Even as a child, I was fascinated with the concept of Haiku poetry. It seemed madness to me to take something as free-flowing and abandoned as writing from the heart and applying such Draconian restrictions to it as 5 syllables followed by 7 syllables and ending with 5 syllables. That’s it. 17 syllables to express the musings of your heart. If the soul wants to write about the beauty of a butterfly, or the fragility of a violet or the dazzling display of autumn foliage how can it enclose itself within such tight constraints?
So, of course, I had to try it. If for nothing else, to prove how ludicrous the rules were. Much to my surprise, the little poems were not inadequate, incomplete or in any other way lacking. In order to effectively pack as much in as I could to each line, I had to carefully choose my words and sentence structure. I had to put far more work into saying what I wanted to say with such tight guard rails than I would have had to do with the freedom to write as I pleased. The resulting poems were concise, potent and with not a word wasted.
Which led me to contemplate the teachings of the Catholic church. It once seemed madness to me to impose such Draconian restrictions on the freedom of human beings. If the soul wants to write its own destiny, how can it enclose itself within such tight constraints?
So, of course, I had to try it. If for nothing else, to prove how ludicrous the rules were. Much to my astonishment, my life was not inadequate, incomplete or in any other way lacking. Quite to the contrary. My life became fuller, more vibrant, more adventurous and filled with more meaning.
How can this happen? How can a life be lifted up while being weighed down by so many imposed restrictions? It’s simple, really. God made us and knows how we best function. His rules are meant to help us run at peak human as the owner’s manual to a car helps it to run at peak car. One wouldn’t put diesel in a gas car if one wanted the gas car to perform well. Therefore, one wouldn’t go chasing after accolades or power or money or sensual delights if one wanted the human to perform well.
We were made for God. It is with Him that our happiness resides. And yet, because of our fallen nature, we are always chasing substitutes. Foolishly thinking it is with them that our happiness resides. In the end, the substitutes will always disappoint us. So God, in his great kindness, laid out guard rails for us in the form of Church teaching.
Instead of having no constraints and flying off various cliffs – or even having self-made constraints and flying off those cliffs- the guardrails keep us on the road to perfection and away from the cliffs from which we will plunge into our own destruction.
Like the Haiku, the limitations of Church teaching force us to live more succinctly. Our energies are not stretched thin dabbling in things that will only water us down. Our lives become more concise, potent and with not a breath wasted. We become living Haikus.