When we embrace silence as an alternative to conflict, are we just choosing to escape? Or can silence be a refuge, a temporary or even permanent shelter from the challenges of life? How can we tell the difference between silence-as-refuge and silence-as-escape?
Recognizing the ache that we meet, the ache of the whole world … that we meet in our silences, right? It reminds us that there’s space there for the whole world. — Cassidy Hall
Silence can be “toxic” when we refuse to speak to someone in the interest of resolving conflict or managing differences; likewise, silence can be toxic if we enter into it as a way of escaping conflict, or avoiding essential conversations or tasks that require our (verbal) attention.
But an alternative to the toxic quality of silence-as-escape is today’s topic, silence-as-refuge: the recognition that even the most socially and politically engaged activist needs times of retreat, of quiet, of rejuvenation and reflection.
For me what’s important is that the silence circulates even among the words… the word “silence” here is actually pointing to something else: a shift of attention, a refocusing. — Kevin Johnson
Our wide-ranging conversation explores how monasteries can function as “silence refuges,” fostering an ability to love from a place of deep interiority; the relationship between silence and “perfection;” the classroom setting as a venue for silence as a pedagogical strategy; the relationship between loneliness and solitude (aloneness); and much more!
When we’re taking refuge from something, that thing that we’re taking refuge from doesn’t just go away. It’s learning to be patient with the messiness of life, or the brokenness of life, or the wounding of life. — Carl McColman
Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:
- Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
- Desert Mothers and Fathers, Early Christian Wisdom Sayings
- Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out
- Patrick Shen, dir., In Pursuit of Silence
- Maggie Ross, Silence: A User’s Guide Volume 2
- Pablo Picasso, Living in Art
- Helen Lees, Silence in Schools
- Carl Jung, The Portable Jung
- Evagrius Ponticus, The Praktikos and Chapters on Prayer
- Rumi, The Essential Rumi
- Saint Benedict, The Rule of Saint Benedict
Silence as a refuge is necessary;
Silence as a refuge is listening;
Silence as a refuge is cleansing;
Silence as a refuge is the poetry of love.
Episode 12: Silence as Refuge
With: Kevin Johnson and Carl McColman
Date Recorded: November 27, 2017