philosophy

Other People Breathing


The beautiful sound of other people breathing.

Community.

The bedroom: His wife. His child.

The chapel: The old man. The widowed woman.

The bus: Tired husbands. Lonely brides.

The playground: Pants. Screams. Screeches. Cries.

The everywhere: Fear.

Suffering has a sound.

Heard like a rattle.

Beads dropping one by one.

A xylophone. A harpsichord. A tambourine.

A one-man-band.

In union a sweet ave.

Isolated a crashing cymbal.


 

—Howard Hain

 

(May/2018)

 

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philosophy

Two Little Flowers


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Auguste Renoir, “In the Meadow” (1888-92) The Met 


Two Little Flowers

Side By Side

Stretching Toward The Sun

Slightly Different Shaped Petals

Slightly Different Shades Of Pink And Blue

Sing And Dance

Dance And Sing

Waving Hello

Smiling Goodbye

Two Little Flowers

Side By Side

Stretching Toward The Sun


 

—Howard Hain

 

Web Link: Auguste Renoir, “In the Meadow” (1888-1892) The Met

 

(May/2018)

 

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philosophy

A Good Cry

by Howard Hain

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Walter Langley, “Never Morning Wore to Evening but Some Heart Did Break”, 1894


Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

—Romans 12:15


Sobbing is quite an amazing act. When someone really let’s go. The back shakes, the stomach heaves, giant tears rain down. The sound is unlike any other. The cry of the truly poor. The wailing. The bursting forth of what no longer can remain contained. The release. The death. The life.

With a loud cry Jesus died.

God…something to truly behold.

The man. The woman. Rachel refusing to be consoled.

And then it stops. Like a torrential downpour that just can’t last that long. The hard, fast, terrible roar of a summer thunderstorm. It comes and goes. The floods flash, then creation smiles once more—it almost winks, as if nothing ever happened at all. Brother Sun reappears. The black clouds scurry into the distance. Streams of light, sunbeams, tunnel through whitewashed clouds. Sister Moon prepares a crystal clear night.

And Jesus wept.”

I imagine that Jesus also laughed.

Perhaps as a child He even giggled.

Yes, I like to think of Jesus as a small boy. A funny, kind, sweet, happy child. Yes, I imagine He liked to laugh. Yes, I can see that. Imagine it, right? Little Jesus and Mary laughing, Joseph laughing too—maybe even lovingly shaking his head a little as he walks past the two of them on his way back to the shop—enjoying the sight of his bride and boy bathing the monotony of domestic life in tender moments of lightness such as these.

Yes, I imagine that they even had those small humorous encounters that only the inner members of an intimate, tightly-knit family can engage. Those little looks and quiet soundless chuckles that release the tension of living in too-close quarters, among people you love so much that the temptation arises of becoming annoyed at even their genuine goodness.

Perhaps though I am biased. For some of my fondest memories as a child are of being together in the same room, the six of us: four boys, and Mom and Dad. And what was best of all was the laughing, especially the uncontrolled laughter of children engaged in outright silliness, the kind that Mom and Dad—even though they we’re saying “come on, stop it now”—they themselves couldn’t help cracking smiles. Sometimes those fits of laughter were self-induced or at least group-induced, via my elder brothers tickling us nearly to death.

For there is a type of laughter that can only be laughed by a child. And as I am sure most of us can recall, the second those tickling sessions began we’d beg for mercy for it to end. And the second it was over we would ask for more.

Uncontrollable sobbing.

Uncontrollable laughter.

They are quite similar. In fact, they sometimes occur simultaneously. And often when they continue past a certain point, the person begins to cough. I guess, physiologically, it’s caused by some kind of gasping for air that both prolonged sobbing and deep laughter call for, but it is a whole lot more.

It is a purging, a clearing out. As if the crying and laughing chip loose and shake free those emotional “buildups” lodged in our souls, plastered to the inner walls of our spirits.

And whether we are brought to our knees by bouts of bitter wailing or fits of uncontrolled laughter, or both, something remains after they go, like the pavement after those quick, fierce summer storms on brutally hot days. For whether those storms rain on our parades or provide our flowers with a desperately needed drink, it’s always a beautifully peaceful sight to see the hot ground, sidewalks, and driveways slightly smoking—a haze of mist signaling that a deeply hidden storm, a raging fire deep below, has met its match.

We dry off, and begin again.


 

 

(May/2016)

 

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philosophy

Being qua Being


Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.

—Matthew 6:28


Does a flower make pronouncements? Does it define itself? Does it box itself in with titles, names, and distinctions?

And yet, “not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:29)

———

A flower simply exists.

And its existence glorifies God.

There is no need for it to do more.

By its very existence it magnifies what cannot be further magnified: God’s Presence, God’s Glory, God’s Beauty…

———

“I’m a flower.”

“I’m a rose.”

“Look at me!”

Statements such as these we shall never hear.

Flowers are divinely indifferent to the world’s definitions and distinctions, to its approval and applause.

After all, it’s a person who receives the medal at an orchid show, not the flower herself. No, her finely-placed petals would only be weighed down by such metallic-based ribbons.

What a gift it is to simply exist.

———

Flowers don’t cling to seasonal life.

When it’s time to go, they gracefully drop their heads and lose their petals.

Never has there existed a man as poor as a flower.

Never has mankind so possessed the richness of fleeting, transitory, and momentary life.

It’s their genius to instinctively believe that death leads to new abundant life.

———

Flowers graciously receive:

Ladybugs, drops of dew. Beams of light, the relief of shade.

Flowers give and receive as if not a single thing has ever been made by man.

They welcome sun as well as rain.

They never cry over fallen fruit or a stolen piece of pollen.

They quietly applaud instead, rejoicing that their little ones have the opportunity to travel abroad—perhaps even the chance to help nurture a neighbor.

———

A flower, perhaps most of all, knows it place.

It never wishes to be bigger or thinner…greener or higher…it never dreams of being more like a tree.

A flower’s blessing is simplicity beyond you and me.

———

Christ is a flower.

He is the one true perfect eternal flower, through whom all other flowers partake, toward whom all other flowers reach.

Christ is a flower. His ways are not our own. He simply exists. Bowing His head. Dropping petals. Feeding hungry bees. Giving and receiving. His identity is crucified—leaving nothing behind but being “qua” being.


If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

—Matthew 6:30


 

—Howard Hain

(Dedicated to Brother Jim, a man who knew how to simply exist.)

(July/2016)

 

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philosophy

A Bouquet of Marys


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Pierre-Auguste Renoir, “Still Life with Roses in a Vase”, 1910-19


Fount of Life

Fire of Love

Sweet Anointing From Above

Come Holy Spirit!

Come Holy Spirit, living in Mary!

———

A simple thought. At times that seem complex:

If every Mary in my life is praying for me, then all will turn out well.

I find that some of the most challenging times are times of serious discernment, when decisions have to be made—not made-up manufactured dilemmas, the conjectures of our overactive and self-obsessive minds endlessly playing shell games with hypothetical possibilities—but substantial concrete decisions, those times of choosing one real and reasonable path as opposed to another, equally real and equally reasonable.

These times can be quite unsettling, even if both paths are seemingly sunny. For if we desire to do God’s will and attempt to put aside our personal preferences, quite often the “right” choice is not crystal clear.

We use our minds, we use our experience, we research the facts, we reach out to trusted spiritually-solid Christian brothers and sisters for opinions and guidance, but ultimately it is not a simple matter of calculation. It is not a matter of which option has more pros and less cons, of which path offers more or less in terms of provision, obstacles, enjoyment, sacrifices, etc. Sure those things should be taken into consideration, thrown into the pot if you will, and stirred well—on low heat for that matter, and over a good amount of time.

But it is all about God’s will, and God’s will may defy logic, especially the logic of lists.

So what is left but prayer, prayer and waiting for the peace that should accompany sound, Holy Spirit-led decisions?

So we stir the pot, we pray, and we wait. We take a sip and see if it settles peacefully into the stomach. And we stir some more…

But sometimes, the time for the decision to be made comes before we feel properly prepared—or in dinner-party terms, the guests are at the front door and we feel that the soup hasn’t yet properly stewed.

It’s times such as these that we need our mothers.

I gather up my list. No, not the pros and cons, but one of the most important lists that I can assemble: the list of Marys in my life. I think about the women God has placed all about me: my earthly mother, my wife, my mother-in-law, a nun I know well, my sister-in-law, my landlady, a woman I see regularly at the bakery, several ladies from my parish who gather faithfully for Mass and to recite the Rosary.

These are my Marys. I gather them together: I ask our Blessed Mother, as guided by the Holy Spirit—her heavenly spouse—to unite them to her and with her in prayer. I then ask each one of them. One by one, as I see them or speak to them by phone. And I ask. I ask simply that they pray for me, that I do God’s will.

Then I rest assured. I sit back. I smell something delicious. But it’s not the soup. No, what my nose savours is the scent of a beautiful bouquet. My bouquet of Marys.

No matter what happens from here on out—I know I come out smelling like roses.

———

Hail Mary, all my Marys

Full of Grace

The Lord is with thee, all of thee

Blessed art thou amongst women

And blessed is the fruit

Of thy womb, Jesus!

O Holy Marys, pray for us sinners…now…and at the hour of our death.

Amen.

———

Dedicated to all the Marys in all our lives, during this “Magnificat” month of May, a month full of days filled with grace.

Happy Mother’s Day!


 

—Howard Hain

 

(May/2016)

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philosophy

Joseph the Worker


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Jean-Francois Raffaelli, “The Sweeper” (circa 1879)


there are not many choices

really there are only two to be exact

to suffer in union with Christ, or not

for to suffer not is not a choice

at least not while we are passing through

so we lift up our tired eyes

we strain our necks elevating our chins

we become like David

we strum our harps

for kings are not the only ones who sing sad psalms

David is not the only musician of pain

for just this morning I saw several on their way to work

one drove a van, another a box truck, a third carried a broom

each had a song, each strummed along

each is of the house of David, each a spouse of Mary

which ones however, if any, offered up the pain

that I do not know

only our Father above knows who it is that unites his suffering to Christ’s

only the silent Christ in each one of us could make such a noble choice

———

—yet another man named Joseph, a son of David

 

(Howard Hain)

 

(March/2016)

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