Yesterday, the 23rd March, the UK marked the one-year anniversary of the first Covid lockdown with a moment of silence. The ’national day of reflection’ gave the public the chance to sit in silence and reflect on the tragic events of the past year.
We often have moments of silence; on Armistice Day for instance, at a funeral, or at a stadium when a sporting hero passes. But yesterday was unique in that it was highly likely most of those who took part in the moment’s silence were indoors either on their own, or with very few people around them. For many, then, this moment of silence took place in solitude.
When in a crowd of people, it is very hard for the mind to stay still. The presence of so many others seems to provide too many distractions for us to really centre our thoughts. We think about our car that needs repairing or about cat food or whatever chore we need to do next. Even during moments of silence, it is not easy for the noise of our racing thoughts to subside if we are in a crowd.
Sitting in silent solitude, however, racing thoughts begin to dissipate as the quieted mind becomes emptied of trivial concerns, everyday worries that are rendered unimportant. Instead, we become super-aware of what is truly good in our lives, things like family and friends, relationships; we are reminded of moments of pure joy and happiness, but we are also reminded of the times we felt suffering and pain and of the times we inflicted suffering and pain on others. As we reflect on those things in our lives of real consequence, we are given the chance to come to terms with them.
A day of silent reflection too can help us to come to terms with the events of the past year. Since the start of the pandemic, at least 126,000 people in the UK died of Covid-19, and nearly 3 million people worldwide. In that time, many more have lost loved ones, been thrown into poverty, made homeless, or isolated for months on end. It has been a harrowing 12 months and only now with the rollout of the vaccine programme is there some light beginning to surface on the horizon.
Solitude and silence can make the light glow brighter, as the heart and mind focus on the things that are truly important. Things that are sacred, like human life and goodness, truth and beauty and justice. If we sit in solitude, so that all we can hear is our own breath, and if we can meditate on the things that have occurred in the past year - reflecting on our grief over untimely deaths, the injustices of poverty and homelessness, the truth and beauty of love and relationships - then perhaps we can glimpse that which is so sacred and so humane, the things that truly matter, behind all the statistics and headlines and news reports.
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