A WORD BEFORE THE WINTER SOLSTICE

Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice, in old tradition the time of the rebirth of the sun, the beginning of inner and outer change.

For almost fifteen years I have been teaching hokku on the Internet, trying to dig the muck out of a very old fountain that has long been silted over and hidden in the weeds.  In all this time I have known that if hokku were to return to the world, it would not be by my efforts alone.

It all has to do with the spirit of the times, the nature of people and what they are seeking.  To put it quite simply, if people are interested only in materialism and ego gratification, hokku will die out again, in spite of all my efforts.  It is only the few who open themselves up to their place in the universe who could keep it alive or possibly make it grow.  Those who forget about Nature and the changing seasons, living lives divorced from reality and spirituality, will not be interested in hokku to begin with.

My hope in continuing to teach is that others will learn hokku, and do what they can to keep the spring of hokku clear and flowing ever more freely.  If none are willing to do so, the spring will silt up again, weeds will cover it once more, and it will lie there unrecognized and unused, waiting for a change in the human spirit, if ever such a change is to come.

I can teach anyone how to write hokku, though to learn it takes time and effort.  I cannot, however, teach anyone to write good hokku.  That depends on the character of the individual, on inherent skill, and on how much that individual is willing to put into the learning process.  But I have always said that it is more important to live hokku than to write it.  The other side of that coin is that to write it, one must live it.

In a sense, this blog has been my Walden Pond.  What Thoreau says of his going to the pond can be said also of hokku:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Thoreau said,

By closing the eyes and slumbering, and consenting to be deceived by shows, men establish and confirm their daily life of routine and habit every where, which is still built on purely illusory foundations.

In the past I have pointed out numbers of illusions about hokku — how it was misunderstood, misperceived and misrepresented in the West from its first appearance here.  And how the modern haiku establishment misled the public about the nature and even the name of hokku in the 20th century — sometimes unintentionally, sometimes deliberately — a deception whose negative effects continue even today.

The situation for hokku at present is not bright, but neither is that for the world as a whole.  It is faced with environmental and economic disaster, as well as civilization-ending violence from radical religion and radical politics.  And quite simply, from human ignorance, greed, and materialism.

I look at the weakly-flowing spring of hokku that I have opened up in the past years, pointing it out to others and saying, “Here it is, but if you want it to continue to flow, you will have to clean out the muck and silt from time to time; and if you want it to flow even more freely, you will have to work to make it happen.”

So it is up to you, my readers.  If you work to increase your understanding of hokku, producing new verses and teaching others, and beginning to really live the life of hokku — the spring will continue to flow.  If you do not, then the spring will silt up again, the snows of winter will cover it, and as time passes, people will forget that it ever existed.

David

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