We take a closer look at how encountering silence has nurtured our faith in God — and how monasteries, churches, museums, the wilderness, and even a documentary film has played a role in our lives as each of us has “pursued” silence (or, perhaps we should say, how silence has pursued us).
We explore how silence has been a teacher to each of us, teaching us the ways of silence, teaching us to simply “let silence be” and approach it in a spirit of humility and openness. We discuss the limitations of academic scholarship (at least in terms of relating to silence), the challenge of moving beyond dualisting thinking when relating to silence, and how essential art and poetry have been to us when it comes to our evolving relationship with silence — and our shared recognition that there is a deep intimacy between silence and beauty. We also look at silence as the center around which aesthetics, theology, and liturgy all revolve — each points back to the silence, which in turn “hosts” each of these ways of human knowing and expression.
Silence for me has always been wrapped up with the question of the Divine. — Kevin Johnson
It’s so interesting to engage with a material that is not a material. It’s like clothing a bodiless body. you can’t do it, but we’re forever trying. That’s why this keeps constantly pointing me back to God because it’s another aspect of my life that certainty always fails me. It’s in the unknowing that I know. It’s in my extreme amount of doubt that my faith is. It’s the tension pieces, the paradox pieces. — Cassidy Hall
Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:
- Patrick Shen (director), In Pursuit of Silence (Documentary Film)
- Tilden Edwards, Embracing the Call to Spiritual Depth
- Gerald G. May, Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology
- Martin Laird, Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation
- Elias Marechal, Tears of An Innocent God: Conversations on Silence, Kindness and Prayer
- Alex Lu, Soundtrack for In Pursuit of Silence
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke, 1892-1910
- Hans Urs Von Balthazar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics
- Karl Rahner, Encounters with Silence
- Bernard McGinn, ed., The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism
- Evagrius Ponticus, The Praktikos & Chapters on Prayer
- Christian Bobin, The Eighth Day: Selected Writings
Carl quotes Acts 17:28: “In Him we live and move and have our being” — which comes from a sermon of Saint Paul, who in turn is quoting the pagan poet Epimenides.
The words are printed on the page just as the space between the ink is the page. It’s all the page. There is a real presence of silence in the most ear-splitting noise. — Carl McColman
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 4: Encountering Silence As Adults
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall and Kevin Johnson
Date Recorded: October 23, 2017