A Generous Silence

by Howard Hain


Pablo Picasso Woman in White 1923

Pablo Picasso, “Woman in White”, 1923 (The Met)


The fewest words possible.

It is hard to imagine why we speak any at all.

Nothing comes out right.

There’s never enough said.

What is uttered is always incomplete.

The vow of silence seems awfully attractive at times.

But how long would that last?

I remember taking early morning walks years ago.

I would see the sky, the horizon, the landscape, the fields, the trees, the rocks, the grass, the birds…

I would get so excited.

I would want to run home and tell my wife, to show her, to bring her to that very spot.

But I couldn’t.

By even thinking about doing so something had happened.

The sky, the horizon, the landscape, the fields, the trees, the rocks, the grass, the birds…they were all still there, but it was gone.

By wanting to run and show someone else, by desperately wanting to share—to not be alone—I was again the only one standing on that vacant road.

God of course was still there, and His holy angels and saints—the “great cloud of witnesses”—but I was no longer home.

For I was no longer there.

I was in the land of wanting, of wanting something else but the “here and now,” of wanting something else besides a glimpse of eternity—of wanting more than the kingdom truly being at hand.

For even the beautifully-human desire to share with others sometimes gets in the way.

What is needed is more faith.

What is needed is belief—the belief that the gift of God’s presence, when graciously and generously and humbly received, gives more to our family and friends, gives more to the entire world, than we could ever show or tell each and every one of them individually—even when our “receiving” takes place when we are completely and totally “alone.”


Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father.

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

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Web Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Pablo Picasso, “Woman in White”, 1923


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