WHR Summer 2013
World Haiku Review
Editorial (on this page)
Let’s face it. We live in a superficial world. The internet culture is its symbol as well as being one of the main culprits which have engendered it. All sorts of superficial things are flying around in the virtual world (which in many instances have actually become real world) and have spilt over into almost all aspects of our real, daily lives. How could superficial email messages or exchanges on the social networking not be but superficial?
Have we, then, become superficial, too? It is a chicken-and-egg situation. It is easy to say YES, superficially speaking. But in any age people have grumbled about their time. The truth therefore probably is that we are at once superficial and profound. So is our world. And it may be safe to say that at this very juncture we and the world in which we live are more (much more) superficial than at other times. And if one is inclined to be superficial one would easily be engulfed by the ocean of superficiality and would not even know it.
People who have initiated the internet culture and those who have gulped it down hook, line and sinker in the superficial world have found haiku to be a godsend in their superficial culture, short, non-intellectual, plebeian, light-hearted, easy and quick. Some clever people have injected a crucial ingredient into this otherwise innocuous hobby: “Haiku is also profound”. What a wonderful gift from god haiku is if it is superficial and profound at the same time! This magic injection has catapulted haiku high up to the status on a par with such profound things as religion, Zen or Tao-led philosophy. As a consequence people have instantly become high priests and priestesses or sages. They have started to talk as if they are at the same height or depth as Basho. Basho ironically preached that we should come down from that height to the plebeian level.
William Somerset Maugham said, “Respectability is a cloak under which fools cover their stupidity.” Haiku can be said to be a cloak under which people cover their superficiality.
All this is not lost, however. On the contrary, this superficiality was, has been, and still is and should be the essence of haiku if we take the term literally, i.e. that which is on the surface. In other words, we must not look deeper than what a particular haiku is saying on the surface. Take for example the Editor’s Choice in this issue of World Haiku Review. The haiku is by Adelaide B. Shaw and talks about a rotating fan which gives cool only for an instant before moving away from the author and leaving her feeling very hot until it comes back, unable to avoid counting how many seconds there are between hot and cool. She is saying only that. She is not talking about the profound nature of heat which is beyond the capacity of a man-made machine which is not fit for purpose, or the time it takes for the fan to come back to you seems eternal, or man’s vulnerability before the power of nature. This does not reduce the excellence of this haiku at all. There is a case for saying that Basho was only talking about an old pond, frogs and the sound they make when jumping into the water, and not the profundity with which this haiku is associated.
Basho was teaching all sorts of things, which was inevitable because he was a teacher. However, he came back to karumi (lightness) in the end. Karumi is superficiality in the best sense of the word.