“The guy who did the gaps, I’m having the stonemason carve that into my headstone.” Shaun Keaveny presented the seconds of silence at five past seven on his BBC Radio Six breakfast show as part of his legacy to broadcasting. On Radio 3, it might have been extended by four and a half minutes and presented as John Cage’s 4’33, a piece of music where there is no sound whatsoever for the entire period. Shaun Keaveny pointed out that on no other radio station, neither on music-based, nor on speech-based programming, would you find deliberate silence. Silence in broadcasting tends to be regarded as “dead air,” it tends to be thought of as a moment when something has gone wrong. Silence means a track hasn’t played, or that a clip hasn’t run, or that the presenter has missed the cue, there is a fear of gaps.
To be the guy who did the gaps would be to be someone who understood the fundamental nature of the universe, but it would be also mean being someone who comprehended the reality of life for most people at five past seven on a grey and damp morning in September.
Life is lived in the gaps. It is the silent stuff which fills the passing days. Unless you are a statesman, or an artist, or a celebrity, the noisy moments are few and far between. Having written many eulogies, it was notable that that those who provided the information tended to talk about the things that were significant dates on a calendar, the moments when things happened that would be remembered by a number of people. Sometimes it meant that someone who had lived a long and full life would have been remembered only by a number of dates that were thought significant, yet that wasn’t the person; a person’s life is more than a sequence of dates.
It’s the stuff that happens in the gaps that makes life meaningful. The silent days, the unremarkable stuff, the moments when no-one else can see anything happening are the times to be celebrated. To be someone who did the gaps would be a good epitaph.