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Haiku and the Lives We Choose for Ourselves

Haiku is a poetic form with very strict rules about the structure of the poem. It is not the only poetic form with rules, but the very specific restraints on number of syllables per line and the ways that the lines must interact with each other produce a particular sort of beauty which can’t be achieved without those constraints. The defined limits of the form create the beauty of it. Because of these structural demands, some things can’t be said in haiku and some things can only be said in haiku.

My chosen religious tradition is one with strict rules and constraints. It asks me to not do some things and to go out of my way to do others. I’ve had friends baffled by some of the constraints that I live with. I’ve had periods of my life where some of it felt confining and others where the constraints provided safety for me in an otherwise hazardous experience, like the harness of a climber which can be simultaneously uncomfortable and life saving. I’m aware that the harness that cradles and supports me might cut off circulation and do harm to someone who is built differently.

I said “my chosen religious tradition” because even though I was born into this tradition and raised inside it, I have since chosen it for myself. I continue to make that choice regularly. I choose the structures and requirements of this form for my life, while being aware that my choice blocks me off from many things I see bringing joy to others. I am also aware of the joys that are only available to me because of the structures I dwell inside. And I know that some people born to these same structures must exit them in order to expand into the people they are. Other people must find their way into these structures to become who they might be.

The world would be a poorer place if the only poetry available were haiku. The world would be made poorer if all people were required to live the same life structures and traditions. God knows all of his children and will help us find the forms we need in order to become what we must be.

2 comments to Haiku and the Lives We Choose for Ourselves

  • Karl-Wilhelm Wacker

    I have over time created my own viewpoint on religion: It ia a hybrid of a comment made by someone thought to be real by some, and a myth by others, and an observation by a fictional character. The comments are: “In my fathers house are many mansions”, and “One mans religion is another’s belly laugh”. I interpret these as: there is no one path to a valid religion, and my beliefs may well be another’s belly laugh, but I don’t care, for they are my beliefs.

  • Hannah

    In this analogy I’d find the gospel to be the spirit and essence of poetry. Not any particular format. But the singing and essence of truth that is revealed by the discipline of various poetic structures.

    I believe all those living with peace and happiness have latched onto somepart of its truth. And more than having, are loving and building that truth into their lives. The gospel encompasses all that is true, but it isn’t the sole repository. It does have some key pieces rarely seen elsewhere, but most of it is available.

    Though, I can remember when i lived in your area. It did seem that the gospel was seen very uniformly. I can see the gospel looking like a haiku when steeped in the Utah culture. And although the way I live fits in the “haiku” format easily, I remember the feeling of constraint.

    I think it was the hovering self consciousness that irked. That somehow just living the gospel wasn’t enough. That one also had to impose the outward image of living the gospel? And couldn’t just relax and trust that the appearance would just swing into place as the “living it” part got tuned in. I’m not sure.

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