I’ve been helping Noah Weiss with his WordPress.com site and found his article on countdowns triggered a memory for me.
There are many forms of countdowns in our lives. Counting down as a warning, to prepare for launch, to time a game. There are also many ways to count up, counting to ten to control anger or prevent anger, control the length of an event, and measure your life in either direction. There are so many ways countdowns also represent times, times in our lives, counting up or counting down, measurements of moments.
One of my most memorable time countdown moments was in Israel. There are two holidays that rip me up every time. Holocaust Day and Independence Day. Both are started and ended with a siren that lasts two minutes. Everyone and everything in the country comes to a complete stop during those two minutes. Cars stop on the highway. People stop walking. People stand still no matter where they are. Trains, buses, everything comes to a complete stop throughout the entire country and silence falls dramatically (Israel is a noisy place).
The first time I experienced it, it hit me with a wave of discomfort. I didn’t know how long it would last and it felt like it lasted forever. I looked around at all the people stopped, standing next to their cars on main roads, and was very uncomfortable with the silence. I understood the significance, but I didn’t understand. I think I didn’t want to understand. Two minutes was a countdown representative of an eternity in that moment.
The second time, I had a better perspective on the reasons for the moment. I looked around and noticed people standing still, tears quietly flowing down their faces. Grim faces. Some people holding hands or each other. A young child grasp in arms squirming until the adult snuggled down into the child’s neck and both became still.
Years of history flowed into those two minutes. History representative of horror and destruction. Of loss. Of death. Of live. Of birth. Of renewal. Of faith. Of courage. As George Carlin so eloquently described it, “I say life began about a billion years ago and it’s a continuous process. Continuous, just keeps rolling along.”
In those two sets of two minutes, I felt a part of something, connected to the past and the future. It’s a countdown that goes in both directions. How long since when and how long until when – the when is a big question and it will happen whether or not we ask the question.
As you move through your life, pause for a moment and consider the moments when time counted for you. Stopping time to remember time is a powerful thing.