Auld Lang Silence (Episode 45)

For our final episode of 2018 — the first full year of our podcast, which debuted on December 6, 2017 — the three co-hosts of Encountering Silence sat down for a brief chat in which we reflected on the year just past, and shared some hopes for the podcast in the year to come.

This time a year ago, we had only released four episodes and had yet to interview our first guest (who would be Patrick Shen, in episode 7). We were still trying to figure this whole podcasting thing out. Kevin had managed to get some grant money for the recording and mixing equipment, and we all split the costs of the website, the URL and the podcasting hosting fees. We were operating on a shoestring, driven by faith and our shared love for silence (and, as we were soon to discover, poetry).

This time a year ago we had no idea that we would soon be interviewing a wide array of truly interesting and insightful guests who spoke about silence from a variety of perspectives. (If you’re new to the podcast, here’s a partial list of the folks we’ve spoken to over the past year):

Over the course of the year, several themes emerged, some of which we were mindful of when we began the podcast, but others which arose out of the various conversations over the year. Some of those themes included these thoughts: Silence matters; silence is an “endangered species” in our hyper-connected, entertainment-drenched world; silence is essential not only for spiritual well-being but for mental and physical wellness also; silence is essential for creativity; different kinds of people embrace and encounter silence in different ways; not all “silences” are created equal, and not all expressions of silence are good — there is such a thing as “toxic” silence; and the list could go on.

After thirteen months, all three of the co-hosts are awed and humbled and amazed at the richness of the conversation, as well as the emerging web of new friendships and connections that we see on social media, as well as in “real life,” of people who are drawn to this podcast — and each other — by a shared recognition that silence matters.

So — now, where do we go from here?

Looking ahead, naturally we are eager to expand the conversation as we invite some new dialogue partners onto the podcast (and perhaps welcome a few of our previous guests back for new episodes). We are eager to explore more deeply both the social dimension of silence (how silence relates to religion, to art, to social justice, and to the problem of social and economic privilege) as well as the personal dimension of silence (how to be more silent in the middle of stress, during times of vulnerability or suffering, and in the midst of life’s ordinary chaos). We believe silence makes a difference, and — except for its toxic form, which we would argue is actually a betrayal of true silence) — that difference is universally positive, yielding physical, mental and spiritual benefits. So we also want to talk more about how to spread the “good news” of silence and help others to access silence in both personal and communal ways.

It’s amazing how such a quiet topic (pardon the pun) can yield such a rich and nuanced conversation. We feel like the conversation is just getting started. Please stay tuned — we value your companionship as we make this journey, deeper and deeper into the mystery of silence!

Finally, one last point to observe about both the year just ended and the year to come. As of this writing, 42 people have committed to support the podcast financially through a monthly pledge on Patreon (we’ve had several other donors make one-time contributions as well). All three of us find it’s awkward to ask for money, but podcasting is both a time-intensive task and a form of media based on free access — anyone can listen for free (and we like it that way), but for us to continue to investing the time it takes to research, record, produce and promote new episodes, we need the support of our listeners. Fortunately, Patreon makes it possible for listeners to offer a small monthly pledge — starting at just $1 a month — so please, if you haven’t done so already, make a pledge. Your support makes a real difference. Thank you.

Other important ways to support the podcast:

  • Tell your friends  about the podcast.
  • Share our social media posts.
  • Purchase books through our “Silence Store” where we receive a commission from Amazon sales.
  • Subscribe to the podcast through iTunes or your preferred channel.
  • Leave a review of the podcast on iTunes or your preferred channel.
  • Give us feedback — let us know that you’re listening, and tell us how we’re doing.
  • If you a praying person, then please pray for us.

Your support matters. We are truly grateful for you — for listening, for supporting our work, and most of all, for accompanying us on the path of silence. Thank you.

Some of the authors and resources mentioned in this episode:

Episode 45: Auld Lang Silence
Hosted by: Kevin Johnson
With: Cassidy Hall, Carl McColman
Date Recorded: 
December 20, 2018



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Carl McColman
Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.


  1. This seems like such an American version of “silence.” Let’s hold a meeting and figure out the future of silence. Where is Silence going? Has anyone run the numbers on Silence? Who has the Silence portfolio? Can we get a six month forecast? We need to take the conversation on Silence deeper. We have so much we want to say about Silence. We need to work harder to make Silence better. Our current Silence just isn’t good enough. Can we get some opinions on Silence? Maybe we should take a poll on Silence.

    1. The Quakers have a saying, “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” Perhaps you could offer some thoughts on how you think our podcast could be better? Or do you just feel like the best way to preserve silence in our all-too-noisy world is to say nothing at all?

  2. Encountering Silence Friends–

    I enjoyed the open minded conversation in this epsidode with reflections, surprises and growth opportunities (among other good topics!). I quite like the topics of expanding the guests, whether it be a sound engineer or someone else to weigh in on the conversation. I’ve heard throughout the year discussion and interest in inter-faith dialogue. Wow! That would be neat. With great love and respect I’ve learned a lot from the primarily Catholic participants on the podcast and I’d love to see it expand to mystics, Zen masters and practitioners, Sufis and I think you get the idea

    As I listened I thought of two people who did write books but really seem(ed) to practice silence on a practical level. They are:

    1. Anne LeClaire wrote Listening Below the Noise. She practiced silence every Monday.
    2. John Francis wrote Planet Walker. He walked for two decades and earned a PhD while under a 17 year vow of silence.

    I’m not sure if they are on your list of possibles, but I thought to share them.

    There is also a Quaker saying that one should consider remaining silent unless they can improve upon the conversation. I hope I have done that today.

    I am grateful for Encountering Silence and all who make it possible.

    Many blessings,

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. We appreciate your suggestions. I for one am not familiar with John Francis, I’m going to check him out.
      We recently recorded a wonderful interview with a Buddhist poet that will be released soon; we hope you will enjoy it. We are now actively seeking a more diverse roster of guests — not only religiously diverse, but also diverse in terms of ethnicity and gender and sexual identity.
      That Quaker quote is quite a challenge — hopefully it can help is all to speak more mindfully!
      — Carl

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