One of my first and favorite math teachers used to say it’s not about the “x,” it’s about the “y.” I came to a similar assumption last week, whether I articulated it or not, when I began looking at the Pirkei Avot again: It’s something I learned repeatedly in my political theory course, that it doesn’t matter who tells us something or whether it’s true or wise, but that before we accept it, we consider it critically.
Some of my favorite artists are the Cranberries, Ingrid Michaelson, and Company of Thieves. I grew up to the tunes of Enya, Jewel, and Lisa Loeb. The edgiest thing I listened to for a long time was Alanis Morissette. It’s not much a surprise really: I’m generally a gentle guy, calm and peaceful, quiet and contemplative.
But I’m also a Gemini.
The irony is that my first love of song that breached this facade itself means to fade away–and yet they have remained a staple of my soundtrack ever since.
This weekend I attended the National Association of Campus Activities South conference, a weekend of educational sessions, showcases, and networking to bring activities to colleges across the South. I will no doubt draw upon this experience for a number of posts (so much happened in such a short span of time that I can easily foresee two or three other topics already), but today I’d like to talk about the end.
For all who know me, and especially for those who have just met me or don’t know me very well, it may come as a surprise to hear that I am the biggest introvert you will ever know. You may imagine me speaking in front of a group, or casually carrying on friendly a conversation, or introducing myself with poise and purpose, and surely then, surely then I must be lying.
Ten years ago I was twelve. It was a Tuesday. We were already up, had gone about the day as usual. We were turning on the TV to watch MacGyver like we did every day. My mom was taking a shower before we had to leave. The only problem was, all the TV channels were interrupted by a live newscast each showing the same thing.
The scene was this: Two towers, a billowing cloud of smoke from the second.
My brother told me to go tell our mom, so I ran down the hall, banged on the bathroom door, and shouted the news to her. I didn’t know what it all meant, though: I was twelve, what did I know of World Trade Centers and terrorist attacks? To me a plane had flown into a building. It was tragic, maybe in those first few moments scary and exciting, but what did it mean to me–a twelve-year-old boy a thousand miles away?
It’s not often I speak specifically of my beliefs (mostly on account of not truly knowing the words to speak of them rightly most of the time), but today warrants it. I considered letting this day pass lightly, not saying anything but perhaps passing a shrug and a snicker, but as I was doing dishes tonight (please review A is for Action) it occurred to me that not speaking is, in the end, being silent.
And as my contemporaries would say, “You can’t make me silent with violence” (Anna Nalick, “Break Me Open”) and “I will not go quietly! I will not be silenced” (Company of Thieves, “Won’t Go Quietly”). So in their footsteps I follow: No threats will stop me. No words will weaken me. I will not stand silent. I will not stand still.
Those saying the world will end. Well, I take that as a threat.
Time escapes me. I’ve started about half a dozen posts since my last one (please don’t make me admit how long it’s been–quite sadly, I’d be too ashamed to look myself), but I’ve finished none of them. I’ve had weekend events, weekday events, homework to keep up with–and every time the outlook looks good, my teachers announce a test and the cycle begins again.
I strongly wanted to write a post about the Day of Silence, which was Friday the fifteenth. Our GSA got t-shirts to wear, and I didn’t say a word to my friends all day. (Sadly my vow was broken for the period during which I was conducting interviews for the new student ambassadors, but otherwise, I was remarkably silent all day.) And I think I touched a few people. I think I spread my message to a few people that just didn’t know of it beforehand. And it was progress. A first step of a greater change that could come.
But of course, with more tests and more homework than I’ve ever had to fathom before, time ran away with the spoon and the stopwatch leapt over the moon.
Honestly, it slipped my mind. It always happens like this: I get so accustomed to the day-to-day of the school year that, when it abruptly ends about this time, I forget what day it is. Every day feels like Saturday, or Friday afternoon, or some Sundays… You get the picture. There are two things I notoriously admit to lacking: The first is depth perception. The second is a sense of time.
Neither of which has anything to do with being thankful. In fact, I almost don’t feel much to be thankful for today–to put it lightly, I’ve been in one of those moods. Yesterday I went to the used book store, hoping to find one movie I really wanted…and instead, they had almost nothing I wanted to buy. I was disappointed. I finished watching the entire first season of my favorite TV show on Tuesday. I spent most of today cleaning. And every guy I start to talk to, either ends up not talking, or becoming friends with no hope of becoming more than that.
It’s depressing, the encroaching New Year. I’ll probably speak of that some other time.
Throughout my life, I was raised among the scholars, and I discovered that there is nothing more becoming a person than silence; not study, but doing mitzvot is the essence of virtue; excess in speech leads to sin.
There was a person I knew some time ago whom I was quite fond of. I enjoyed the time we spent together and always found our conversations stimulating and provocative, our words always well-chosen and intense for the occasion: We must have spoken of politics, religion, sexuality, music, art, and any other number of fascinating topics. But the moments I cherished most were not these. The moments I cherished most were those when we had no conversation, when the only thing we shared was silence.
Yesterday, the sixteenth, was not just another calendar day, was not just any old Friday. Yesterday was the Day of Silence, a national youth movement to raise awareness about anti-GLBT bullying, name calling, and harassment in schools. Usually it’s done by mostly by high school groups, but college groups also participate, and ergo, I participated for the first time this year.
It wasn’t hard being silent. Let’s face it, until about a year ago, silent was my usual state of being. What was difficult, however, was what being silent entailed: When people held the door for me, I could not say “Thank you,” and if I were to hold the door for them, I’d be unable to say “You’re welcome” (a fact that unconsciously kept me from holding the door all day). Furthermore, this warranted impoliteness created an impasse when people asked me for help: I’m usually inclined to be helpful, but how could I respond?