The Bible – A Guide to Life?

The Bible – A Guide to Life?

[A sonnet]

 

What is this tome revered from ancient days?
The story of mankind from Eden’s primal dawn
Law given to the tribes to guide them in their ways
God’s presence near at hand, at times withdrawn
Lives of Kings and patriots, prophets even slaves
Warfare, division and internecine strife
Trials by famine, pestilence and plague
Under God’s burning sun they lived out life
Tales of heroes, giant killers, suffering servants
We discover all that reflects humanity’s condition
Flawed leaders, faithful women, righteous peasants
God’s provision, eternal love, abiding protection
In testaments old and new His dealings are revealed
Breach between creator and created is thus healed

Ken Fisher

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.

Remembrance 2017

Remembrance 2017

A similar poem was posted at this time last year.
We hope that despite the restlessness among the nations
 we might still remain grateful for the past and
optimistic about the future
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Today is a time for remembering
Thinking back to those dark days of war
When life was uncertain for all
And for some, death was an imminent prospect

But few living today have much memory
Of the years of conflict when hostilities raged
And although warfare still encircles the world
Our experience of it is mediated by TV images

And yet we have an uncomfortable feeling
That despite efforts to unite the nations
There is a persistent climate of arm-wrestling
Between the great powers who eyeball each other

The Cold War brought with it the four-minute-warning
Not long to compose our minds for oblivion!
But presently, although we hope our future might stretch for decades,
We cannot quite eliminate the nagging uncertainty for our destiny

However, for today, we give thanks
For all those who bought our freedom
And pledge to strive to maintain
Such fragile peace as we possess

Ken Fisher

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

As a Revolutionary, Guy Fawkes was Relatively Tame (2017 version)

As a Revolutionary Guy Fawkes Was Relatively Tame!

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Who can doubt the treachery of Guy Fawkes in days of yore
As audacious as any revolt that had come before
To kill King James and those then sitting in Parliament
Was the purpose on which these bold plotters were bent

But the plotters were ‘foxed’ when the cellars were checked
And their malicious intentions did not go unchecked
Thus failed the plan to divert history’s direction
With the death of those who foment disaffection

Fast forward from those events of 1605
The desire for reform is still much alive
Perhaps gunpowder no longer the agent of change
Other forces at play can  our lives rearrange

Politics, the modern weapon whereby changes are wrought
Citizens express their desires through the ballot box
So elections now ignite the volatile spark
Resulting in changes that may be quite stark

The referenda can trigger demands quite explosive
As feelings are stirred making tempers emotive
Demands for freedom from the yoke of the oppressor
Those perceived of our rights to have been the transgressor

And so on the  European Question there was little doubt
Deeply divided opinion on whether IN or OUT
Brexit is bound to bring far-reaching change
Who yet knows if these will be losses or gains?

While at this time of year Guy Fawkes may be fondly recalled
By contemporary scandals we are not quite so enthralled!
But one thing is sure, changes will come, and we’ll have to cope
So keep your powder dry and don’t give up hope

It is odd to reflect that the prestige of Westminster
May be tarnished by the new sobriquet ‘sexminster’
Let’s hope MPs can revert to propriety
And I don’t simply mean maintaining sobriety!

Ken Fisher

The Party Conference

The Party Conference

Have you noticed how the political party conferences
Have all the hallmarks of an old fashioned religious rally?

Speakers are primed to maximise the hype
And minimize the problems of every party policy
Prospects of a new utopia are revealed
To an expectant audience, eagerly receptive

Like seasoned preachers playing with the emotions
Slogans substitute for well-loved Bible texts
The committed are encouraged to have implicit faith
In the party apparatchiks, like disciples of old

The conferences are rallying points for the likeminded
But that is not to say there is never dissent
For sometimes festering internal disputes
Can be aired and wounds inflicted in internecine strife

And of course the press and media tribe run riot
Picking fights with politicians and holes in every pledge
Demonstrating virility in unbridled antagonism
All in the name of greater awareness and public accountability

But the dominant theme of the party conference
Is unity of aspiration, solidarity in action,
Determination to defeat the opposition
And ultimate triumph of the common purpose

After all is said and done, the aim is
To ensure that the delegates go forth
Single-minded, convinced of the virtue of their cause
And determined to manifest their version of a better world

Ken Fisher

 

Freedom (for National Poetry Day 2017)

Freedom (for National Poetry Day 2017)

On this the national poetry day, Freedom is the theme
For many this is our reality, for others just a dream
Although no-one lives without limit or constraint
Our bonds and strictures bring no real ground for complaint

Freedom is a high ideal, a noble aspiration
Of democracy it is judged to be the very firm foundation
As with egality and fraternity, three virtues fundamental
In pursuit of good governance these are elemental

But not only in lofty ideals and concepts philosophical
Freedom matters to us in things mundane and practical
The liberty to go where and when we please
To choose to work and how to take our ease

Freedom of speech, to declare the truth, express our own opinion
Whether the highest authority or a simple humble minion
Freedom to worship, to assemble together, to move about the land
All forms of slavery or coercion we always should withstand

But in pursuit of this worthy paradigm we must remain alert
In defending our freedom, the rights of others we ne’er should subvert
Because true liberty demands mutual love and respect
Only thus can we aspire our fragile freedom to protect

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]

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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]

 

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

Say What You Mean and Mean What you Say

 

I wonder how often you use an expression
With words which merely give an impression
Of what you really intended to say
And thus the whole truth it will often betray

In order to soften the harsh words we intended
Of some painful truth that would leave you offended
We find an alternative choice of words
As we are so scared of inflicting such hurt?

Politicians and lawyers are adept at this ruse
Although quite often it will their hearers confuse
So if asked when to a problem they will they find a solution
Their response seems impenetrable circumlocution

If they see themselves drawn into a limited space
By a challenge which might force them to lose face
They will blur the issue by the use of ‘soft focus’
Avoiding the truth, hoping you will not notice

Metaphor and simile are two of their friends
Thus they define things with a ‘distorting lens’
Nothing is described in the true light of day
And your misunderstanding can be washed away

In the modern world I have detected a trend
To use technical jargon most can’t comprehend
And thus all the world’s problems still lack a solution
Secreted behind all this verbose confusion

And of course it is not just our words’ intention
It’s to our actions also we must give full attention
For if what we say has to have any clout
Surely it’s those very deeds that we must carry out

So would it not be better if we simply say what we mean
Hiding nothing behind a loquacious smokescreen
And at the same time we should mean what we say
Thus our intended message we would clearly convey

Ken Fisher

The Queen’s Speech

The Queen’s Speech

 

This time the Queen’s speech was somewhat truncated
Which may have left some of us feeling frustrated
But nonetheless our parliament will be put through its paces
Despite the Queen having to dash off to the races

Some raised an eyebrow about the lack of a Crown
Her headgear may make the traditionalists frown
But apparently to some the hat’s colour seemed bizarre
Giving more than a hint of the European flag’s stars

But I am sure the Queen stays aloof from all politics
No matter Government’s volt- faces and very strange antics
The original manifesto seems to have been whittled down
Ensuring nothing will result in an opponents’ showdown

So it would appear that for at least two more years
Brexit will obsess all the MPs and Peers
Anything else will be considered peripheral
To be squeezed into any convenient interval

So the business of Parliament is expressly defined
The way ahead has been clearly outlined
Let’s hope they get on with the job without any distraction
And pray that we avoid yet another election!

Ken Fisher

The Aftermath

The Aftermath
[The day after the General Election 8 May 2017]

Well it’s all over now
Ballot boxes unlocked, their contents strewn
Eager hands have sifted and sieved, unfolded the leaves
Attentive eyes scanned, sorted and stacked these expressions
of the democratic will.   As each separate pile is then
aggregated for the various candidates. Height of bundles
a barometer of popular support for each protagonist

As the feverish activity reaches a climax checks
and even double checks will be made, a recount may be demanded
The final summation then reported to
The Returning Officer, whose fiefdom for the night
Is the Counting Station for that Parliamentary constituency

When all doubts are resolved the Officer will
Call for silence and then, arraigned with all
the aspiring candidates, a pregnant calm will descend
And with due solemnity, the result will be announced
Amidst cries of triumph and groans of dismay
The winner will receive the congratulations
Of losers who will shake hands, with rictus smiles
Ill disguising their disappointment – at least
If they had believed victory had been possible

The winner, as if at the Oscars, will pronounce a long
litany of thanks to everyone – from the dutiful spouse
to the intern who made the tea at the Party Office
Of course, not forgetting, you the voters!

And so off they go into the dawning light
Some to party as they celebrate success
Others, whose expectations have been dashed,
Or even as unseated MP’s to an obscure uncertain future
And what of us the voters? We have done our duty
Do we believe that the new incumbent will fulfill
Their promise of being the Member for all their people?

But none might easily have predicted the actual outcomes
Only the Exit Polls were able to alert us to the likely totals
And as the night wore on the correlation between these indicators
and the eventual reality became quite stark for all to see
Some famous familiar faces suddenly stripped of power
Years of thankless service gives no immunity
Other aspirants thrown into the limelight
Even some actors who had been hiding in the wings recalled
to play their part

Thus a new political landscape took shape in which
we discovered that the people had made choices
which our politicians had not expected or not desired
And once again the shape of the future even  more uncertain
But that’s democracy – we must live with it!

Ken Fisher

Election Time Yet Again

Election Time Yet Again
[The moment of decision is upon us]

 

Time has arrived when voters must make their choice
All sides in the debate near exhausted by the fray
Arguments finely honed and rehearsed so many times
So that, if prompted, even we might quote their party lines

This time around, some major themes have emerged
Brexit and its potential effects have dominated
And if only we can assure ‘Strong and Stable Leadership’
‘For the Many not the Few’ we can assure ‘A Brighter Future’
[Please don’t mention IndyRef2]

But all debate has been hi-jacked by the tragedies
With which terrorists have caught us unaware

Perhaps it is therefore all the more essential
That we do not allow the democratic process
To be sidelined, despite the ideological mayhem
Thrusting the crime scene into our cityscape

Politicians seeking comfort from the pollsters
Turn to the pronouncements of psepholigists
[Modern custodians of the Holy Grail]
But interpretation of results they reserve as their own

Although it is probably true to say that like the jilted bride
Political parties have lost their trust in these predictive gurus
As past experience has shown the pollsters’ crystal ball
Proved somewhat cloudy to say the least

The journalists like ‘war’ correspondents
Have not been afraid to enter in the fray
They have even been the cause of skirmishes
If seen to favour one party o’er the others

So TV political anchors readily bare their fangs
Determined to prove they show no bias, and give no quarter
They attack with unbridled vigour, candidates of every hue
Their confrontations show no favours, make no concessions

But the TV broadcasts of the leaders’ debates have often palled
As participants talk across each other, stifling free speech
Nipping their opponents like ferrets fighting in a sack
Each must display the dominant voice no matter what

And this time we have been subjected to a sort of Star Chamber
Grilling by audience, then broadcasting anchors, of those
Who would seek the highest offices when the ballot is over
And the final verdict has been pronounced

So here we are, it is ‘Make Your Mind Up Time’
As the quizmaster used to say on TV audience participation shows
You’ve heard all the arguments, been given all the promises
Now you must be the judge, let’s hope you are still awake!

Alas all that each of us must do now
Is exercise our hard-fought right at the polls
Enjoy the excitement of the night
And accept the result (and the consequences) with equanimity!

Ken Fisher