“Fate” and “destiny” are often used interchangeably to refer to the notion of predetermination; of future events following a predetermined plan or path.
Yet, implicitly, we also make a distinction between the two in terms of the degree to which each is allowing for alterations in the course of events to which it is applied. Fate is usually associated with unalterable events; we are in the hands of the ancient Fates, Gods, or cosmic forces; our lives, and actions, are out of our control. There is a belief in a prescribed future: a higher/supernatural authority (or authorities) has the future laid out for us.
Destiny, on the other hand, involves a course of events where we have a say, or a hand, in preparing or making our future. We may be destined in one sense to higher or lower things, but we can underachieve or push ourselves hard to achieve better than expected.
This month’s The Haiku FoundationPer Diem: Daily Haiku reflects on both of these concepts. Deb Baker, this month’s guest editor, using “Kismet” as the title of her splendid collection, invites us to reflect on the “hinge” moments” or forked paths we encounter and the outcomes that result when we follow one or the other road, believing in fate, in destiny, or a choice we made. She writes,
Poems like these can make a reader feel a sense of momentum, a possible turning or smoothing path. Perhaps such a poem helps a reader discern something happening in the present moment in his or her own life. Or to see a new possibility, a different way forward, through someone else’s hinge moment.
.I’ll be reading with an extra eye for the different ways Kismet appears in the poems. I’ll be having fun too! Join me? You can find the daily poem here
The photo is of a path taken, crossing the river Schmutter, near Neusaess, Germany.
I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of the Uncanny. Freud, the writer often associated with this concept, described the following uncanny experience when he came face to face with his own double. While travelling by train, Freud saw an elderly gentleman enter his sleeping compartment by mistake. Jumping up to let him know of his error, Freud realized it was his own image reflected in the mirror on the connecting door. He had found the appearance of what he thought was another man ‘thoroughly unpleasant.’ Without being frightened, he failed to recognise his ‘double.’ Or was the displeasure he felt, Freud wondered in the last note of his last chapter on “The Uncanny,” “perhaps a vestige of the archaic reaction to the ‘double’ as something uncanny?” He leaves us with a question, perhaps an encouragement to take this further ourselves.
Freud was not the first of course to link the concept of the ‘double’ with mirroring, the image in the mirror as well as the ‘other.’ Ever since Plato conceived of material reality as a poor representation of the true Forms, others have found man’s double in several contexts. In literature, for instance, Mary Shelley made the monster his creator’s ‘double’ and leaving him unnamed, led subsequent generations of readers to refer to him with the name of his creator: “Frankenstein.” Conrad, too, wrote the ‘double’ in his stories (e.g., in “The Secret Sharer”).
So what has this ‘uncanny’ and ‘double’ to do with haiku, and my theme of reader-oriented matters? If you read my previous posts, you may have noticed I like playing with ideas; though more thought games than thought experiments.
Let me throw this thought in the pot: Isn’t there in haiku a situation in which, when you come to the poem, you become slightly disoriented by the presentation of the two separate, juxtaposed ideas? (Remember the field of energy, in the previous post?) I think there is. The ‘cut’ and the pause in the juxtaposition of two ideas/images are device(s) which open up the extra perspective(s), depth, for the reader; they also create a sense of strangeness, a momentary, uncanny disorientation… until there is the spark of realization that transforms what was strange and uncanny into familiar and understood. Once resolved, the two initially puzzling parts of the poem appear to us the way Freud, relating that vignette, stood in front of his earlier self and its reflection; the way we stand in front of a Moore, a Hepworth, a Lucian Freud, or the narrator in Conrad’s novel and his secret sharer.
Are you with me? What do you make of the thought that the moment of insight or realization is preceded by the uncanny? That the uncanny in haiku involves being confronted by the juxtaposition of two on the surface unrelated – but on a deeper level related – ideas within a limited space? That the haiku moment does itself involve overcoming this sensation of the uncanny?
Finally, before I go, and in case you are interested, I’d like to mention a couple of places, amongst others, I like to visit for reading poetry, essays, information, learning, fun (in addition to “Haiku Matters“, haiku journals and the homepages of haiku societies!). Do let me know your favorites.
On this note, hopefully leaving you with more questions than answers, having raised smiles as well as eyebrows, I’d like to say a big thank you to Colin Stewart Jones, and goodbye to folks who found their way here, from both the writer and reader in me.
The Wikipedia on the Uncanny here Sigmund Freud, ‘The Uncanny’ in The Uncanny, ed. by Adam Phillips (London: Penguin Classics, 2003) p. 121-161. Conrad, Joseph, The Secret Sharer can be read here
After all this buzzing with insect haiku in January, February2013 is a quiet, reflective month.
This month’s guest editor, Matthew Paul’s selection is on the ever-present figure of the worker in haiku. Dentist, doctor, driver, gravedigger, barber, policeman, the solitary worker seen at work, engaged or not, lively or bored, cuts an impressive figure.
Visit the The Haiku Foundation site and see the workers at work. Every day, one haiku/senryu will appear in the Per Diem: Daily Haiku panel, at the right-hand corner, lower down the home page. Let the workers speak to you:
This coming Thursday, the 1st of November, is the first ever Mindful Writing Day, organised by Kaspa & Fiona at their blog ‘Writing Our Way Home.’
To join-in, simply slow down, pay attention to one thing and write down a few words from this experience (thus producing what is called a ‘small stone’).
Fiona and Kaspa claim that ‘small stones’ are easy to write, and that they will help you connect to the world. Once you’ve started, you might not want to stop… I concur! You might want to polish your little ones too, expand them into a longer poem, or shrink them, prune them and polish them into a micropoem or haiku. It is up to you!
As an additional bonus, if you visit ‘Writing Our Way Home’ on Thursday you’ll find out how to download your free kindle copy of the new anthology, ‘A Blackbird Sings: a book of short poems‘. This is a lovely, richly-textured book of poetry and prose by several contributors who have been writing small stones this year. Two of my own poems are included in this book.
If you do write, you can submit your small stone and see it published on the blog, and be entered into a competition to win one of five paperback copies of the book.
I will be taking part. In fact, taking part in the Facebook community NaHaiWriMo (National Haiku Writing Month) which is on-going all through the year, I have been writing ‘smalls stones’ every day, several of them haiku, and have been posting at least one a day every day. For me to do something different on this Mindful Writing Day, may amount to not writing at all! Just joking, I couldn’t stop, if I tried!
But if, say if, you do not feel like putting pen to paper, or fingertips to laptop keys, you might visit the blog anyway, and read what the others have written; or start visiting the site of the The Haiku Foundation, in order to read one haiku a day, every day, expertly chosen for you by monthly poetry editors. You will find this feature in the Per Diem: Daily Haiku panel, at the right hand lower corner of the Foundation Homepage. For the link click here
Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget to look at the sky. It is always there…
Literature, Art, Culture, Society, and lots of Haiku