Delving into the Intangibles


   Laughing at myself  
     
 

Until I had surgery on my knee, I was foolish enough to think I was physically "younger" than others and mentally in the prime of youth. But, sadly, this has proven to be a great conceit of mine, and, now that I clearly understand, it HURTS! Lately, I have stopped thinking of myself as being "young,": I am not different from others of my generation.

It is a little embarrassing and sad to have to admit laughing at myself; it arouses mixed feelings. But, with the help of Silver Senryu (humorous and satirical haiku-like poems for the elderly), I have come to think about myself and my age more positively. In other words, the senryu have given me the wisdom of age: to deal with tribulations by laughing them off.

All of a sudden, a funny phrase jumped off the page of a book of Silver Senryu I was reading:      

   
Squat,
   Then can't stand up;
   Once fell on my rear.

I thought it was a poem about me, and enjoyed the laughter that then permeated my heart.

Not long ago, I loved to read Salaryman Senryu, which made me split my sides with laughter over the hardened company men being henpecked at home. Silver Senryu, on the other hand, cruelly candid as they are, often send me back on my heels and leave me speechless. Yet they can be funny, cute, and lovely. Dragging a harsh reality before our eyes, barging into our mind, hitting the right nerve––senryu never fail to make us smile as they affectionately embrace us. This unique approach to “laughter,” developed by the Japanese in the form of these haiku-like short poems, is nothing short of brilliant.

The French philosopher Bergson once said: "Comedy does not exist outside the pale of what is strictly human.” I think Japanese senryu bear out this statement.

The comedian Charlie Chaplin made another wise observation: “Life is a tragedy when seen close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” It is true many things seem painful at the time, but I am convinced life is more or less equally balanced in terms of sadness and joy. The words of Chaplin, who was forced to live with hardship, have something in common with senryu.

   Goal: 10,000 steps.
    Walked them.
   Now, where am I?

   No cash?
   Are you broke? I ask my grandson.

   My ears are ringing with "PCR."

   Can't breathe through grandma's handmade mask.

   Don't care about the scenery,
   Where's the restroom.

They are a little harsh, but I'm smiling...

   My children tell me
   I am responsible
   for my own longevity.

I admire the good sense and human insight of those who composed these senryu.

 
                                                        K.Yamakawa    
    Japanese