Silence as Refuge (Episode 12)

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:

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

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4 thoughts on “Silence as Refuge (Episode 12)”

  1. As always, I was grateful to have your three thoughtful voices piped into my head with the latest episode. Some things Carl and Cassidy said caused me to think about the refuge of silence as a gift of hospitality that we offer to others. A retreat center I am connected to talks about offering retreatants the gift of silence “where we give the per­mission of silence to each other as we listen for God’s voice.” Sometimes the refuge of silence can be offered as a gift to someone who may not eve know they need it.

    1. Thanks for listening, Kevin! I’m glad this episode touched you. It’s amazing the way silence can point us to thinking about things in new ways… or, really, uncovering the ways it exists!!

  2. Beautiful and timely from a silence strategic dimension. Thomas Merton immediately comes to mind for instance. People who cultivate silence also make great listeners and if there is love in that silence then silence allows that love to come through in a conversation or a meeting or you name it. Thank you for this today.

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