Four Seconds of Silence Lost Forever

Want to hear the shortest radio program on the air? It’s onCanada’s CBC Radio just before 1:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. A few seconds before the hour, you’ll hear a countdown consisting of  a series of short beeps from the National Research Council, followed by a period of silence, then a long beep, marking 1:00 p.m. A deep-voiced announcer provides the commentary, short as it is.

Now, about that period of silence. A while back, the gap between the last short beep and the long beep was ten seconds. That’s what the announcer said. “The beginning of the long dash, following ten seconds of silence, marks 1:00 p.m., eastern standard time.” And during those ten seconds, nothing happened. No commercials. No light music. No ticking. Just silence.

But in May of this year, quite suddenly, the silence was shortened. There is no longer a ten-second void between the end of the short beeps and the beginning of the long beep. Now, it’s just six. Yes, only six seconds to savor a quiet, uncluttered, noiseless universe. It doesn’t take a sophisticated time study to conclude that four seconds have been lost forever.

Why the change? More time for radio programming perhaps. But what’s the rush? In our push to speed things up, to squeeze out every bit of valuable time, what happened to silence? Where did the time go for reflection, for calm, for thought?

So now it is time to take back your time. The next time you get a chance, perhaps right now, just take a moment. Better yet, take ten moments. One after the other. And do nothing. Don’t feel the urge to fill the silence with noise. Just sit. Wait. Contemplate. Listen. And enjoy the silence.

Your time is worth it.


(You can hear the old version of the countdown here: )


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