For twelve years of my life I received a Quaker education. For better or worse, I adopted Moses Brown’s motto for my own: For the Honor Of Truth. As for adhering to the Quaker teachings of pacifism and nonviolence, let’s just say that TTAG’s corporate motto is Speed, Surprise and Violence of Action. But the Friends taught me something else that stuck. Something that has helped me appreciate Christmas and improve my self-defense skills . . .
The moment of silence.
It’s simple enough. Before you do something, you stop whatever you’re doing and have a moment of silence. During which you do nothing except remain still and silent.
If you’re in a group, the person who called for the moment of silence decides when to end the interregnum. In the extended play version (a.k.a., a Quaker meeting), the designated thinker ends the silence by shaking hands with the person on their left and right, once the silence caller gets “a sense of the meeting” (or it’s time to do something else).
The moment of silence is more profound than it sounds (so to speak). The moment– which I won’t call MOS to avoid annoying our optic-oriented readers — is a time to reflect on what went before and/or what’s coming next. Or a moment to focus on nothing at all; to live “in the moment” and clear your mind.
When I shoot, I insert a moment of silence between aiming and shooting. I use that fraction of a second to calm myself. To sense the transition between nothing happening and the explosion that sends the bullet downrange. Sometimes I swear I can feel the lead begin its journey, before it exits the barrel.
Adding a moment of silence to my shooting not only improves my accuracy and, strangely, speed, it also provides an important tool for armed self-defense.
There are gun owners who declare “If I clear leather, I’m going to shoot.” Not me. Situations change in the blink of an eye. Between drawing your gun and pressing play, a knife-wielding bad guy may I-spy your gat and freeze on the spot. At which point he or she stops being an imminent threat, and may not need ballistic perforation. By the same token, an innocent can move between you and your target at the last possible second.
The Quakers wouldn’t quite put it this way, but shit happens.
By placing a moment of silence between aiming and firing, I give myself psychological space to decide to fire. I know some of you consider that a dangerous delay. Don’t knock it ’til you master it. And then time it. Besides, even if the moment of silence adds half a second to my response time, it could be worth it in terms of accuracy and morality.
Yes there is that.
I’m not saying I’m going to aim at a bad guy and say, “Nope. Can’t do it.” I’m saying I [hope] I’m going to pause to make sure the human being in my sights still poses an imminent, credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm. If I know they do, shooting them becomes a morally defensible choice. Not an automatic reaction.
Mastering the moment of silence has also helped me develop an appreciation for the holiday season. Unlike New Year’s, which we celebrate by making noise, the hush of Christmas opens a space for quiet contemplation. A time to consider where we’ve come from, where we’re going and, crucially, why we’re going there.
Despite the derision aimed at religious gun owners, the fact that they’re armed isn’t the crucial consideration. The most important element of their armed self-defense? A dedication to peace. By wishing good will to those who wish good will to us and having the motive, means and opportunity to oppose those who do not, gun owners can live with a sense of moral clarity. I reckon that’s something worth taking a moment to think about.