Tag Archives: Thomas Merton

Jim Forest: Silence and Peacemaking (Episode 20)

As a peace activist, biographer, and lover of silence, author Jim Forest’s deep humility and sincere way of being reveal to us much about listening, truly seeing, and deeply caring for our fellow human beings.

“The day starts in silence… and silence normally — not always, but normally — opens the door to prayer, so prayer and silence are very connected; sometimes the prayer is silence.” — Jim Forest

Jim Forest, speaking at the Voices of Peace conference.

Describing himself as “an undergraduate student at Dorothy Day university” — and noting that he doesn’t think he will ever graduate! — Jim Forest tells the story of a truly remarkable life — the child of American communists growing up in the 1950s, he tried his hand in the U.S. Navy but soon dropped out from the service to immerse himself in the world of the Catholic Worker Movement and anti-war activism, that led him to (among other things) co-founding the Catholic Peace Fellowship after the “Spiritual Roots of Peacemaking” retreat convened by Thomas Merton in 1964.

“Like arrows, words point, but they are not the target.” — Jim Forest

Cassidy Hall recorded this conversation while participating in the “Voices of Peace” conference in Toronto in April 2018. Their gentle and intimate conversation explores art, philosophy, politics, the Eucharist, and spirituality — and how silence dances through all these dimensions of life.

Cassidy Hall and Jim Forest

With stories about legendary figures like peace activist A. J. Muste, Henri Nouwen, Thich Nhat Hanh, and (of course) Thomas Merton, this conversation provides deep and rich insight into a man who not only knew some of the great peace activists of the twentieth century, but who was indeed one of their number.

“Without silence, we don’t hear anything.” — Jim Forest

Some of the resources and authors mentioned in this episode:

Visit Jim and Nancy Forest’s website www.jimandnancyforest.com.

Episode 20: Silence and Peacemaking: A Conversation with Jim Forest
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
Introduced by: Kevin Johnson
Guest: Jim Forest
Date Recorded: April 27, 2018

It’s cold in Toronto, even in the spring!

Our Silence Heroes (Episode 6)

Who are your “silence heroes” — persons, living or dead, famous or obscure, who inspired or mentored or otherwise encouraged your encounter, and/or ongoing relationship, with silence? This is the question that the three co-hosts of this podcast explore in this episode. Cassidy, Carl and Kevin talk about the spiritual leaders, mystics, poets, writers, and other key figures who have helped us to “meet” silence more fully in our lives.

When you really meet silence, when you really encounter silence, it reminds you that you’re good enough, as is — whatever you’re doing, whoever you are, it reminds you that you’re good enough, because it is a place of love, it is a place of self-encounter, it is a place of the encounter of the Divine, of God. — Cassidy Hall

We talk about how our silence heroes inspire us — how they encourage us to love, to embrace nature, to write and enjoy poetry, to be sacred nonconformists, to preserve stillness,  teach us how to talk about silence (or how to be silent with silence!), give us both theoretical and practical approaches to silence — all the while using their lyrical and poetic voices to encourage us to be, likewise, the “poets of our own lives” — lives in which silence “allows our own selves to actually come forward and speak.”

We are all poets of our own lives and silence allows our own selves to actually come forward and speak. — Kevin Johnson

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

At one point Carl mentions Martin Thornton when he’s actually talking about Martin Laird, so in all fairness to his Freudian slip, here’s a book worth reading from that author:

Silence is the tomb of Christ —  a place of infinite possibility.
— A Monk of New Melleray Abbey

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.

For language to be sane, it needs to be suffused with silence; and for silence to be accessible, it needs to be held in language… to be a human being who wishes to enter deeply into the cave of silence, our sherpa will be language. — Carl McColman

Episode 6: Our Silence Heroes
Hosted by:
Kevin Johnson
With:
Cassidy Hall and Carl McColman
Date Recorded:
November 13, 2017

Encountering Silence in Relationships (Episode 5)

What does it mean to encounter silence in the midst of our most intimate relationships? Unless you are an absolute hermit, other people factor in your life. From children and spouses, to nephews and neighbors, co-workers and companions, to be human is to be in relationship — and sometimes, relationships can be noisy places indeed.

In this episode we explore some paradoxical approaches to silence — for example, Kevin speaks eloquently of finding the silence even in the midst of a baby’s cry. He goes on to compare the challenges of balancing one’s own needs with the needs of loved ones to the dance of attention in a meditation practice — between awareness of silence and the inevitable irruption of distracting thoughts.

Keep the silence and stillness within. Because it’s always there, right? It’s always there. If you’ve met it once, if you’ve met it twice, if you’ve met it every day of your life, you know it’s there, it’s within. — Cassidy Hall

But there’s also the “inner relationship” — how we relate to our own self. Carl muses on how sometimes anxiety and depression come to call — and can make it challenging to remember that silence is always, already there.

In all our relationships — whether internal or external — silence calls us out of a place of self-focus into a place where we can be concerned with loving others — or welcoming whatever arises in the context of our lives. Silence teaches us that silence is always present — even in the midst of a baby’s cry, even in the midst of rage or fear or bitter loneliness.

We look at the monastic notion of the “school of love,” considering how silence is actually an instructor in the school of love — teaching us how to love others, as well as to love ourselves. But we also acknowledge that in relationships silence can sometimes be a way of avoiding intimacy — where “unheld conversations” can  signify a kind of external silence which masks interior noise. Again, though, silence can be the doorway through which we move to find reconciliation or greater intimacy — even if it means moving through “the fire” of conflict or challenging conversations.

Our conversation includes some thoughts on the sometimes contentious relationship between silence and language, and how poetry represents a way to bridge that particular gap.

What is a poem? A poem is just a useless spray of language. And yet, in that useless spray of language we find beauty, we find meaning, we find insight, we find connection, we find ourselves.— Carl McColman

Among the resources and authors we mention in this episode were poems by Rumi and Thomas Merton, and mention of the work of Cynthia Bourgeault as well as the spirituality of the desert fathers and mothers, particularly in regard to the deadly or afflictive thoughts. The following resources can help you learn more:

To learn more about the desert tradition of non-attachment to afflictive thoughts:

What’s the connection between words and silence is that they’re so interpenetrated that you need to have them both. You actually can speak yourself into the silence…  The only problem with words is that we get  trapped in them. — Kevin Johnson

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.

Plan?!? What plan?

Episode 5: Encountering Silence in Relationships
Hosted by:
Cassidy Hall
With:
Kevin Johnson and Carl McColman
Date Recorded:
November 13, 2017