17 responses

  1. in shade, the herons wait - November
      on my neck

    My attempts to write haiku have been fruitful not so much in my own making but in that it deepened my appreciation for the craft. Notably, in the intervening weeks, I’ve been most impressed by how you bend the haiku, and how malleable you make a difficult form (yet how easy you make it look). But I wanted to mention that one haiku has returned to my mind many times. The broken bowl haiku seems to me a certain magic. Like when a man on a daily route takes a right when he ought not to and wonders at things that were always there. Now mid-afternoon I can’t help but see porcelain. I love it absolutely. I quite like this one too the more I see it– the beauty of a woman can warm you in the bitterest colds :).


    • Thank you for the praise. Lately I’ve been thinking my haiku are too formulaic, but maybe that’s hard to avoid in such a small form? If I read Basho or Buson, I notice similar habits of thought. And I’m glad that you liked the broken-bowl-haiku. I was very pleased with it at the time. I don’t feel that way about all my haiku, but that one I liked.

      I like the imprecision of your haiku—it’s meaning feels both graspable and just out of reach, an effect I especially like. This is fresh and interesting.


    • I would trust your instincts above mine. My praise comes from my own failure at conveying something above monotone in my haiku.

      On similar habits of thought: that isn’t a bad thing. Some saying went “all great thinkers think the same thing, but that thing is inexhaustible…” or something.

      Concerning meaning: one of Basho’s haiku has given be quite a bit of thought. It appears in the beginning of The Narrow Road to the Interior, and it revealed a kind of truth (perhaps it is evident to everyone but me, but oh well).

      Stopped awhile
      inside a waterfall–
      summer retreat begins

      The footnotes stated that the “summer retreat” is an allusion a practice among Buddhist monks that calls for them to isolate themselves withing a monastery during the summer months to read and meditate. This haiku revealed to me what I will term an “aesthetic coherentism” (forgive my highfalutin language) which entails a direct interaction of meaning between the object and the subject.

      This I will explain in context of what I take to be the common western conception: that the perception of an object implies an objectivity, meaning that the object appears independent of the subject– that a tree is a tree with or without my eyes. This is not stated implicitly, but is practiced such as it was in my own case.

      So, in this haiku, the waterfall is presented as such i.e. the object itself is set (however there are precognitions of the conclusion in the first line, which bring about the question of artistic teleology, but that is for another day). But, by the end, the stone and falling water have been transformed, or revealed, by the subject in the evokation of this allusion. In effect, the object was revealed when the subject was taken over by a mood (a mood because I would not take it the third line is intellectual, which goes for all of the creation of poetry).

      In this way, not only is the locus of meaning (or beauty, but I have a feeling they are one and the same) revealed, but the very origin of meaning is obscured.

      I apologize for this assault; I meant this to be a short post.


    • I think I know what you’re saying, but your final sentence threw me — “not only is the locus of meaning….revealed, but the very origin of meaning is obscured.” You’ll have to interpret that a little more for me.
      Maybe I read Basho’s poem too simply (and poetry in general because I prefer not to engage in theories of criticism or of knowledge or epistemology) but he seems to be saying that the inside of the waterfall is, and will be, his monastery. I suppose this could be extended into epistemological questions but I’ll let you lead the way.


    • I must have gotten too in-the-clouds last night.

      Elaborations: it’s best for me to think of this in the context of a more familiar thought process. If one were to think of other things as existing independently on oneself, then the origin of meaning would be fixed in those independent objects.

      Why? I think we have an intuition that isolation with oneself does not bring any kind of significance. (This answer is horrible, but I have not thought about that long enough to give a more satisfactory one.)

      Although the origin of meaning is fixed, it is unreachable– the locus cannot be grappled by definition, in that the objects are independent of us.

      So, with this different view, ourselves are grounded with the world. We can change how objects are in the way we are or in the way we think. That is why I chose the word coherentism, because we depend on the objects to appear to us and the object depend on our moods to what is shown. Thus the locus of meaning can be found in the direct interaction between us and the object, and the origin of meaning can no longer be ascribed to either an independent object nor an independent subject since both have dissolved into each other.

      I, too, had that reading, but it affected me in this way partially due to another kind of experience. I also try to eschew thinking in the way of literary criticism (which I consider a kind of formalized unnecessary thinking). I hope I am not overcomplicating the matter. This seems to be the best way I can express my thoughts, which I agree is not ideal. Currently, I am trying to discipline myself in this regard, but sometimes it can’t help boiling over.


    • // If one were to think of other things as existing independently on oneself, then the origin of meaning would be fixed in those independent objects.//

      Okay, I think I must have a philosophy IQ in the single digits. Why, if things exist independently of oneself, does it follow that meaning would be fixed in those objects? If that were the case, then wouldn’t every observer ascribe the same meaning to independent objects? Like the waterfall?


    • I am making nonsense. It is most definitely not your fault.

      “Why, if things exist independently of oneself, does it follow that meaning would be fixed in those objects?”

      I think I have trouble answering this question because I do not have an answer. This is a necessary question. I can back it up only with historical interpretation and intuition. I take it that the movement of history up till now has been a process of isolation in the separation of the intellect from everything else. In this movement, I also see the growth of materialism and nihilism. I take it that if meaning were to be found within ourselves, these corresponding symptoms would not occur. In short, its mere intuition, but intuition is all I have. A further question is if meaning does not exist in oneself, can we guarantee it at all? To this, I would answer yes again by intuition.

      “If that were the case, then wouldn’t every observer ascribe the same meaning to independent objects? Like the waterfall?”

      Yes, I believe that follows. The waterfall would become a mere waterfall– H2O and sediment.


    • I’m afraid, to judge by your answer, that I misunderstood what you originally wrote.

      Maybe it’s just easier to write what I believe.

      A.) For purposes of scientific inquiry, which so far remains limited to examining the “material” world, objects eternal to the observer behave like external objects and are, in and of themselves, “meaningless”. They are what they are and have no inherent “meaning”.

      B.) Science, however, really has nothing whatsoever to say about the experience of consciousness. Since, as far as you or I are concerned, the world (as far as we collectively know) only exists so long as we are conscious (read alive and sentient) and observing it. In that sense, no external object is truly independent or even external. Once you cease to exist, so will the object. Science can postulate that the universe will continue to exist once we are no longer collectively here to observe it, but cannot in any way prove that simply because such poof requires a conscious observer.

      There is a way out of that conundrum, but it involves having a near death experience and meeting “God”—which happened to me. :)


    • I don’t think you misunderstood, but any confusion is the fault of the writer (obviously to a certain extent). If I don’t discipline myself in this regard, my thought will only result in a brilliantly ornamented sepulcher.

      This conundrum that you described is the exact kind I have been thinking about.

      Let me try to take another approach:

      I agree with you on every point you made, but I only differ in perspective. In B you mention that objects are not truly independent because they only appear to us through consciousnes. I take this in the sense of a Kantian apparatus where the mind has inbuilt functions that sorts and presents all that we see as objects. In this sense, i agree they are dependent on consciousness to appear to us as they are, but I disagree that objects are dependent in every way. In this model, the input necessarily comes externally to us. In this regard I consider them to be though of as independent entities; although they are dependent on us to appear as they do, they are independent of us insofar as how they would like to appear i.e. we are always only affected by the objects.

      This is where the problem lies. Even if we take the mind to be irreducible to material functions (although many of my peers believe this to be so which saddens me) there is still a strict division between what I see as the only generative source of meaning, beings outside of ourselves, and us.

      Here is where you final and most spectacular remark comes into play. God does indeed solve this problem! God, as I understand his idea, is the independent being of all beings i.e. the being in which all other independent beings come to be. Then, if one were to have a direct relationship to God, then one would have direct contact with independent beings. This indeed is a fantastic formulation and I had not put those pieces together. However, I may be wrong. I love talking to people and rarely get the chance too especially on topics such as these.


    • //In this sense, i agree they are dependent on consciousness to appear to us as they are, but I disagree that objects are dependent in every way. In this model, the input necessarily comes externally to us…//
      No, I go a step beyond even that. There is no “external”. What appears to be external is illusory in that reality as we understand it is a product of consciousness. We are experiencing consciousness within a greater consciousness of which we are a part and which we are (God). In that sense, the ultimate fabric of the universe is consciousness—in the sense that the universe is literally an idea, in which we are all ideas, and which exists as an agreed upon idea.
      There’s no reason anyone should accept what I write and I can’t fathom how I would ever support it but there you have it. :) All this implies that consciousness is non-local, but if you believe as I do, then there’s no such thing as “non-local” consciousness, as that implies a condition or locale apart from consciousness; there’s only consciousness or being. Death is merely a transition from the idea of ourselves as physical beings to our true existence as awareness itself. So, God is not an independent being. God is us and we are God and everything that appears external to us is in truth the desired experience of our collective consciousness. We are God discovering ourselves through the illusion of separateness. :)


    • Let me put it this way: When you’re dreaming, do you think the objects in your dream are separate or independent objects? That’s the way I think of our experience of life. Jung once dreamed that he went to a cave and saw himself meditating. He understood this as a vision of his soul dreaming his life.


    • Question: Are you a Hegelian? I personally have not read Hegel, but I see similarities. Namely, from my limited understanding, Hegel believed the that the world i the consciousness of God and the end of history comes when we know God and God knows us i.e. we become equal to God’s knowledge and we are united with God, although they are always one in the same. This is second hand, though. I must read Hegel, but I don’t think anyone would blame me for putting it off :P.


    • I don’t know. I’ve never read Hegel. We can only be knowledgeable in so many subjects, I think. In principle I feel as if I ought to be interested in philosophy and philosophers, but I never have been. I’d much rather get my philosophy through literature, poetry and first person stories. One of my favorite things to do is to read other’s near death experiences, having had my own. Reading only a handful makes it seem as if the stories are full of contradictions—like blind men describing an elephant; but if you continue to read and read them, a remarkable, beautiful and deeply consistent story emerges. I do think the world is the consciousness of “God”, in that we are all of us “God”, but I don’t know that the end of history comes with our achieving God’s knowledge. I think we already know it. Rather, the point is that there is no point or rather, that our capacity to experience is infinite. We are meant to enjoy life, to love each other, and to wring from experience every moment. I don’t always feel as though I live up to that.


    • That’s a very interesting perspective! The only reason I asked is that it sounded similar and just in case you wanted to investigate another person with a similar view on reality you could. But I get the feeling that one ought to be interested in something but simply isn’t. It never works when someone pushes oneself into a field they hate (unless it’s for a career, which is a bit different). That’s why I try not to push poetry on my closest friends too much, even though sometimes I can’t help myself. I read the near-death experiences and I think a have an idea what you mean, but I doubt I could ever understand it without experiencing one myself. I know this is an inappropriate question, but my curiosity is overtaking my good judgment; would you be open to recounting your NDE, or how you came near death? Also, I am sorry for the long gap between replies.


  2. Patrick, I would say you are a partisan of one of the varieties of solipcism known as neoplatonism.


    Plato, for example, found the idea of a tree more eternal and “real” than the tree itself. Advantage Poet, because we could be dirt poor or confined to solitary and still have ideas to console and occupy us. They are the most democratic objects of thought. Moreover, we could transport ourselves to another galaxy (imaginatively at least) where the current laws of physics (or that tree) are no longer active except as an idea. But since we live on earth at the moment, you would probably agree it remains practical for us to consider, say, the double helix as both an idea and objective reality. That is to say, you and the empiricist are both right. But only time is on your side as our galaxy entropies and a new paradigm of life and law replaces it.


    • I was reading a description of neoplatonism, and I’m not so sure. Inasmuch as a I believe everything to ultimately be manifested by consciousness, a tree here is no more real or imaginary than the tree I saw during my NDE.

      As a “practical” matter, and even if I am correct in every respect, my thesis remains out of science’s reach and is therefore irrelevant (from a scientific perspective). One might as well believe in the flying spaghetti monster as far as that goes. As it is, our current “reality” or the reality we experience (the universe we live in) even if its an agreed upon appirition of our collective consciousness (an idea), so far seems to be like a clock—it’s mechanism is discoverable, testable and its behavior is predictable without resort to “consciousness”—until Quantum Mechanics (debatably). Sentience or consciousness was utterly irrelevant in a reductionist/Cartesian Universe. Now? QM seems to have cracked that door just a little. The universe isn’t looking quite so classical as it used to. If you read enough Near Death Experiences, the universe is often described almost like something you could hold in your hands. During my own experience, I have the memory (without a memory of the specifics) of being shown everything that had happened and everything that was going to happen, and it all made perfect sense. And it all struck me so blindingly simple. :)


  3. I know the feeling. Life is a near death experience for me. Strange how I can think like that and yet have never had a suicidal thought in my life. Also kind of ironic that one of the greatest strengths of your haiku is how they help us to escape this metaphysical rabbit hole via the contagious charm of the (very earthly) object. As a result, I would feel comfortable leaving collections of your haiku in hospice waiting rooms anywhere on earth or as gifts to family. Almost all of them radiate a genial pantheism (unlike my own) and I envy that.


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