What is it about silence? For once I haven’t found the right title to what I want to say.
Is it the problem of silence or the power of silence? Is it the treachery of silence, the dread of it, or the threat of it? For context, I saw this documentary on Challenger, which exploded the hopes of millions and ended the life of seven, on 28 January 1986, because of a technical glitch; something as simple as the tube gasket in your pressure cooker.
This post is not about the tragedy.
The contractors for NASA knew about the problem and tried hard to warn NASA and postpone the launch till the temperatures became normal so that the rubber tube could do the work that it was supposed to. Now, NASA was under pressure to meet the launch date, so it put pressure on the contractors to confirm whether they were recommending abortion of the scheduled launch. At a critical time, when this question was put on a teleconference, the contractors were silent.
Silence is abundant with a million meanings for man.
NASA, aware of the implications, took the silence as acceptance, and the ill-fated Challenger rose up to its doom.
How many times have you kept silent on something that you wanted to shout about? How many times have you kept silent and have shouted after the repercussion of your silence has kicked in? And then…
How many times have you heard terrified voiceless shouts when someone around you has kept silent? How many times have seen the trembling larynx, when a voice was trapped by the silence?
That January day in 1986, a few people remained silent; that silence determined one of the biggest disasters in space history.
What you and I keep silent about doesn’t often cause a disaster, but I know it causes small cracks – one at a time, often irreparable. It causes damage at our workplace, in our relationships, and to our lives. The only thing that you can do after your silence has caused the doom, is climb a terrace and shout your guts out and return to the drudgery, where more opportunities will present themselves for you to keep your silence intact.
Some call it being smart.
So be it.
There is also a lesson for the ones who don’t keep silent. Your conscience will remain intact; keep your bags packed.