Friday, March 8, 2013

The Superiority of Haiku Over All Other Art

All of our lives are intertwined. I mean this in more than just the economic sense. Yes, the pencil on your desk took thousands of men to make (the man who chopped down the tree for it's wood, the man who mined the ore for the steel in the axe of the man who chopped down the tree, the man who mined the graphite in the center, etc)... but more than this, we are connected by the actions we take (or do not take) in ways unfathomable to us, unless we're able to step back often and see the mosaic of life for what it truly is, a complex system of connected beauty.

If you browse this blog you'll find a fair number of names mentioned; including, but not limited to: Prince Lupus, Captain James Barlowe Massimo, Ishii Ro-eem, EEU-500, The Good Doctor Benjamin Redstone, an unnamed robot solider (who was numbered 3432), Ben Jackson, Cáo Cāo (the great and honorable high Chancellor of the Eastern Han Dynasty and Emperor Wu of Wei), Lt. Peazer Rice, The Redooa Brothers, etc etc. All of these beings are intertwined by a single cosmic thread which is to be revealed at a later date.

Now, what does all this philosophizing have to do with Haiku, you are undoubtedly asking yourself? Well, as I have mentioned before on this blog... I have had the pleasure of living quite a charmed life, an extraordinary life, generally by virtue of my strange luck, and the extraordinary people I have met... not really by any direct action of my own. Still, I've seen and heard a great many interesting things, and absorbed a great many interesting opinions. One of those opinions belonged to a man called Doctor Benjamin Redstone. Believe what you will, but Doctor Redstone was a mostly formless, essentially immortal, time-traveling being from one of Saturn's moons. He has seen quite a bit in his time, and we once had a conversation about literature. His opinion on it was this:

Art...all art (and literature is of course an art form) is based on changing the perceptions of your audience; making them see the beauty in the banal, see the strangeness in the average. Altering perception, he said, was the definition of Art. He told me that writing lengthy books, novels, stories... that was easy task for anyone with the ability to speak. The capacity for language is not a unique trait, or a skill. The skill, he emphasized, and the true challenge, was in conveying something truly vast, truly deep... an emotion that has no definition in the common language... and by doing that as simply as possible. To cause the reader to realize the deeper meaning which has been left unsaid, and to impose upon the reader the emotion you seek to impose with perhaps a sentence, with a single line. With a word, even. This is the most difficult Art. He said that with Art, much like with the expression of love... the more verbose, the more muddled the truth of your art or your love becomes. The truth of an emotion exists in its purest form only when stripped of all the unnecessary pretense. And truth, real truth, allows one to see the beauty of the connected world. Or so the Doctor said.

I, as usual, being the natural skeptic I am, was incredulous. The Good Doctor saw it in my face, so he quoted a particular haiku to me... one of his favorites, he said... written by a man whom Doctor Redstone knew personally, a man named Kobayashi Issa. The haiku was this:

Don’t weep - Insects,
Lovers, Stars themselves
Must part

Almost instantly I understood his meaning. It was as if a Revelation had come over me. I have a rogues respect for honesty in my dealings, so I'll be truthful when I say that from the age of 14 until the time I heard that haiku, I cried only once (at the time of Prince Lupus's death). But I came closest to it again when I heard those words. That very day I began my collection of various haiku, and the writing of a few of my own. I've learned, from The Good Doctor, that the challenge of creating a truly beautiful haiku entails first gaining insight into certain truths of the human experience, then stepping back and seeing the perfect interconnected nature of all those truths, and all those experiences... and then, finally, expressing all the complexity you have seen, stripped of pretense and excess, in three short lines. The Good Doctor Benjamin Redstone was a fine man. He still is, most likely, although I have not seen him in some years.


  1. Very true of course about how challenging it is to write a good haiku, especially the kireji. That Issa haiku is truly above and beyond, amazing. I'm diggin' your blog SCIENCEBZZT!