My bathroom reading is May Sarton's Journal of a Solitude. She must have been in her sixties when she wrote it. And I get this picture of a crabby, pissed old biddy whose religion has made her narrow, but she has openings too, like when she enjoys the musical in New York with the kids in it. I feel the same way about Walt Whitman as I plow through Reynolds' cultural biography of Whitman—crabby and narrow. Suffering individuals who roll in their suffering to prove their worth or mettle. Or their patience with those of us less cultured than they are. These two were very much like I was in my depressed, drinking years.
Now, on the other hand, there's Hass's book on The Essential Haiku. According to him, three of the basics of life for the Japanese sensibility are impermanence, suffering and contingency. Yes suffering, suffering for all of us as a regular condition of life, but there is a difference, I think, in the emphasis that a Japanese haiku writer and these two Americans (and O so many others) place on suffering. To the American Christian, mired in his lot, suffering is a way of earning his place in letters or, in the church, in God's eye. To the Zen master (and I know very little here), suffering is a condition, not to be employed to one's benefit, but to be observed, and when possible, transcended.
At my own age of 70, I'm moving into this acceptance of suffering as a natural condition, not to be endured to prove one's worth and artistic value, but just to be observed and accepted. Quite a difference between east and west, and, believe it or not, an acceptance that yields quite a bit of tranquility. Below, you'll find a little haiku I've come up with that I think meets the essentials of the haiku.
Garden party —
the slugs getting drunk
in the beer saucers.*
*Putting out saucers of beer is supposed to be an environmentally friendly way to kill the slugs who so love one's hostas. All those years in Spokane, toiling in my flower garden, is paying off in some haiku.