What do you remember about encountering silence in your childhood?
In this episode we explore our first memories of “meeting” silence in childhood, moments in time where, whether in solitude or with others, whether near or far from home, whether shaped by emotional confusion or a sense of simply being present, something graced and mysterious intruded upon our awareness and brought us face to face, not only with the beauty of silence, but also with the mystery of our own deepest and truest selves.
From a lakeside in Virginia, to a Connecticut playground, to a prairie in Iowa, each of our memories involves being out-of-doors. And each of us struggles to put into words what ultimately seems to remain elusive, beyond what language can contain.
I all of a sudden felt extremely safe, completely at home, and there was a sense of I was much bigger than my body, that like somehow I was more than what I thought I was, and… I guess the word is ‘presence,’ a sense of that I just felt very — that there was something, there was more there than me.
— Kevin Johnson
As our conversation weaves in and around our shared, remembered moments of encounter, we talk about what it means to be present in our bodies, a sense of timelessness or eternity that sometimes seems to accompany the encounter with silence, and the dance of deep feeling, “not-knowing,” and longing that shaped our most profound moments of silence — even at a very early age.
Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:
- e. e. cummings, “A Poet’s Advice to Students” in A Miscellany (Revised)
- The Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings
- Helen Lees, Silence in Schools
- C. S. Lewis, “Afterward’ in The Pilgrim’s Regress
- Gerald May, Addiction and Grace
- Gerald May, Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology
- Patrick Shen (director), In Pursuit of Silence documentary film
Kevin Johnson is a university professor, writer, speaker, and retreat leader based in Connecticut.
Cassidy Hall is a writer, photographer, and filmmaker based in Los Angeles.
Carl McColman is an author, catechist, and retreat leader based in Atlanta.
Episode 1: Encountering Silence in Childhood
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Carl McColman and Kevin Johnson
Date Recorded: October 2, 2017