between the letters on this page; aren't they as important as the letters themselves? The pause in music can convey an even more powerful message than the chords. Silence gives significance to that which is around it.
The Talmud (Megillah 18) tells us that if a word is worth a selah (the currency of that time), silence is worth two. With all the information and noise flying around in our day, I think the silence premium may have even risen.
There is one very practical and beneficial way to apply this silence. By beneficial, I mean that it could elevate the entire platform of our society.
Each and every school day, tens of millions of children begin their day of study and growth. They jump right into their invigorating subjects of arithmetic, social studies, science, English, etc. But what does it all mean? What purpose does it serve? What will they do with all this knowledge and expertise five, ten and 50 years down the road? Will they use it to benefit themselves, their fellow human beings and the world in which they live? Or, will they make this world a little less
In the history of mankind--including its fairly recent history--there have been societies that excelled in academics but failed miserably when it came to humanity. According to many recent studies, even in our own society nothing really matters. We are raising a generation of entitlement with flimsy moral values (a slight overstatement).
Perhaps what we need is a little "white space." A moment of silence.
We can empower our children with "nothing." A moment at the beginning of their day that could give context and meaning to the hours that follow. During this moment, the children could reflect on meaning--on the why of their learning, rather than just the how.
What will our children do they do with all this knowledge and expertise five, 10, or 50 years after they finish school?
The obvious question, of course, is: who would give them that meaning? Two hundred years ago, we Americans decided that we don't want a state religion. We don't want the government dispensing moral guidance to our children. That's why we have the "Establishment Clause" in our constitution mandating the separation of church and state. Rightly or wrongly, this means that no public school teacher can get up in front of the classroom and speak about a moral code of conduct predicated upon man's responsibility to a Higher Authority.
That's why we need a moment of silence. The only instruction public school children will get from their teachers is that they should utilize this time for personal reflection. And who will tell them what to think about? What a great question! How about their parents? This could bring about a phenomenal unintended consequence: a dialogue between children and parents about meaning.
For those parents who choose to do so, this will be an opportunity to talk with their children about a Creator who bestows life and to whom we are accountable. And for all parents, it will be a means of connecting their children's academic studies to the moral values they wish to pass on to them.
In this way, space can be made in the consciousness of our children for a higher purpose for their learning. Worst case scenario is they will daydream about the same thing they dream about during history class. Nothing lost. The best case scenario is our next generation will start their day with a focus on something higher. All of their subjects of study, and indeed their entire life, will be given context and meaning. Nothing really matters.
Editor's note: A number of states have passed laws providing for a "moment of silence" in their public schools. An important bill mandating such a moment of reflection is currently before the New York State legislature. If you live in New York State, please urge your assemblyman and state senator to support this bill.