Pope Pauses

Today I was having a conversation about the fact that people don’t edit on film anymore in this age of computers, and it reminded me of the story my friend Cynthia told me about the time some years ago when she was visiting a woman she knew who was in the midst of editing a documentary about His Holiness Pope John Paul II. This was soon after one of the Pope’s visits to New York City. Whenever JPII would visit New York he would be greeted with the sorts of ecstatic crowds that one associates with rock stars. Although, as it happens, the demeanor of His Holiness could not have been more different from that of a rock star.

For one thing, John Paul II had a way of speaking that involved very long pauses between one utterance and the next. For this reason Cynthia’s friend was charged with the task of editing down the Pope’s speech, so as to remove or shorten those many lengthy silences.

Cynthia’s friend was editing the old fashioned way – on film, using a flatbed editor. On this particular day, Cynthia tells me that she saw that her friend’s apartment was festooned with hundreds of small snippets of film. Cynthia asked what those were. Her friend explained that it was all sountrack film, and that each snippet had been carefully trimmed out of the soundtrack of the forthcoming documentary, because each contained one of those long pauses. The eventual goal was to show the Pope talking without forcing the audience to sit through the many long silences between his sentences.

Cynthia asked her friend what was to become of all those little film trims. Her friend explained that because they were useless, they were all going to be tossed out. In a moment of inspiration Cynthia asked whether she could have them. “Sure, no problem” said her editor friend, and after a few minutes of work on her Steenbeck, she had taped the trims together into one continuous roll, which she handed to Cynthia in a film can.

From that day until this Cynthia has had in her possession a unique cultural document – a recording of His Holiness John Paul II not talking. At each moment either he has just finished speaking, or he has not yet begun to speak. If you listen to it, all you will hear is silence, the record of the liminal spaces between successive Papal utterances.

I have no idea what this means, this recording of the spaces between papal thoughts, of Pope Pauses. But something tells me that it is a wondrous thing.

3 Responses to “Pope Pauses”

  1. sally says:

    I agree. The less the Pope says these days, the better. At least this Pope.

  2. VRBones says:

    “The sound of Anticipation”

  3. It is inspiring. I imagined a keyboard (or maybe other input device) that is generating keystrokes only if no key is pressed. Every time we release all keys it could simulate a key that has smallest pressing-ratio up to this time… now I can’t resist to make a quick programming experiment to see this idea in action – lol.

Leave a Reply