top of page
  • Reverend James Squire

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

The song, “Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel transports me immediately to a time of great decision making. I have had mentors but never a best friend with whom I could confide or seek advice. It was a time of great joy and angst regarding a decision that would be life changing for me as I was at an important crossroads. I was a Senior at Berkeley Divinity school at Yale during the late 60(s). The upheaval in our nation reflected the upheaval in my psyche and soul. I had worked hard there, but could not identify with the affluent protesters as noble as their work was. Working class kids didn’t protest. We worked, and we made up a good bit of the troops in Vietnam so I felt a bit out of step.

The song, “Sounds of Silence,” was the duo’s first of many hits. I played it frequently. “Hello darkness, my old friend, I have come to talk with you again.” That was my prayer. Show me the light out of the of darkness. I had spent the summer before my senior year in New Haven at Duke Medical Center doing a three-month program in counseling. Since it was in Durham and close to Raleigh where Vicki was attending N.C. State University, Secretary of her class and an academic superstar, I was in Raleigh as often as I could be. We decided to get married in December of that year since I had no idea where or what I would be doing after leaving New Haven.

We took this path as an act of faith. I promised her parents and grandparents that she would finish her education and felt guilty about bringing this talented woman into my unsure world. “Hello, darkness my old friend, I have come to talk with you again.”

We returned to New Haven for the last term. Vicki got a job in a lab as she was a biology major and took a class or two to keep her oar in the water. I had applied to graduate programs in counseling, but knew that I wanted to continue at Duke, as it was the best program and I could make it possible for Vicki to get her undergraduate degree at the same time. It was a reach as they had developed a new program which combined academic work at the university while doing a clinical internship at the same time at the Medical Center. The program would be limited in number.

I had worked hard at Yale and had received funds to pursue my education even further. Spring came and went, and no word from any of the programs to which I applied. “Hello, darkness my old friend, I have come to talk with you again.” Finally, the letter came. I was accepted into the most demanding program of all the applications for admission that I submitted. I graduated from Berkeley. We drove through the night with all our earthly possessions in a truck for me to start at Duke and Vicki to resume her life at N. C State a few days after arriving. We lived in Raleigh. I commuted to Duke.

The purpose of this blog is not to tell our story. It is to tell you a story that rocked me this morning. I have attached it at the end for you to read in full. Nobody gets everything that they want or need. I took off alone after my undergraduate years. Yes, I had prayer. Yes, I have a terrific wife, but I have never had a best friend. I had great colleagues, mentors, and friends, but no best friend. Part of the reason for that is the life I have been called to live as a clergyperson. I work hard at the expense of other things. People bring their secrets to me. My job is to keep them and help them. It is called trust, and it is the only real currency that counts in a school community along with your ability to “get the job done.” I know that other clergy, psychologist, psychiatrist, lawyers can have a best friend. I have former students who have grown families who are best friends who still talk with each other every day. One set of friends is bi coastal.

However, Art Garfunkel could do this. The darkness in the “Sounds of Silence” does not refer to the alone quality that many feel when dealing with difficult times and not knowing the way forward. Darkness is what he calls himself in relationship to someone who was his best friend at Columbia who went suddenly blind. They made a pact at Columbia to always be there for one another in times of trouble. If one was in extreme difficulty, the other would come to his rescue.

When he became blind, his best friend left the university. He dropped out. Garfunkel reminded him of the pact. He brought him back. He walked him to class, bandaged his wounds when he fell, and filled out his graduate school applications. Garfunkel called himself “Darkness” in a show of empathy. Garfunkel was saying, “I want to be together where you are, in the black.” He taught him to be independent in a most unconventional way.

Sandy, his best friend, went on to achieve extraordinary success as an inventor, entrepreneur, investor, presidential advisor, and philanthropist. All because of a best friend, but best friends Is a two-way street. Garfunkel dropped out of Columbia to pursue a singing career. When Garfunkel wanted to cut his first album, he needed $400 to cut the record. Sandy and his wife had $404 in their savings account. He gave that to Art Garfunkel to start his singing career. Sandy was the inspiration for “Sounds of Silence” which was Simon and Garfunkel’s best-selling song that propelled their career forward.

At the risk of sounding like Sinatra’s, “My Way,” I have chosen or been chosen for the life I have led. It has been a wonderful life of giving and getting. Big regrets, maybe I have a few.

The article at the end of this post will help you join me in listening with a new form of hearing for the insight that the song provides.

Hello darkness, my old friend

I’ve come to talk with you again

Because a vision softly creeping

Left its seeds while I was sleeping

And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains

Within the sound of silence.

In the Gospel of John, we read, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Vicki went to summer school to get back in step with her academic program and graduated with her class at N.C. State University. My graduation, as the fates would have it, from Duke was on the same day. I don’t think you have to wonder which graduation ceremony I attended.

She still connects with her Sigma Kappa Sorority friends weekly on zoom. They are a powerful group of women who have supported one another for all these years. They may even be best friends!

59 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page