A Haiku for Now

this world of dew
is yes, a world of dew
and yet. . .

This haiku by Issa Kobayashi (1763-1828) captures my own moments of sorrow in these days of the coronavirus devastation. I copy it here from the book haiku mind by Patricia Donegan.

We know that nothing lasts forever. Not a human life, not the planet we live on, not the universe itself. Everything lasts for a time and then is gone. Just like dew – it lasts for a short while and then it’s gone.

We know that we don’t last forever. We don’t need a haiku to remind us. We know it. And yet… Those two simple words are the the message of this haiku today. And yet… No matter how well we know that sickness comes, that death comes, there is deep inside us a voice of protest that says, “and yet…” This is what sets us apart from all other life on the planet. The rebel spirit inside us utters those two simple words. 

Throughout the world people are resisting this virus by showing that the human spirit is not so easily conquered. There is sorrow, we mourn our dead, we pray for those who are in hospitals or quarantine. But people also find ways to share moments of beauty, transcendence and compassion in the midst of the devastation. People are finding ways of saying “and yet…” to this virus.

But there is a bigger “and yet…” waiting to be spoken. This crisis offers to be a period of adjustment in our way of thinking. Crises come and go – also like dew – but the lessons they leave behind can either transform us or leave us unchanged. Perhaps this time the world will recapture some of the spirit that we seem to have lost. Perhaps our own Christian faith will rediscover its roots in the enduring message of Christ: “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” That’s God’s own “and yet…” right there, in those ringing words of Jesus that we sing at the Liturgy, and which we will sing again when we gather again. And it is God’s “and yet…” that will have the last word. 

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