because how often does one get to be alive for a centenary and because ideas of commemoration crop up in my work, i've been doing what is perhaps best described as an immersion in world war 1 this week.
remembrance sunday service and the 2 minute silence there. another 2 minute silence and a concert of war music on 11/11. a two day conference on the literature of conflict today and tomorrow.
in case you missed it, that's a grand total of four minutes of organized silence over three days.
it's a good thing i'm leaving town on friday as i'm thinking any more beyond the one day i've left to commemorating might well put me over the edge.
for it is, perhaps not surprisingly, a wee bit intense. more song and poetry and conflict than i can reasonably handle in one week. now we know my threshold.
but it's interesting too.
i was at the british library for the 2 minute silence on tuesday. they made the announcement, we paused in our work for what- i swear- was not more than a minute and a half, then they played an original recording recording of a poet, whose name i didn't catch, reading his was poem, whose name i also didn't catch. all of which was (a) quite moving and (b) odd.
because we do not do this in america, at least not that i remember. there are moments of silence, but i feel like they're always happening on tv and not in real life. this feels somehow more... enforced isn't the right word but it's a word adjacent to it... here, at the level of the everyday.
in the reading room, laptops were shut for the observance. would people in america close their laptops in order to remember??
they did the two minute silence on the tube too. a friend recounted how they came over the PA and the car quieted, so totally it was eerie. and then the automated message sounded, puncturing the silence to herald the next station.
even as we remember, life goes on...