Becoming One with the Moment

The other day I was going for a run and could not tell if snow or rain was falling from the sky.

Snow or rain?

Both become water

On foreheads

 There was no drawing posted for this week.

We are talking about variations on evanescence and form for fourteen weeks, and this week was no different. With Bashō’s haikai poetry, we discover the form we try to emulate with our weekly poems. One of my favorites from the Keene translation says, “the burning sun/ it has washed into the sea/ Mogami river” (Bashō, 116). After reading this, I wish he had not named the river. Since now I am forced to go see the Mogami River to try to feel what Bashō felt when he wrote that poem, but had he not named it, I could go look at the Mystic River tonight and save the trip. Inouye explains these short poems well when he asks, “what could be more constricting than the various rules and conventions of haikai? Yet what could be more generalizing and vast than the imagery of these tiny poems?” (Inouye, 79). I can’t help but agree with this sentiment. We could talk about the intricacies of the poems for hours on end, and while we might expect the three-line form to constrict creativity, it instead allows for a polysemic reaction by the readers. The class discovered this when asking different students to imagine Bashō’s poem of a frog jumping into a pond. Some of us thought of a small pond and a single frog, and others thought of a large pond and many frogs. During this exercise, we discovered the importance of butsuga ichinyo (物我一如) or complete oneness with your surroundings. When we try to place intention and personal desire into explaining a lyrical moment, we ultimately fail. In this sense, you cannot attach a true explanation on a poem, and you don’t create a poem; you find one (Lecture, 2/25/13). Professor Inouye equated poetry with love when he posed the question of whether or not someone with an understanding of butsuga ichinyo would necessarily make a better lover. I would have to answer yes. If you have the capacity to love the spring wind and the autumn trees in a non-symbolic way, then you probably have a firm grasp of nothingness, and therefore the capacity for everything. If someone can fall in love with a fleeting moment, can they not fall in love with a person for a lifetime? Or is that a different kind of love altogether? While these concepts remain difficult, I think I found that my problem comes from thinking about the concepts too much, instead of just experiencing them. Even though I am still a bit confused about why we exactly we would want to come back to samsara after attaining enlightenment, for example, that confusion does not bring me sorrow as it has in the past. Like everything else, that failure to understand an idea will only stay around for a short time.

~Ezra Dunkle-Polier

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