Flowers: No Rice

The world has been freshly shaken (no pun intended!) by the giant earth quake that hit Japan this weekend, followed by the devastating tsunamis, with word of another earthquake on the way for the country. The world is scared of nuclear fallout again, people are arcing up and arguing about it again (meanwhile, the cooling systems around the exploding reactors are working, no meltdowns just yet), and the world seems a little bit scarier, again.

In this time of instant global communication, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the constant, real-time updates of environmental crises and human misery. Some stand-up folk rush to the aid of the stricken, while other, less empathetic individuals take the piss far beyond the call of light heartedness. Generally though, most of us have no choice but to carry on with our day to day lives, as our doomsday anxiety quietly and exponentially increases with each passing month, with each passing reminder of how futile our lives on this planet are.

The Japanese have always been aware this futility, and at the same time, the miracle that is our life on the planet. Culture was traditionally based around nature; full of quiet, contemplation and the essence of calm… back before the competitive nature of capitalism, not unlike a tsunami itself, or indeed an atomic bomb, sucked the proud nation of its beautiful aesthetic, and left the land and it’s people barren, stripped of history, quickly forgotten, and ready to be rebuilt into the distorted mirror image of the western world, cultural cancer looming (here and here).

Take a moment to consider the many thousands, even millions of humans affected by the events of the last week, the last month, even the last century. These classic haikus fit perfectly amongst the mild melancholy swimming around in my skull as I type. The traditional 5-7-5 pattern is often a little lost in the translation, but the feeling of the word combinations remain the same. So in the spirit of love, peace and respect for the nature of existence, happy reading:

Dew evaporates
And all our world
Is dew… So dear,
So fresh, so fleeting.
-ISSA (1763-1827)

Dead my old fine hopes
And dry my dreaming
But still…
Iris, blue each spring
-SHUSHIRI (dates unknown)

For a lovely bowl
Let us arrange these flowers…
Since there is no rice
BASHO (1644-1694)

In the city fields
Contemplating cherry-trees…
Strangers are like friends
ISSA (1763-1827)

A saddening world:
Flowers whose sweet
Blooms must fall…
As we too, alas…
ISSA (1763-1827)

Quite a hundred gourds
Sprouting from
The fertile soul…
Of a single vine
CHIYO-NI (1701-1775)

Ashes my burnt hut…
But wonderful
The cherry
Blooming on my hill
HOKUSHI (d. 1718)