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“You’re just a nice-looking boy, a bit slight, well scrubbed and well mannered. All that is fine, but it’s your existence I love you for, mainly. Existence seems to me now the most remarkable thing that could ever be imagined” ~ Marilynne Robinson[1]


Turns out one of the most famous haiku ever written was penned by Matsuo Bashō (1644–1694), an acclaimed poet during Japan’s Edo period (1603–1868).

As a bit of a refresher, a haiku is a Japanese poem composed of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five, designed to draw readers’ attention to the natural world.

Without further ado, here’s the haiku by Bashō:

An old silent pond.
Into the pond a frog jumps.
Splash. Silence again.

Read it one more time:

An old silent pond.
Into the pond a frog jumps.
Splash. Silence again.

There is no hidden meaning. So don’t think, “The silent pond symbolizes a dark night of interminable pain,” or “The frog leaping into the pond represents overcoming your fears.” No. Stop it. It doesn’t mean any of that.

Rather, the aim of a haiku is to freeze-frame a moment in time—to soak in the present, relish its distinct beauty, and enjoy its unrepeatableness. (I’m pretty sure I just made up a word.)

Since most people live on auto pilot, they fail to embrace the present, thinking only of where they have to go, what they have to do, what they need to say, and how everything and everyone else must conform to their agenda. It’s a rather dehumanizing existence that shrivels the soul and incapacitates one’s ability to appreciate the grandeur of the world.

Haiku enable us to stop, to pause, to taste, to gaze, to savor the present. (Re) acquiring this virtue will require reordering our priorities. We’ve power walked in the Kingdom of Noise for so long that we’ve forgotten how to frolic in Aslan’s den.[2] (Re) imagining what life can be like means (re) learning a sacred truth: You’re a human being, and the people you talk to, that walk passed you, that sing next to you in church, are also human beings.

Taking in the delectable sights and sounds of the image bearers and creaturely delights before us each moment entails throwing aside desultory living. Our souls were meant to shout the praises of our Savior, not suffocate under an endless blast of demands and activities—to say nothing of passively consuming the soul-deadening world of social media. (And I still think John Piper’s right: “One of the great uses of Facebook and Twitter will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.”)

The haiku life calls us to see the world and the people in it.

Do you get the point yet? Stop, look, and listen. You’re alive. And you might not have been. There’s reason to praise.


[1] Marilynne Robinson, Gilead: A Novel (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2004), 53.

[2] The phrase “Kingdom of Noise” is taken from C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 119–120. Aslan is the Christ figure in Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.