friday feast: basho’s wisdom


For a lovely bowl

let us arrange these flowers . . .

since there is no rice.


In honor of Japan, I’m sharing several haiku written by the great master Basho. After seeing so much devastation and human suffering on the news, I thought we all might need a few moments of quiet reflection and contemplation.

I’d been wanting to post about Japan all week, but couldn’t find the words. I wanted to talk about the fortitude, stoicism, courage, and resilience of the Japanese people — how they’ve been living in makeshift shelters, searching for their loved ones, standing in water lines for hours, willing to share their meager food rations with others who need it. They’ve remained relatively calm despite losing everything and bearing ever worsening fears about the future — no public displays of greed, looting or panic.

From what I know of Japanese culture and society, this doesn’t necessarily surprise me, yet I’m still awestruck and inspired a thousand times over. I was lucky enough to visit Japan once, and most of my close friends in Hawai’i are Japanese, so I learned a lot about the culture through osmosis. It’s not about the individual; it’s about the group, putting others before yourself. What one person does reflects on the whole. The rest of the world would do well to adopt this unspoken code of shared responsibility.

As you know, haiku capture fleeting moments. We are invited to bring our own emotions and associations to what is presented and possibly glimpse the interdependence of all things.

I selected the haiku for today’s post based on what I observed this past week. Though these poems date back to the 17th century, they accurately represent modern Japanese sensibility — to exult in the commonplace, to find beauty in simplicity, and to fully experience the riches of the natural world. For those whose lives were changed in a catastrophic instant, their miraculous survival is the poetry of the moment. Such is their abiding luminosity; they will build again.



No oil to read by . . . 

I am off to bed

but ah! . . .

My moonlit pillow



Ah me! I am one

who spends his little


Morning-glory gazing




Fever-felled half-way

my dreams arose

To march again . . .

Into a hollow land


We continue to pray for the safety, well being, healing and recovery for the people of Japan, and offer our deepest condolences for those lost. Would that our monetary donations could also fill their hearts with renewed, unending hope as they live hand to mouth, moment to moment. 

Today’s Roundup is being hosted by Andi at a wrung sponge.

*Photo credits: Sakura bowl by pink_emmie_bat/flickr, moonlight temple by savon1809/flickr, morning glories by pen3ya/flickr, Mt. Fuji by matsunuma/flickr.



Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.