Open Codex HISTORICAL entry

2006 Jun 09 | The method of haiku

A Zen-inspired aesthetic of haiku is sabi: an insightful appreciation of the "suchness" of ordinary objects and daily events. Hass (1994:xiv) writes of this as a "quality of actuality, of the moment seized on and rendered purely." This pureness of vision led Barthes (1983:60) to claim that haiku's "brevity would guarantee their perfection," their "simplicity would attest to their profundity."

I am foolish enough to aspire towards this quality in my own work. Of course, in my dissertation proposal I cloak my poetic inspiration with sympathetic methodological scholarship:

Yet, there is a goal that I aspire to, my research "should be empirical enough to be credible and analytical enough to be interesting" (van Maanen1988:29). I hope to make a convincing contribution (Golden-Biddle and Locke 1993) by providing an account that has authenticity, "the ability of the text to convey the vitality of everyday life encountered by the researcher in the field setting" (p. 599), plausibility, "the ability of the text to connect two worlds [of the writer and reader] that are put in play in the reading of the written account" (p. 600), and criticality, "the ability of the text to actively probe readers to reconsider there taken-for-granted ideas and beliefs" (p. 600).

I recognize this aspiration is foolish because it is not the norm, as I understand academia. I have long characterized my own stance as a "reflective practitioner," a seemingly rare and unsupported breed. I do not claim a perfectly impartial objective and outsider perspective; I reach for analytical, reflective, distance while appreciating that those most familiar with a phenomenon also understand its faults the best, however much they are attached to it. This posture opens me up to criticisms of losing impartiality, for having "gone native." (But, of course, I was already partially native and "critical" should not always mean pejorative.) Or, some will ask "what is the contribution to theory?" This question is important but incomplete to my mind, its companion should be: "and what is the contribution to practice?" For what is the point of a field that follows the world so as to only argue about how we should argue about it? In his study of Quaker decision-making Sheeran (1996:xiv) wrote in his preface :

Social scientists and political philosophers are invited to discover in Quakers what may be the only modern Western community in which decision-making achieved the group-centered decisions of traditional societies. In the Conclusion, the author discusses Friends as a possible answer to the common contemporary wish for enhancement beyond the fragmented individuation of "liberal" man.

Finally, the author hopes Quakers themselves will find in these pages a helpful mirroring of Friends decision-making. Newcomers to Quakerism and those who find themselves in roles of leadership within the community may find in this study an outsider's understanding of the possibilities and pitfalls of the Quaker method of going beyond majority rule.

This strikes me as an worthwhile balance, one I hope to achieve is well.

Open Communities, Media, Source, and Standards

by Joseph Reagle