Some of you may remember, as I do, the CBC radio ‘official time signal’ broadcast each day at 1 p.m. The announcer intoned rather solemnly, “The beginning of the long dash following ten seconds of silence indicates exactly one o’clock, Eastern Standard Time.”
It wasn’t a very long dash, to be sure, nor were the ten seconds a very long time to count down, though it was fun doing so to see whether I would reach the end as the ‘long dash’ began.
Now, for some of us, life may feel like a long dash – each day! Though that span of time is also relatively short, in the grand scheme of things. What I’ve been contemplating from time to time is the meaning of the ‘dash’.
Not the dash in the CBC time signal, mind you, but another dash. The dash between a date of birth and a date of death. That’s also a very short dash, to be sure, though it represents not seconds but years, decades, sometimes even a century or more. Now that’s a long dash!
But what does that dash represent? What, I wonder when I see it, might have filled the time in between those dates? How can that short dash possibly summarize a person’s life?
The poet Eveleyn Healey writes:
We go from God to God – so let
The space between
Be filled with beauty, conquering
Things base and mean.
The long dash. The space, or time, between. It’s the only time we have. And none of us knows how long that dash will be. Best we can do is give it some meaning. Eternal meaning, even.