History

History – ‘Just One Damned Thing After Another’

It was apparently Henry Ford who sagely declared
That “History was just one damned thing after another”
And I don’t think there is any way we can refute that
Because we think of history as moving with time

At school we were sometimes told that Geography is about Maps
And History was about Chaps
(Ignoring the enormous contribution of the female sex)
Anyway History is generally expressed as a reflexion of  peoples’ lives

Of course the timespan of human existence in terms of
The whole history of  the earth is limited to perhaps
About 200,000 years, and we don’t know much
Of the story of the very earliest chaps

But nonetheless it is a long time from 200,000 years ago
To our present day – a very large historical tome
would be needed to tell that story
And perhaps a little boring – let’s try it on Facebook!

But what did Henry Ford mean by just one damned thing?
It sounds as if he had a troublesome life
Well he was a brilliant engineering innovator
And his problems were more with the unions than engines

Anyway Ford, in using the epithet about History
Seems to me to have succinctly summed up
The nature of life and living down the centuries
Never easy for the human spirit, but triumphing through it all

But I wonder if we ourselves would put such a negative judgment
on our view of history. Some might prefer to say it was the constant
march of progress* down the years from the darkness of ignorance
and superstition to the light of knowledge and rationality

But this seems to overlook an endless succession of really damnable things!

Ken Fisher

  • Interestingly, I read that Marx took from Hegel the sense that
    progress is inevitable, and that history has a pattern and is 
    not just one thing after another.

Revolution [On the centennial of the Russian Revolution 1917]

Revolution

Today marks the centennial of the end of the
Russian Revolution – November 7th 1917

 When we sit cosily at home with our tea and scone
It seems incredible that peace might be overthrown
And in a world where communication is so all pervasive
Where words rather than weapons might be persuasive

Revolution implies the forcible ousting of government
By those who demand a new empowerment
That the existing order of society be cast aside
Usurped by a sea-change taken at high tide

Countries great and small lived through revolution
Accompanied by bloodshed and much persecution
In France, America, Cuba, and nation states world wide
Sometimes united in the cause, often fraught by genocide

Even today the  modern world of nations remains fractious
Made unstable by nationalism and diverse political factions
While adherence to religion still exerts a powerful force
Sometimes engendering unity, at others internecine divorce

So while we recall historic events of those days long past
Our plea is that our own fragile peace might last
That somehow the peoples of our divided lands
Might reach out to one another with open hands

It should not be beyond our wit to achieve an abiding solution
Which avoids the last resort of bloody revolution
That justice and equity be achieved without upheaval
A fairer society where all are treated equal

Ken Fisher

Myths We Can’t Do Without

Myths We Can’t Do Without

 

The unicorn is a mythical beast whose existence is problematical
But it does not really affect us if its hooves we ne’er hear patter
Because belief in such a horned horse is still quite enigmatical
Unlike other myths forming part of our life which really do matter

For instance our belief in money, not just those shiny new notes
But bank balances held on computers and displayed on multiple screens
Such numbers represent our current cash and even our future hopes
And of our right to this mythical money we’ll let no one intervene

Another great myth is democracy, which of itself is a fragile substance
It relies on collective agreement to accept the will of the people
And thus laws are created that seek to prevent injustice
And high respect is accorded to the principle that all of us are equal

Then there is incorporeal property, anything which is quite intangible
Unlike houses, furniture, equipment, clothes and the like
Mortgages, shares and bonds, and other paper whose value is changeable
Our collective trust in unreal things seems to be almost childlike

Then there are many other “myths” which we seem unable to do without
Social conventions, long standing traditions, original sin and the life of faith
The passage of years and modern thought have failed these notions to wipe out
Despite our sophistication they provide an anchorage that’s still safe

So while belief in the unicorn may now be outdated
And Santa Claus can safely be given his pension
Trusting in myths is by no means outmoded
Thus our modern society demands their retention

Ken Fisher

 

Who Needs Archives?

Who Needs Archives?

At first sight a rather uninviting prospect
Endless shelves, perhaps victims of neglect
Yet contained in these dusty annals there is life
The tales of love and hate, of peace and strife

Such archive records built up from earliest times
Ensure the past no longer can the facts confine
And enquirers into life in earlier days
Expose past events to the sun’s bright rays

Do archives matter, what value do they bring?
Of what great treasure the wellspring
A moment’s thought might bring realization
Here lies the history of all civilization

In compilation of the Holy Scriptures
The ancient fragments helped form the picture
Which shaped the foundation of the faith
Exposing roots to doctrines in their time and place

Historical records reveal the pattern of existence
From Doomsday Book, Great Survey of subsistence
Through decades of censuses our life enumerated
Population, land holdings, tithes and how wealth was created

Archives provide the basis for future planning
The facts derived from records past years spanning
Indicate trends and thus strategies formed for future days
Sound guidance learned from past errors in our ways

The scope of archiving is now almost universal
The use of such databases sometimes controversial
But no field of knowledge seems to remain untouched
The stories of noble endeavours, even some corrupt

Archiving for some is a prestigious project
Proudly demonstrating claims to which few can object
Enterprises large and small demonstrating from their records
The value added, the promotion of goodwill and accord

From ancient scripts, objets d’art, and artifacts
The archived collections reveal the facts
In modern days, in addition to items original
Much detailed information is now rendered digital

Photographic records, plans, maps and illustrations
Of many records provide the visual foundation
And other archives hold a cache of original paintings
Often so far undisplayed masterpieces lie waiting

Archiving is a many splendoured thing lacking appreciation
Perhaps academics only those who give acclamation
To the boundless value of this treasure trove
Hidden from view in some crypt-like alcove

In recent years access to stored archives
Has been a boon to those who earnestly strive
To trace their ancestry through family history
Thus genealogy showcases their life story

So time has come to declare the archive’s worthy cause
To claim for it the population’s loud applause
Because without awareness of our past we cannot fully comprehend the present
And if we discover the past there may be no need it to re-invent!

Ken Fisher

Fallen Leaves

Fallen Leaves

p1100999 

Autumn’s going, the fallen leaves a trampled carpet on the ground
Emblems of life’s cycle nearing completion, shrivelled, withered, neglected
The naked branches of the trees look down on their abandoned offspring
In dormancy they hibernate awaiting Spring’s promise of new buds

As the years pass, so too with our lives, the fruit of our days
Eventually fades, a forlorn legacy of all our endeavours
The outcome of our activity becomes a clouded memory
The effluxion of time makes history of all our deeds

But we cannot deny this natural process, the eternal round
Of birth and life and ageing and death, eventually oblivion
All we can hope for is that, just as the leaves festooned the trees
So too our labours may have yielded fruit in our own time

Enough therefore that we accept the inevitability of decline
Not losing compassion amidst the passing of the years
And in due time face ageing with a gracious heart
And like fallen leaves accept that in our ‘ending is our beginning’

Ken Fisher

Plus ca Change, Plus c’est la Meme Chose

Plus ca Change, Plus c’est la Meme Chose

‘the more it changes, the more it remains the same’

Nothing new under the sun, we sometimes declare
Because what appears to be new is already there
And when confronted with what we’re told is new
We suddenly experience a flash of déjà vu’

Doubtless we are surrounded by never ending change
Without it life would indeed be rather strange
But frequently we have inwardly reflected
Newness is just the old, believed to be perfected

And sometimes that perfection is not quite achieved
Leaving us feeling somewhat cheated, even deceived
Eventually it dawns upon us that what is claimed as change
Is simply a revival and much remains the same

Perhaps we should be just a little hesitant
Of novelty hailed as completely without precedent
On closer examination we may find that sometime in the past
This latest idea or gizmo had been claimed unsurpassed

But if something from former times had been so highly prized
Its reappearance in another form should no-one surprise
Thus ‘plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose’ should still be acclaimed
Proving the worth of continuity in a world of change

Ken Fisher

 

Hic et Nunc

Hic et Nunc

[Here and Now]


Here and now that’s all there is
Past and future don’t exist
As past is gone so let it be
Future we can not yet see

Let not shadows from the past
Cause our mind to be downcast
Nor foreboding for what’s ahead
Keep us wakeful while abed

Here and now is all that’s real
At its altar let us kneel
For hic et nunc we bring our praise
And seek to live in all our days

Ken Fisher

 

The Brink

The Brink

The world seems to go on its merry way largely undisturbed
Yet in the background we are aware of standing on the brink
Is this not quite unreal, should not our minds be more perturbed?
Can deep passions not be set aside thus giving time to think

Most of the world’s inhabitants go about their daily round
The rich amassing wealth, the poor struggling to survive
And millions in-between caught up in life’s merry-go-round
But what e’er their lot they rightly expect to remain alive

But as powerful national leaders confront each other eye to eye
Realisation begins to dawn how fragile is the way ahead
The challenging rhetoric will only magnify
Menacing words are flaunted as warheads

But this is no computer war game, this is for real
Let’s put away all illusion and face stark facts
The world stands on the brink, to humanity we appeal
Together we must quickly find the way to step back

This will not be easy, when threats and counter threats abound
National pride and need for compromise play equal part
But each side must learn how to give ground
To wrestle these protagonists apart

We pray that heightened passions might soon subside
That the world could breathe easy once again
And the hostility that great nations so divides
Common sense, if not love, might constrain

Ken Fisher

WDTM? [What does that mean?]

WDTM?
[What Does That Mean?]

WDTM is shorthand for What Does That Mean?
When we are trying to make sense of something we’ve seen
Or heard someone say, or maybe we’ve read
Which leaves us confused and quite often misled

A chapter in a text book that is required reading
Such obscure words, comprehension impeding
Or a professor whose lectures don’t throw any light
And preachers who vaguely hint at your impending plight!

Legal jargon is frequently quite impenetrable
Insurance renewals equally unintelligible
The instructions for assembly of any flat-pack
We must be smart if their secrets we’d crack

Guidance to fix a puncture on a modern car
Our mechanical awareness is really stretched far
Even setting a post code address on the new sat nav
Requires more savvy than most of us have

Have we ever tried a digital radio to programme?
It demands more awareness than an old wireless ham
Equally I  find the handbook for an alarm clock
Can give the uninitiated quite a nasty shock

What about the manual for the flat screen TV set?
It can easily bring us out in quite a cold sweat
All its options for timers and downloads galore
And too many choices that we mostly deplore

In completing Tax Returns for the HMRC
We must always be as honest as we can be
But our attempts at the truth can easily be thwarted
As the language of their questions is so very turgid

At any time have you tried to make sense
Of those paragraphs that are ever so intense
In contract conditions expounding the law
Or warnings from banks if you dare overdraw

Which reminds me of messages sent out from the bank
I know they will claim they are just being frank
How many paragraphs does it need to explain
If you cash in early that ISA there will be no gain

The same problems arise if you feel bold enough
To enter the realm of social media and all that guff
Setting yourself up on  Twitter, Facebook or Google plus
Is rarely achieved without a great deal of fuss

In all these situations we are increasingly confused
Words spoken or written simply leave us bemused
The recurring question is What Does That Mean?
To receive an answer to this we are really keen

Perhaps the problem is that we are awash with information
So many words thrown at us just leads to frustration
We need time to make sense of all that we are told
There is little doubt we’re at the information threshold

So when we receive any message, we should readily enquire
What does it say, what facts need we acquire?
And if we can make little sense of the communication
We should take early steps for its extirpation

W D T M ? should be our clarion call
Clarity from the message should be the demand from us all
Make them say what they mean, and truly mean what they say
Thus a clear message to us all they might surely convey

Ken Fisher

Action and Reflection

Action and Reflection

Luke 10 : 38-42 Jesus at the home of Martha and Mary
 
What matters most when living life, to act or to reflect?
The truth is not just a dichotomy so simple
Life is neither all action filled, while thinking we neglect
Nor solely contemplation which all activity would cripple

Perhaps it is a matter of which mode of being
Best fits the present moment and the circumstance
Partly our thoughts and frequently our feelings
Which of mind or hand we would advance

Some people by their nature more disposed to action
Yet others content with gentle rumination
But either approach will yield its own reaction
A measured thoughtful response or deeds wrought through passion

Of course the different players may find it hard to accept
That the response of the other is truly justified
They choose one stance and the other they reject
Either to act or to reflect will forever them divide

But surely the truth is that throughout all our days
We are constantly embroiled in both thought and deed
The one informs the other as we negotiate life’s maze
While respect for each approach is what we truly need

Ken Fisher

Three Simple Pleasures

Three Simple Pleasures

1

Returning to the reassuring comfort of
your car after a long walk in the countryside
The clunk of the door closing
The magical response of the engine
as you fire the ignition
Your re-entry to your own private capsule
Fully insulated from a threatening world

2

Squeezing the toothpaste tube
Extruding the minty snake on to your brush
Attacking your teeth with that serried rank of bristles
standing in line to do their duty
Vigorous massaging of teeth and gums
And then the rinse to wash away any detritus
The virtue of a mouth so clean and pure

[Let’s hope our words match it]

3

The wicked pleasure of a sticky iced bun
Sometimes called a Chelsea bun or even Belgian
No matter what the label may be
Your villainy is chastened by having to
get your fingers covered in goo
What can match the sensuous pleasure
of biting into its spiral coil shot through with cinnamon?

Simple pleasures – surely life’s real treasures

Indulge them!

Ken Fisher

The Anarchic Grace of Christ

The Anarchic Grace of Christ

[Based on Luke 15 vv 11-32 – the parable of the Prodigal Son]

imgres-1

It isn’t fair, we all must pay our dues,
And each must play their part!
It’s not for us to pick and choose
From our obligations to depart

That’s the only way the world can work
Each one of us prepared to strive
No room for those who’d rather shirk
All together, that’s how we can survive

Of course there are always those who won’t conform
Like the younger son, they break away
Don’t tie him down, just let him roam
From hearth and home that lad would stray

And in many days of feasting he did joyously revel
Kept by his goodly share of the paternal inheritance
Courting with the pleasures of the flesh and of the devil
Offering no apology, no excuse, and no defence

But in due time that decadent life began to pall
His funds diminished, his joy somewhat less intense
And then his former settled life he fondly did recall
Thoughts turned to home, and comfort it seemed to make such sense

And yet he knew he had no right forgiveness to expect
His father and his brother in duty still steadfast
He deserved so very little and him they should reject
Why wipe away the sinfulness of those wayward years now past?

But on arriving near his home to his very great surprise
The dissident young brother saw his father open-armed
To welcome back that younger son as if he’d won a prize
But elder son, resentful, was anything but charmed

We all know this story of the prodigal who once was lost in vice
And making sense of such free pardon is somewhat problematic
How to explain this forgiveness but for the anarchic grace of Christ
An unmerited gift so full, so free, and so dramatic

When in our resentment we ask whither ethics or the law?
Surely love alone too simple to salve our every woe?
Our inward eye might open, and discern not one without a flaw
By God’s good grace, forgiveness He doth on each bestow

Ken Fisher

[This poem was read at the morning service at Hillhead Baptist Church
at the Hilton Grosvenor Glasgow on Sunday 23 July 2017]