The Meaning of Life
Plato pursued the platitude of good,
Aristotle urged we do what we should.
The Cynics rejected wealth, fame and power,
The Hedonists were a party-going shower.
Epicureans wanted a life pain free,
Stoics were patient and sighed c’est la vie.
The Enlightenment taught natural rights,
Liberal wimps practised politics light.
Bentham’s ‘greatest happiness principle’
Utilitarianism is the title.
Kant can’t abide the unprincipled fool,
Nihilists think God is dead as a rule.
Pragmatists struggle through practical strife,
Existentialists create their own Life.
Absurdists expect a disharmony,
Secular humanists claim we are free.
Logical positivism doesn’t ask,
For Postmodernists scrutiny’s the task.
Pantheists nurture the environment,
Confucius was an ordinary gent.
Buddhists are hippies and seek nirvana,
Mohists give free love in their pyjamas.
Legalists pursue natural knowledge,
Christians on Sunday like to trim their hedge.
Catholics prefer love au natural,
The Mormons collect a harem of gals.
The Jewish God loves a wild killing spree,
The Baha’i faith seeks human harmony.
Zoroastrianism divides right from wrong,
Quakers are silent, never sing a song.
Islamists worship Allahu Akbar,
Hinduists seek karma and sansara.
Janists are veggies, never hurt a fly,
Sikhs wear headscarves but never wear a tie.
Taoists maintain natural truth in tune,
Shintoists watch sumo from April to June.
Don’t let the bastards tell you what to do,
Ask a computer you’ll get forty-two.
Never be hoodwinked, never bend the knee,
And most important — never give money.
[2012, from the book Hi, I'm Elohim: The Trouble with God]
Today, my Lord, no sun hangs high above,
And grey cloud smothers hoar the furrowed down
Where peels the farmer late with carefree love
To ply his thick-hide hand and scatter ground.
In bleak and solemn fields the scarecrow lurks,
Whistling wastes the wind and breaks aloft
The burly thistled leaves and brushes soft
To strangle, strafe and gouge the farmer’s work.
Bowed sickles, shovels, picks and bogwood scythes
To heave and harvest before the snowdrifts drive,
Alone, one hand rotates till night to free
The fallow fields fret-crossed with straggle-weed.
Fragments of field-dead soldiers churn’d and chopp’d
By the blades of the plough a second death,
They serve to seed in rank an autumn crop,
Ignored unseen a harmless shibboleth.
The potted path is trod, now seas of rain
Sluice slabs of mud and by the clocktower face
Bespatter him, the hero will remain
Apart from Life’s mad rat-infested race.
The aching chores have ceased, the charcoal flue
Burns through the night, the barn owl cries anew
Perhaps the fallen fields will yield their due
One hand moulds the landscape’s unhurried hue.
When I lope down those clumpy lanes
I shall think of ’ee – aye, I shall,
Suddenly, bluebells blast my eyes
And the imperial yew tree,
For a wee hopping sparrow
I stop. And blink.
Aye, maybe I was one who used to notice such things too.
We who used to notice such things?
Aye, suits us well,
Ah! Sentiment o’ bliss!
Yet in a blink,
’Tis sad to muse much we missed.
Down. Down those country lanes
I’ll rein and sigh,
I was never so high
As when I used to notice such things.
Hardy is in his Heaven
And all is right with the world.
[1998 cf. Thomas Hardy’s ‘Afterwards’:
When the Present has latched its postern behind my tremulous stay,
And the May month flaps its glad green leaves
Delicate-filmed as new-spun silk, will the
"He was a man who used to notice such things"? ]
We’re a God-awful small affair
In the bar of the grime-brown Goat.
The devil with the coal-black hair
Blows smoke through a hole in his throat.
I’m sorry, you haven’t a prayer
The rules of the game he rewrote.
Take your cue and fracture the pack
But the game is a frightening bore
Odds of evens to clear the rack
He’s cheated you ten times before
He’ll bring his hand down on your back
And pick you up from the soiled floor.
Don’t wager your very last cent
Watch him spit in the eyes of fools
And be warned that the cards are bent
Drinks on the house as a rule.
Your hand-earned dollars better spent
On books rather than cards or pool.
If they find aces up your sleeve
Don’t deal from the base of the pack
They’ll politely ask you to leave,
You’ll bust the flush of one-eyed Jack
The sleight of hand you’ll disbelieve
Takes practice to acquire the knack.
A dime in the slot of the box
No dancing on tables and chairs
Choose from Elvis or old-time rock
Upsets the ashtrays and glasswear
Time, gentlemen, please, now take stock
You shouldn’t have blown your bus fair.
Just three more beers, guv, on the slate
I’ll stick at three, not one more drop
My pussy waits with bowl and plate
Welcome home with a belly flop.
My salvation is somewhat late,
We all might learn one day to stop.
[1983 cf. David Bowie’s Life on Mars:
It's a God-awful small affair
To the girl with the mousy hair …
But the film is a saddening bore
For she's lived it ten times or more
She could spit in the eyes of fools …]