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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (May 24, 1961)
Wednesday, May 24, 1961
A Pebble Cast . . .
Into Listener's Mind
By Lynn Wright
The soft muslin cover, beige and ma
roon, the tiny gold fan encrested in the
upper corner with its fine Japanese cali
graphic decoration, the stark, black letters
o of the title A Net of Fireflies All beck
oned me to take up the book, to open it,
and to scan the beautifully bound pages.
Once inside, I entered a world of haikus.
With a cursory glance, I was able to cap
ture something of the spirit throughout
the book. But the real joy came after
reading and mulling over the essence of
the thoughts presented in the poems.
To faDy appreciate the brief poems and
the delicate brash drawings, I looked
briefly Into the background ia an attempt
to anderstand better the method, the pfcO
sophy, and the purpose behind haikus and
saigas. A fcaika, in effect, is a three line
Image-thought of seventeen syllables di
vided so that the first Use has five syl
lables; the second, seven; and the third,
five. The emphasis is on the object the
poet is nowhere to be seen. It nses neither
rhyme nor meter and can be distin
guished from prose only by the melody of
assonance, alliteration, and onomatopoeia.
At first sight the haiku seems no more
than a sensuous perception of nature, but
it acquires bidden depth of the Infinite.
Ia fleeting and fragmentary glimpses, it
reflects the dark lower waters of earthly
existence, and because of its very incom
pleteness, it leaves the reader's imagina
tion open to recreate something of the
poet's original moment of realization.
Meaning dawns slowly on the reader. .
A true haiku is a swift record in words of
a sudden flash of insight into the mature
of things. The meaning echos beyond the
few carefully chosen words presented in
each poem. Toe intellectual background
is never obvious, but it is always there.
"To those discerning of spiritual- values
and the physical qualities consonant with
them, one simple haiku by a master like
Matuo Basho is worth more than a whole
loudly acclaimed volume of verse with
merely contemporary appeal . . .", says .
Harold Stewart in "A Net of Butterflies."
Ilaigas, the pictorial counterparts to
haikus, are used to reinforce the impres
sions of the poems. Drawn as the haiku
is written in a single breath, without
thought or hesitation the haiga depicts
naive impressions of nature with economy
and child-like simplicity. "The mystery f
haiga lies in its clumsiness. If drawn with
vigorous spirit, a sublime beauty shows
through the very gaucheness of the pic
ture," Stewart says. Haikus catch atmo
sphere by using sound to express the
soundless pauses are as important as tha
words. In the same way, what is not
there the empty space is one of the
most important elements of the haiga.
The reader's first impression is
much the same as that of a haiku. The
eye sees first abstract patterns of lines,
shapes, and colors; but later the realiza
tion of a subject breaks through. Both
haiku and haiga are produced only alter
the artist has reached a state of "No
Kiod" which is attained Uuvugh medita
tion when all illusion of individual ego is
Meditation, self-realization, and self
reliance are the keynotes ia producing
haiga and haiku. By meditation the artist
empties his mind of all mental burdens,
unnecessary worries, and wandering
thoughts ia order to reach self-realization.
Emptiness in this sense (No-Mind) does
not mean the opposite of fullness, bat
rather, an unconditional state in which
there is nothing to be given and nothing
to be received. "True emptiness cannot be
Included or excluded," according to
"Buddhism and Zen." "When yoa count
your inhalations and exhalations, contend
ing thoughts win gradually disappear
leaving no trace."
Meditation is the way for an. indi
vidual to find his inner treasure and to
see it for himself. One who has learned to
meditate depends on intuition to make de
cisions. During meditation the present mo
ment contains the entire universe of the
individual. There is no past, no future.
First tranquility is achieved, then insight.
When the human mind has absolute free
dom within its true nature, it is then that
the mind and body blend in unity, and the
realization of oneness of all life comes.
At this time the still, small voice of in
sight speaks to the artist of haiku or
haiga. Most sensitive people have had at
some time such inner states of going no
where in a timeless moment by "the
smell of burning leaves on a morning of
autumn haze, a flight of sunlit pigeons
against a thundercloud, the sound of an
. unseen waterfall at dusk . ." says author
Alan Watts. It is just then, when that
vivid glimpse of the world is caught.
It U impossible to discuss, describe, or
even understand the philosophy under
lying haiku without an involved study
which I am not equipped to undertake. A
brief sketch of basic beliefs is presented
here. Orientals live in the present; they
accept everyday routine, loss and change,
inevitable death and decay. The haiku re
flects this view often, and also another
belief. The haiku form depends upon the
relationship between the "positive" the
finite and temporal which is ever-moving
and changing and the "negative" the
infinite and eternal void which is static
and changeless. The intuition of the haiku
travels between' these. For example, in
There sat the great broaze Bnddha.
From Us hollow
Nostril suddenly darted oat a swauow.
Buddha is the immobile and monumental
negative absorbed into timekssness. The
positive is the swallow, who, with "na
ture's sublime disregard for limited hu
man conceptions of the sacred," Stewart
says, "has built a nest in the statue's
nostriL The two are put together to show
that "each and every particular ... of
Existence Is the background of Non
Existeace," Stewart continues.. To show
the relationship of the finite (Existence)
to the infinite (Non-Existence), often
haikus make an abrupt shift from the
microscopic to the macroscopic. For example.
Sun set on the swamp
With orange glare A ban of gnats,
Revolving hi air.
The gnats (finite) depend upon the sun
(infinite) for life.
Haiku poets believe that all things are
transient happiness as well as sorrow.
Their poems have an awareness of this
which is not quite grief and not quite nos
talgia, but the echo, of what has passed
and of what was loved. Thus,
The evening haze;
Thinking of past things
How far-off they are!
. To the Oriental, the order of the world
is a dynamic balance between the two
forces yang and yin, positive and nega
tive. There is no duality, no conflict be
tween the natural element of chance and
the Iranian element of control. The tech
nique of haiku and haiga is "discipline ia
spontaneity and spontaneity In discipline,"
according to Watts. Opposites are relation
al and fundamentally harmonious. There
can be no ultimate conflict when pairs
of opposites are mutually interdependent.
The fundamental principle of Oriental
philosophy is relativity. They believe that
in not hurrying, the purposeless life misses
nothing, "for it is only when there is no
goal and ao rash that the human senses
are fully open to receive the world,""
Watts says. "When life is empty, with re
spect to the past, and aimless, with re
spect to the future, the vacuum is filled
by the present normally reduced to hair
line, a split second ia which there is no
time for anything to happen," be contin
ues. This does not mean that the Oriental
philosophy leaves no room for action or
for doing. The major stress lies on
activity of the mind and the fact that
thought is the basis for everything, but
conscious effort and action also have their
The point to remember here is that medi
tation in everyday life is emphasized and
that the haiku is the means of express
ing that sudden flash of insight which re
sults from emptying the mind of thoughts
past and future. A haiku is "a pebble
thrown into the pool of the listener's
mind," Watts concludes.
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