Placebo – or Who’s Kidding Who?

Placebo – or Who’s Kidding Who?

[Following on a recent TV programme on the power of the placebo
to bring about health improvement]

 

When seeking relief from all of our ills
Maladies of body or mind
We ask our doctor to prescribe some pills
In whose trust we are quite unfeigned

Research is now showing it is this belief
Rather than the medicine’s ingredients
Which brings the patient much relief
And proves to be the most expedient

A placebo is simply a harmless pill
Whose components have no real effect
And whether or not you think you are ill
Your condition should remain unchecked

But that is not the complete conclusion
If the patient thinks the dose is for real
In their mind it is not just illusion
Thus convinced how much better they feel

Now you may think this is a massive con-trick
But who’s kidding who is the question
Why does the patient claim they are no longer sick
Can all this be auto-suggestion?

Ken Fisher

Don’t Hold Your Breath!

Don’t Hold Your Breath!

 

Don’t hold your breath we’re often told
When expectations run uncontrolled
Breath withheld in anticipation
Of impending joy and jubilation

Don’t hold your breath and avoid disappointment
If things go awry then you won’t show resentment
‘Cause in an uncertain world we can never be sure
Intentions defeated by some ‘force majeure’

Don’t hold your breath when a promise is given
Fulfilment thwarted and you are left feeling stricken
Somehow or other it fails to conform
The magic nostrum might underperform

Don’t hold your breath awaiting utopia
When your half-empty cup is no cornucopia
With honest realism just face every day
Ensuring that deep breath won’t be blown away

Ken Fisher

Mood

Mood

Mood, does it depend on which side of the bed
we get out of?
Is it the aftermath of verbal fisticuffs
with our friend or partner?
Has that painful twinge returned to plague
us once more?
Or what about fear of that impending appointment
with our doctor or dentist?

Perhaps our mood is determined by that
hangover with throbbing head and accompanying
regrets
Maybe the ‘international’ unsolicited phone caller
who threatens to cut off our internet connection
wound us up?
Or our mood induced by the awareness of all that
we have to do, always under so much pressure
Perhaps an inflated sense of responsibility?

But of course not all moods are low
Perhaps we are showing the smiley face
Waking up to happy memories, or better still
the joyous reality of the here and now
Is it your birthday, your graduation day,
even your wedding day?

Then again there are moods that come from shock,
From simmering anger, from all-consuming jealousy,
From deep frustration,  depression or existential angst
Surely the political climate, the spirit of the age,
or personal mounting debt will dampen our mood?

And I suppose it is possible to have a mood
of nothingness, of inertia, of ennui, of tedium
I wonder to what extent our mood is determined
by those around us, family, friends, work colleagues?
Are we free to choose our mood, or do they do it
for us/to us?
Or perhaps their mood is triggered by ours?

Emotions – reflected in moods –
The blessing and curse of being human –
the Emoticon we then present to the world

 

Ken Fisher

The Meaning Of Meaning

The Meaning of Meaning

In the midst of a debate on the purpose of a university education
some have mused on the value of considering ‘the meaning of meaning’
as compared to more practical vocational education

When reflecting on the choice of university course
One writer mused on what was for better or worse
Is it wise to stick only with subjects vocational
Or risk electing for options less rational?

Doing something practical may seem common sense
Developing skills that can earn pounds and pence
Don’t spend all your time on high-flown theory
Cramming your head, making eyes go bleary

The ‘new’ universities are so down-to-earth
Ensuring you get your full money’s worth
Useful learning is the watchword, every moment counts
Getting you ’work ready’ – they proudly announce

But is there not sometimes a place for loftier thoughts
Eternal values beyond profit and loss?
Time to examine ancient concepts and wisdom
History, politics, science and all kinds of –ism

Indeed above and beyond subjects we can pursue
We need time to consider all humankind can do
And in these meditations and hours of quiet reasoning
We may yet discover the very ’meaning of meaning’

Ken Fisher

Would You Credit It? – Yet Again!

Would You Credit It? Yet Again!
The Credit Crunch – Ten Years on
On the 10th Anniversary of the start of the 2008
Credit Crunch former PM Gordon Brown has issued a dire warning
of the prospect of another one.

We’ve lost those days of easy spending
Supported by our banker’s lending
Good-bye to wine, blooms by the bunch
Thanks to the wretched credit crunch

How has this happened, what has gone wrong?
Failed to save for far too long?
Or in our dealings with the bank
Not always been entirely frank

The truth it seems is more elusive
The money men are quite evasive
You might have thought they would be frank
Helping us to trust our bank

Unknown to us behind the scenes
Our cash obscured by complex screens
Was sweetened up like golden honey
But ended up as “funny money”

In former days banks held deposits
And lent from deep within their closet
But now-a-days that’s not enough
Competition’s far too tough

So out into the money market
Like Mother Hubbard with her basket
To multiply her store of cash
Nothing ever seemed too rash

To profit from this increased store
The banks got ready to explore
Lending out to whomsovever
Re-inventing the “never-never “

It mattered not how you would pay,
Or from the contract you might stray
The banks were there to do a deal
No matter how that made you feel

If soon you found you’re out of luck
Re-payment made you come unstuck
Instead of payments made on time
You very soon became “sub-prime”

The US bankers took the lead
Meeting every borrower’s need
But very soon the world at large
Ensured they too had joined the charge

A new regime came into place
To grant huge loans and win the race
Thus none of us need ever wait
To meet our needs however great

Every banker now must sell
To prudence they all said farewell
But every spender really happy
Credit granted very snappy

But then it all became unstuck
Spenders seemed to lose their luck
As they began to hit the red
Bankers could not sleep in bed

Suddenly their glorious plan
Amazingly “had hit the fan”
Borrowers gathered at the dole
Bankers seemed to lose control

This enterprise had somehow stumbled
As one by one the moguls crumbled
Thus had begun what seemed quite viral
Disease around the world did spiral

Quite suddenly as if by stealth
The end of our financial health
No longer ever in ascension
Our house, our shares, indeed the pension

Well is there any consolation
Word of comfort for the nation
Perhaps it’s this – why do we trust
In things so quickly turned to dust?

A post script to these earlier verses
Shows that in banking not much reverses
In latter days we’ve seen PPI, Libor, and small firms squeezed
By mighty bankers who prefer themselves to please

Ken Fisher

 

Silence

Silence

Silence – the absence of all sound! Blessed peace

Silence! – a command from an irate librarian.  Shut up

Silence – an eerie sensation when returning home to find no-one in

Silence – my response when reluctant to give a truthful reply

Silence – your response when you feel I have offended you

Silence – when I am stunned by what you have just told me

Silence – when I am ashamed to tell you what I have done

Silence – when the car won’t start on a freezing cold day

Silence – we crave when our neighbours are partying through the wall!

Silence – when the letter box doesn’t click with that job offer

Silence – in the early hours when an anxious parent awaits the sound of their teenage offspring returning home

Silence – when listening in at the nursery to find the baby peacefully asleep

Silence – no response to our earnest prayers. Is God on strike?

Silence – when a loved one has gone off in a huff

Silence – in the face of dire tidings from the police officer at our door

Silence – as we shuffle into the crematorium for the funeral

Silence – as we seek relaxation in mindfulness or meditation

Silence – an awkward pause when we fail to find the right words

A pregnant silence    A gobsmacked silence     A disdainful silence

Silence attends so many of  life’s experiences and situations

It accompanies the good times and the bad, pleasure and pain,

elation and shame, bewilderment and sometimes even surprise

The mixed blessing of silence; sometimes chosen sometimes enforced

Ken Fisher

 

Is Normal Life Sustainable If We Always Tell The Truth?

Is Normal Life Sustainable If We Always Tell the Truth?

 

A recent TV programme* advanced the proposition
That to sustain daily life we must resort to deception
Apparently social intercourse forces us to lie
To uphold concord the truth we must deny

Of course there is some debate on the nature of a lie
To condemn all false words or actions is to oversimplify
There is a difference surely between a fib or small white lie
And a monstrous whopper which you can rarely justify

Proclaiming the whole truth may well result in hurt
When we make no effort to soften a harsh word
We speak with veracity but how will it be received?
Surely the hearer is bound to feel aggrieved

Research has claimed we shrink from boldly stating
The stark truth to others when we ought to be berating
Afraid of offending  their feelings or causing alienation
We meekly soften the blow, espouse prevarication

We lie most commonly to our own kith and kin
Perhaps we consider that is less a sin
Or perhaps we are too afraid to disturb the uneasy peace
Recognising reality would family discord increase

But in business too we often use fabrication
Describing our products using much exaggeration
Trade descriptions legislation is meant this to prevent
But unhappy customer reports are still widely evident

Another aspect of untruthfulness is the deliberate omission
Thus it is what we fail to say that merits admonition
We sanitise awkward facts and situations
Thus producing false hopes and expectations

Of course in life there are times when truth can’t be avoided
And these situations must never be exploited
Professionals giving advice from truth should not depart
Each in their own field should play an honest part

No matter the extent to which we feel we can be economical
With truth, we must n’er migrate to a world quite mythological
Rather we must seek to live our lives with true sincerity
Truth our moral compass, the bulwark of integrity

Ken Fisher

 

  • Horizon: A Week Without Lying – The Honesty Experiment

Money is the Sacrament of Moral Seriousness

Money is the Sacrament of Moral Seriousness 

search-9

Wordsworth penned it long ago in these immortal words:

           ‘Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers”

And little seems to have changed down the decades
And now this quote from Giles Fraser (former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s)

Money is the sacrament of moral seriousness’

Is money all that matters in our lives?
Well, of course, without it we ne’er can survive
So day-by-day we strive to earn our cash
Ignoring it is simply far too rash

So for most of us we have no other choice
In the courts of life money gives us voice
And getting it and spending it we can’t avoid
Thus our energies to that end deployed

But is money the measure of all things?
Despite the vital benefits it brings
Must we forever strive to garner more
To hold good credit balances in store?

Is the danger thus that wealth becomes our God?
Before its altar we bend ever awed
Thus money’s worship our new sacrament
Our life’s devotion thus bears testament

All that we have becomes all that we are
Possessions are our measure and our star
Seems little else our hearts can satisfy
Things alone our desire can gratify

But is there not another way to live?
Blessing gained when we learn to give
To share something of the bounty we have gained
Our selfishness no longer unconstrained

And perhaps there is another moral purpose
Which with generosity we can surely purchase
The fairer sharing of the world’s, and our own gains
A legacy for all from that which still remains

Ken Fisher

 

Trust

Trust

Trust, a concept vital to our life together
Trust takes time to build up
But can be lost in an instant, with even one breach
That mutual reliance suddenly evaporates

Trusting starts in infancy, a one-way transaction
The toddler grasping her mother’s hand
The unflinching belief in our parents’ love
Yet even then this trust can be broken

And as life progresses we learn to trust
Professionals assure us that our trust is warranted
“Trust me, I’m a doctor!”
Fortunately this covenant is rarely violated

Trust is so vital in commerce and trade
But it is not an equal contest between
Suppliers and personal customers
Hence the need for consumer watch dogs

And what can be said of the current wobble
In our belief that our banking affairs
Are in safe hands? Or even worse
Accurate assessment of medical tests

But nonetheless we must continue to trust
Trust that our food will not poison us
Trust that the MoT testers are not cheating
Trust in all who drive or pilot public transport
Trust in those who design and maintain our roads and railways
Trust in those who provide advice of all kinds
Trust in our politicians and institutions to govern with integrity
Trusting one another in our relationships
We might even find ourselves trusting the weather forecasters!

Ken Fisher

 

See also my poem : Truth

On-Line Angst

On-Line Angst

This week it is reported that most of us
check our smart phones within 10 minutes of waking
and thereafter about every 12 minutes

Indeed, one of the last things we do at night
is tweak our devices before attempting to slip into unconsciousness

It occurs to me that we have perhaps allowed ourselves to
fall into an unhealthy relationship the cyber world

I am calling this On-Line Angst

In days gone by the phone would ring
As tidings it was wont to bring
Messages from friends and colleagues
Inducing cheer or melancholy

Our phone line linked to the exchange
Communications thus arranged
Connected to the world outside
Poles and cables far and wide

But only sound was then conveyed
No images could be portrayed
Nonetheless the network served us well
Exclusive GPO clientele

But in due time came privatization
Welcome thrusting competition
As technical change then coincided
The former framework just exploded

Fibre optics were invented
Old assumptions thus fragmented
Suddenly ‘on-line’ world-wide
No sanctuary, no place to hide

Eventually our phones turned smart
Displaying menus a la carte
Voice and text and pictures too
My selfie winging straight to you

When once the phone lived just at home
Nowadays GPS tracks us as we roam
The office too transformed by change
As smart devices widely range

So now we find phones everywhere
Just like our clothes, our phone we wear
Its beeps, and throbs gives low vibrations
Indicative of our close relation

So throughout the day from morn till eve
The smart phone we refuse to leave
Constant companion, demanding friend
Like a romance we dare not end

Because if of our phone we are deprived
We see no way we could survive
On-line angst now dominates
Our contract we must n’er forsake

Ken Fisher

Results!

Results!

To-day for Scottish pupils spare a thought
Whose awakening may be somewhat fraught
As they receive that communication
Which may not meet their expectation

Because to-day’s the day results arrive
To avoid them they cannot contrive
In the past they only came by post
But now by e-mail or text from coast to coast

So by whatever means each candidate
Hears news determining their fate
No doubt filled with apprehension
As they wait in expectation

For some of course it will be great relief
If their hoped for grades have been achieved
For others there may be some surprise
And future plans they must revise

The media no doubt will show beaming faces
Of high fliers locked in warm embraces
With teachers and parents full of admiration
Let’s hope the less successful find consolation

Whatever the results help to predict
By no means the definitive verdict
Exam success is surely not alone
By which our future worth be known

Ken Fisher

Home and Away

Home and Away

 

It is that time of year of the great escape
Abandon the treadmill of the daily round
Head for the shore, seek a wide landscape
Everyday worries we strive to confound

Yet the exodus is not without its own travail
Would that we could be transported without stress
That in our moving calm might still prevail
No anxiety inhibit our hopeful progress

And on arrival at our chosen destination
Perhaps perplexed by things quite unfamiliar
Still we lack that sense of jubilation
And disappointment creeps in to bewilder

Our holiday should bring us rich renewal
The impact of unanticipated surprise
The involvement in exploits quite unusual
For jaded body and soul a treasured prize

But when excitement slowly ceases to amuse
And thoughts return to comforts of our home
The novelty of absence becomes diffuse
And we find little pleasure as we roam

It is then that home seems more blessed than away
The solace of the familiar brings reassurance
No longer the impetus for us to stray
Prolonged absence would be mere forbearance

Ken Fisher