Every year on the 6th of August the people of Hiroshima memorialize the victims of the atomic bomb that detonated above them with a minute of silence. For someone like me born after WWII, this monumentally important moment seems daunting – impossible to fulfill. What should I think about in what usually turns out to be a very long minute?
Until recently, my buffering brain has done what it always does, busily darting about trying to fill a minute of silence by thinking about feeding the cat or worrying about making my second tax payment. Then when 55 seconds have gone I think about how I shouldn’t have been thinking about any of these things. Buddhist teachings about a quiet and still mind aside, I’ve never had a clue about how to use an all-important commemorative minute until last year, when I stumbled across a video of a hibakusha atom bomb survivor speaking from the Hiroshima Peace Park. She was giving her listeners a practical if slightly other-worldly instruction about what to do during the minute: In one-minute, she said, Think about world peace.
I confess my first reaction to the Miss Universe message was a peacetime cynic’s. Thinking about peace didn’t solve the problem of what to do in a minute at all, it just recreated the problem – world peace is all I know. Short of thinking about peacetime cats and taxes it’s unfathomable for me to conceive of a people who have lived or live in a time when a ceasefire is impossible. It is downright uncomfortable for me to imagine a family leaving their home just so their children can make friends – peacetime friends. Still, half a minute or so in, I found myself bare-faced and thinking of world peace, how I was able to meet so many of my friends because their parents from war-torn places had hearts strong enough to leave themselves open to the possibility that their children might befriend the very people who annexed and occupied their own birth country.
So thanks to the hibakusha woman in the video, I now know how to use a minute of silence. I can chuck the cynic in me aside and think instead of the friends I’ve been lucky enough to meet thanks to their parents and their parents’ parents. Like watching lanterns float down the Motoyasu River by the A-Bomb Dome on a Hiroshima Memorial Day evening, it’s a good way to occupy a commemorative minute of silence.