Tuesday, April 19, 2005

computer haiku

Haiku. Who of us hasn’t tried writing one, several, a whole suite? This wonderful Japanese form has been on the curriculum of teachers and a requirement of students for decades. A little article, "How to Haiku" from the October 2003 issue of ByLine Magazine by Naomi Beth Wakan helps me understand the form as it has developed for writers of English:

"If you were a Japanese person, writing a haiku in Japanese, you would have lots of rules. There should be three lines, the syllable count should be 5,7,5 and there should always be a seasonal word present indicating the time of year when the haiku was written....

"Then there are the specific qualities Japanese look for in a haiku –sabi (beauty with a touch of loneliness), wabi (the appreciation of simple everyday things), aware (the sadness from the awareness that everything must pass), and yugen (the ability to glimpse the eternal in a world that is constantly changing)...

The article goes on to say how modern English writers can and have taken liberties with the traditional Japanese form:

"We, however, are writing haiku in English. While some haijin (haiku writers) stick rigidly to the 5-7-5 syllables, feeling, perhaps a link to a long line of haijin, I prefer to write three lines of approximately two beats, three beats, two beats...

and concludes by summing up what, in essence, is a haiku:

"So in considering haiku, what do we have? We have a strong image of a single event, happening in the present. It pictures an ordinary occasion that somehow expands upon reading to become extraordinary. A haiku is Blake’s "whole world in a grain of sand."

For us moderns, what could better signify the ‘whole world’ than our computers? And so the collection of fifteen Japanese haiku error messages below (replacing the terse and often unhelpful Microsoft type) is, I would say, haiku at its most relevant. (This was one of those ubiquitous emails, which I got three year ago and couldn't bear to delete.)

Your file was so big.
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.

The Web site you seek
Cannot be located, but
Countless more exist.

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.

Program aborting:
Close all that you have worked on.
You ask far too much.

Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.

Yesterday it worked.
Today it is not working.
Windows is like that.

First snow, then silence.
This thousand-dollar screen dies
So beautifully.

With searching comes loss
And the presence of absence:
"My Novel" not found.

The Tao that is seen
Is not the true Tao - until
You bring fresh toner.

Stay the patient course.
Of little worth is your ire.
The network is down.

A crash reduces
Your expensive computer
To a simple stone.

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

You step in the stream,
But the water has moved on.
This page is not here.

Having been erased,
The document you're seeking
Must now be retyped.

Serious error.
All shortcuts have disappeared.
Screen. Mind. Both are blank.


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