A Glimpse of Humor: In The Attempt


We are more or less exposed to minor nervous breakdowns on a daily basis. We sometimes feel weary of and overwhelmed by an enormity and gravity of powerlessness or futility. It might be that you hit the rock bottom, that you get stuck in the middle of nowhere or that you are lost and low from total lack of confidence in yourself. Quite a few ancient poems bring home these painful feelings, some of which are so pathetic that we are even taken aback. Do you remember a waka by Izumi Shikibu and Princess Shikishi? Her words were of almost heartbreaking pathos. But there is an occasional glimpse of humor in the ornate and solemn facade of the ancient anthology. Here is a surprisingly humorous waka from Kokinshu, one of the greatest anthologies from the 10th century, singing about despair.


よのなかの うきたびごとに みをなげば ふかきたにこそ あさくなりなめ
yononakano ukitabigotoni miwo nageba fukaki tanikoso asaku nariname

Each and every worldly concern
Would drive you crazy and you might as well throw yourself into the valley
But, wait a minute, see how its bottom comes up and up at every turn

辛いことがあるたびに身投げしていたら 深い谷も浅くなってしまうよ

It seems that this sort of sarcastic humor has not been fully accepted and established yet here in Japan. This country has taken a keep-calm-and-carry-on attitude. As resigned and patient to fate as we seem, we sill have something more to learn from what was written more than a thousand years ago.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *