An elegant life…

“I saw the angel in the marble
and carved…until
I set him free”

this is the exquisitely elegant way in which Michelangelo described the unbelievably complex way in which he created his masterpiece sculptures. You could surely write 600 pages on the topic… but you could never explain it better than that.

The sheer beauty in his words stems from the simple structure of the message. There is no need to say more… he intuitively knows that where his words stop… human imagination begins. Our minds interpret his statement and create the visual imagery that is required to fully comprehend his meaning. His words allow our brains to do what they uniquely do… to “imagine” and “find” meaning.

I thought about this quote from the genius artist today while explaining my very favorite form of poetry….. the incredibly elegant Japanese art of Haiku. It is based on the most simple of concepts… that of using a limited number of phrases & syllables, to convey a poetic message. The result is a micro-poem which, whilst short on words, is ultra rich in meaning. Now there… is a concept we can all learn from. Using only a tiny handful of carefully selected words, to convey a message that you could write pages about. It is the ultimate art of refined expression… of poetic minimalism… the elimination of the unnecessary… the carving of the marble to “let the angel free” !

Seen superficially Haiku it is a “quick” form of writing poetry… but of course nothing could be further from the truth. It is infinitely harder to say something meaningfully in just three lines…than it is to write three pages. Every word has to be chosen very carefully and placed in the right order for maximum meaning and context. It is the reduction of many words…down to those core words that express the very essence of the poetic message.  It is  p u r i t y of expression.

But for me… the true value of Haiku lies beyond the poetry. It is in the metaphor that I see hidden within it. Haiku the concept… when applied to life… is the search for life’s essential elements. The pure core of your life’s meaning. Those handful of things that are really all you need to exist in a meaningful and satisfying way. It is the doing away of all the clutter, meaningless possessions, redundant rituals and mind-numbing information that we accumulate in our lives. It is also about the frivolous ways we waste our time/days/years. If the number of words allowed in Haiku represented the number of years we had on this earth I suspect we would look at life a lot differently. If the number of lines allowed in Haiku (three) represented the number of people we were allowed to be friends with during our lives… we would certainly chose a lot more carefully than we do now. If the number of  syllables allowed in Haiku represented the number of choices we were allowed to make in our lives… we would “certainly” make wiser choices, with a lot more thought going into each and every one of them.

But the one idea that I love the most is this… what if, instead of being allowed 200 pages to write your life story… you were only allowed three lines. What words would you use… and how would you condense everything to 17 or so syllables? Would it not make you seriously think about your life, what’s important to you and the words you would use to describe your very essence of being? And would it not be a fantastic thing to teach children to do while they are still at school? Pass to them the discipline of refining their future existence to its core values. To seek to understand  and learn to beautifully & succinctly express their purety of purpose.

I think that leading a meaningful life “is” about making great choices. Its about thinking and understanding, refining and finding your pure essence. It is about writing your own carefully crafted formula… the all encompassing equation that will lead you to a satisfying, simplified, purposeful and “complete” life. A life without meaningless clutter and unnecessary baggage. An elegant life. Not saying that mine is… but I will keep trying…

The Haiku concept also applies to our environment… our own ecosystems that we all occupy around the world. What if the same principles applied there? If the same care was taken to make our choices and to select what is the most appropriate ways to represent the interests… the very essence of our environments? How would our choices be different?

This church is perched on one of the most spectacular parts of Oia. It has been there for centuries and rebuild several times following earthquakes. If this was a “typical” resort area… a typical developer such as WEDONTGIVEAFLYINGF@&#ABOUTYOURPRETTYVILLAGE Co would come along and get permission to build a 5star hotel on that very spot. But how would Oia look as a result of such a decision? What would happen to the essence of Oia if an elaborate hotel was to replace this simple but meaningful landmark? What would happen to the unrivaled elegance and authenticity of Oia? Needless to say it would be shattered…

So as you can see… something as seemingly simple as writing short poems, can hold many lessons for all of us. If you take the time to read into Haiku you will understand the understated elegance of this form of poetry. You will learn to appreciate how important choices are… and the beautiful results that can be produced when we apply simple principles of discipline to our expression. Like Bonsai… Haiku has many lessons when we apply it as a life metaphor. It is a wonderful art form and one which you can practice anywhere…at any time. All you need to do is apply your imagination in a disciplined way.

It may change your life ; )
– read more below…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

To help you experience the pleasures of Haiku we will be running a competition over the next seven days. To enter… all you have to do is write a Haiku poem on what you believe to be the “essence” or “spirit” of Santorini. Even if you have never been here… you can write a poem based on what Santorini means to you and/or how it is represented in your imagination. It is about writing three lines that express the very essence of the island.

The poems should be in the traditional Haiku format. For more information on that you can start by reading here:   “The best Haiku ever”

You can also google “haiku” and read more about the art form as well as find many examples of poems. But please try to be as original and creative as you can.

It’s really very very simple… and apart from the fun you will have writing it…
the prize is worth the effort

The winner will be announced on Monday 22 November and will win one of Allison’s special Christmas handpainted aprons from Aegean Designs:

These are professional quality- full length cotton aprons made in Greece and are all hand painted by Allison and valued at 65euro each. This is one of two designs that are released every Xmas in very limited numbers (20 only – half of which have already been pre-ordered … more details on the Aegean Designs online catalogue to be posted on Tuesday).

All entries are to be emailed to:
aegeandesigns [at] ymail [dot] com

and addressed  ” Santorini Haiku”

Looking forward to reading your wonderful words  ; ))


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