Timor Mortis Conturbat Me

Timor Mortis Conturbat Me
[Fear of Death Disturbs Me]

 

In days of yore when pupils at school were ruled with iron rod
When few would dare to question the reality of God
What might confront us when moved beyond the grave
Rarely could be swept aside, even by the brave

Fear of death was a powerful motivating force
Lest we find that by past deeds we are thereafter cursed
Reflecting on the hereafter would thus our souls perturb
Resolving that our conduct might ne’er God’s rule usurp

Today our mindset has cast aside that shadow
Death’s menace ignored with much bold bravado
Indeed death now rarely accorded even mention
Eternal life apparently the focus of attention

And yet we know that such a view is unrealistic
Life may be longer but still remains naturalistic
Indeed today perhaps our fear is not of death but living
Amidst the challenges of modern life which can be unforgiving

So what might be the Holy Grail, the nostrum for our age?
To help us navigate a course and all our angst assuage
That neither fear of death nor life might carry off our peace
And from all that would disturb we might duly find release

Ken Fisher

The Volunteer

The Volunteer 2018

[for International Volunteer Day 2018]

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Where would we be without the volunteer?
Those selfless souls who freely offer to take part
Whether it be to join some ‘Great Cause’
And end up making the ‘Supreme Sacrifice’
Or whether it be for a much humbler task
Some regular kindness to our neighbour
That does not demand self-immolation
But nonetheless has the hallmark of self-giving

Is it just me who is becoming more aware
That volunteers seem to be a threatened species?
Despite political hectoring that we should all
Be part of the ‘Big Society’ showing social solidarity
Based on voluntarism and communitarianism
Each one prepared to play our part for the common good
Thus ordinary citizens should be enabled to
Provide the impetus for much greater ‘people power’

These are grand sentiments no doubt advocated
With the best intentions. Unfortunately
There is not too much evidence that the Big Society
Has managed to ‘big itself up’ to any significant scale
And I wonder why so few seem to have caught the vision
And responded to the challenge of active volunteering
Regretfully, I think the zeitgeist of our age has evolved into
That of ‘the snowflake’ frightened of pressure or responsibility

Why should this be, I ask myself?
Perhaps it is the pace of life, we are all too busy
Work life balance is out of kilter, we are living
In the ‘always connected’ mode – there is no escape
Earning a living, extensive commuting, and exhaustion
All surely play their part. Don’t ask me to do anything
OK – point taken. But will this sound the death knell
Of all that hitherto volunteers have done for us?

‘I hope not’ – I hear you say.
Thank God for the volunteers –but please, please,  just don’t ask me
[yet again]!

Ken Fisher

 

Holiday from Reality

Holiday from Reality

 

Let’s take a holiday from harsh reality
Why does a poem have to make any sense?
Give us a break from stark rationality
And enter the realm of shameless pretence

Carried along on the wings of a reverie
Let the mind wander wherever it will
Untrammelled by thoughts drawn from memory
Wild imagination’s notions distill

Be unafraid of spewing gobbledegook
Readers can wrestle to tease out meaning
Never attempting to fashion a book
Rarely to clear understanding appealing

Resorting always to simile and metaphor
Word pictures made mysteriously opaque
Language displayed in patterns irregular
Understanding rendered disturbingly vague

Why should the poet set the agenda?
The reader must surely make what they will
Sifting the verses to find what they render
In time their quest it will surely fulfil

So sit back and relax let the poem transport
Our thoughts to wherever they come to rest
Each word and line become its own passport
To the message the writer would therein express

Ken Fisher

A Poem of Fewer Words

A Poem of Fewer Words

 

Too many words spilling out from a poem
Cascading over each other like foam
On turbulent sea waves
Our thought enslaves

Too many images flooding the mind
So many notions unconfined
Prolixity quite unbound
Doth confound

Let us with the words dispense
At least try them to condense
In the vacant space
Calm, replace

Ken Fisher

 

 

Hunker Down

Hunker Down

 

Ever feel tempted to just hunker down
When the world around is wearing a frown?
So much is happening that is not to my taste
To a place of refuge I need to make haste

But where can I hide when there is so much to fear?
No place of safety seems to be near
Unless I intend to get out of town
The only choice left is to hunker down

But what are all those menacing threats
That raise the pulse and bring on the sweats
Where does that bogeyman reside
Show yourself – why must you hide?

Perhaps the spectre is all in my head
Fears from the past, long since dead
So why any need to crouch and to cringe
When on my peace they no longer impinge?

The problem today is we are too wide-awake
Newsfeeds from the media drag us in their wake
In every tragedy we must participate
The press conspires to make this our fate

But what are these fears which strike at the heart
And our reasonable thoughts will thus distort?
Some might be just a mere irritation
Others undermining the whole blessed nation

So forebodings about an impending malady
Aches and pains that we claim are agony
Through to major concerns about Brexit
Which politicians are likely to fix it?

Then there are concerns for the life of the planet
And climate change perhaps leading to havoc
Debates about trade bring on endless haggling
Can so easily end up with loud sabre rattling

At the personal level, heavy debt brings on much tension
Finding a job, a home, and affording a pension
So no wonder we feel quite overwhelmed
To take some evasive action we are thus compelled

But if at the end of the day there is no easy cure
The vagaries of life we must simply endure
Hunkering down for the immediate duration
Our only response to a dire situation

But let’s not allow ourselves to get too depressed
And with our problems become quite obsessed
In due time dark clouds are bound to blow over
We will rise from the hunker and regain composure

Ken Fisher

Rant

Rant

Why do I find that sometimes I rant?
Adopting a style that is most arrogant
I can fly off the handle without reason or rhyme
Lambasting my hearers in double quick time

Sometimes my ranting is on some hobbyhorse
Maybe an obsession or perhaps even worse
I feel that I thus might put the world straight
Save these poor souls from their terrible fate

What a pity they seem disinclined to listen
To my warnings spawned from my infinite wisdom
Notwithstanding my earnest pleas from the heart
From my judgment they obviously prefer to depart

I wonder if they are put off by my hectoring style
My angry expression with never a smile
I shout quite a lot when in such high dudgeon
They turn quickly away from a ranting curmudgeon

Perhaps I should try a more gentle approach
Not always my audience trying to reproach
More measured words and kinder expression
Renouncing a stance that smacks of aggression

I need to learn that to ’win friends and influence people’
I must not attack them with a verbalized needle
But adopt a manner that might favour implant
Eschewing all proneness to rave and to rant

Ken Fisher

Chess

Chess

 

The world of chess is a mysterious realm
Whose complexities can quite overwhelm
The laymen who knows none of its charms
May be daunted by strategy and technical terms

But if proof is needed of this game’s acceptance
Down many centuries we note its persistence
Starting in India, along the Silk Road it sped
And in the course of the years its fame widespread

The game is played on a chequered board
Eight rows and columns is how it is floored
On which each side’s sixteen pieces are set
All arrayed in allotted squares at the outset

The King, Queen, Rooks, Bishops and Knights
Each move according to their own special rights
The eight low-ranking pawns are somewhat restricted
But their influence is not altogether constricted

Down the years chess has acquired its own mystique
As champions and experts developed technique
Thus great minds would wrestle over special maneuvers
Eventually pitching themselves against mighty computers

As year succeeded year chess became ever more popular
Competition producing champions quite spectacular
But chess can still be enjoyed as much in your home
As at some mass congress in a huge hippodrome

Of course the digital age has brought us chess electronic
Simultaneous games can prove rather hypnotic
Let’s hope the whole thing doesn’t get out of hand
Chess ending up as mind-games unplanned

So thanks to  those who this clever game devised
Its nuances and potential they first recognized
Chess for many has been a great boon and a blessing
Through intelligent play their strength expressing

Ken Fisher

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

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

Utility

Utility

I wonder if in this modern world
Worth’s only measure is Utility
Unless we can calibrate the gain
It holds little plausibility

In dark days of war and long thereafter
Essentially production was restricted
Utility the hallmark for everything
Lest by waste we were afflicted

Of course the aim of most artifacts
Is to serve our human need
Objects are therefore produced
As the market has decreed

Classical economists propounded
An action is right if happiness it brings
Utilitarianism promotes this belief
Joy the measure of all things

But surely in this wondrous world
Exist things some consider useless
But lacking these elements of our life
Mere production rendered fruitless

We cannot simply stamp a utility mark
On our regard for one another
Art, music, and faith’s eternal quest
Dominant functionality cannot smother

The treasures which flow from the Aladdin’s cave
Of our modern supermarkets
Help to meet our insatiable desire
Our boundless pleasure is their target

But ‘things’ and ‘stuff’ however much
Might try our hearts to please
Yet in our souls we seek for more
To set our minds at ease

And thus we continue in pursuit
Of that whose only function
Is to lift us from mere usefulness
And grant emotion’s unction

Ask not only what something does
What purpose can it serve?
Rather how it might life enhance
And thus our praise deserve

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