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a seminar with Brian Volck

Beauty and silence often occupy the same space, the same moment. Encounters with beauty may begin with, ask for, or end in silence. Some are drawn to silence and make time for quiet whatever the setting. For others, silence is unwelcome, a threat best overcome through noise and distraction. Slippery terms to begin with, silence and beauty reach past the power of words: beauty can be described but never fully explained (away), while silence may include a recognition of human limits, an apprehension of things surpassing understanding. Silence can also be ugly, implying consent in the presence of evil and lies, or distressing, as in the apparent silence of God. The powerful can impose an involuntary silence on others. How, then, do we engage silence responsibly? When, at the intersection of art, faith, and mystery, is silence the most appropriate response? How does silence speak?

We’ll spend a week together exploring aspects of silence and its complex relationship with beauty. We’ll consider the ways modern life endangers silence and beauty, and how we might cultivate better habits. We’ll look at the relationship of silence and contemplation to social action and the creative life. Most importantly, we’ll devote time each day engaged in a specific practice of focused silence.

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