This year marks the 40th anniversary of murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The International Olympic Committee has decided that there should not be a moment commemorating the attack during the opening ceremony on Friday, though Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, held a moment of silence with other dignitaries on Monday, July 22.
I’m not going to comment directly on who’s right and who’s wrong about a moment of silence during the opening ceremony. The IOC didn’t ask me what I thought and a lot of other people are talking about whether Monday’s moment of silence was acceptable or not.
Instead, I’d like to talk a little about silence.
I’ve written about silence before.
Being silent means that our preconceived notions, our prejudices—even our loves—don’t get voiced.
Being silent helps us to be present. We can note our thoughts as they come and move on, allowing that which distracts us to fade away. Silence allows us to inhabit the world all the better. Without the distraction of the noise we make we are able to hear life around us, whether it’s the creaking of the house, the sound of the cat snoring, or even the small movements of those around us.
Silence allows us to inhabit our own bodies more fully. In silence we become aware of our breath, of the small noises that are made as we shift our weight on the floor, of the beating of our heart.
Silence equalizes us as human beings. That awareness of ourselves and of those who surround us can work to improve our compassion for one another. I can’t voice my opinions and neither can you. We can only be together, at that moment, in that place.
I imagine an entire stadium filled with silence. Filled with people who, for that time, are not representing countries, or particular athletic disciplines, or points of view about whether or not that moment of silence is appropriate for the Olympic opening ceremony. They’d all just represent humanity.