A Shrine to Lazy Bones

The inspiration – if you can call it that – for this poem came from two news items. One concerned the fact that the life expectancy of UK men shows a bigger range between rich and poor than at any time in 150 years. That’s 150 years of social legislation gone down the tube. The other concerned state primary schools, where 6 year olds have gone on strike to protest against the introduction of yet more new tests. The background here is that British children are amongst the unhappiest in Europe.

So the rich are living longer and their children are exempt from stressful early testing. Liberty is become licence, it seems, cut loose from equality and humanity. The changes began with the mania for deregulation back in the early 80s when our handbag-wielding leader proclaimed there was no such thing as society, only individual men and women. My question would be, was she just stating a fact of life or making a prophesy of a nasty future where survival of the fittest is the only creed and a notional afterlife is the only consolation for the losers?

The historian EP Thompson believed the 19th Century working classes desperately oscillated between politics and religion, depending on which of them offered more hope. If it is to be religion’s turn again, let’s at least make it one we can all agree on. My religion would involve a common belief in the sacredness of life itself, a fusion of freedom and equality and humanity that would stop the crazy see-saw.

A Shrine to Lazy Bones

Two spectres haunt this house of humankind
And stalk the hall to keep us in our room.
At dead of night we wake with troubled mind
To fears of open lock and closing tomb.
Two spectres: one the ever-hungry ghost
That shrieks for more and more, the more we give -
A cuckoo in the nest, our children lost
To parents much too busy just to live.
The other spook's a mirage: heaven, hell -
And life a dress rehearsal for their sake.
When kids - all work, no play - are saved by the bell 
Then wonder not, but sleep till death awake.
To exorcise these household demons both,
Let's re-enchant the world and worship sloth.


Image: http://www.kennethdepoorter.be

19 thoughts on “A Shrine to Lazy Bones

    1. Humankindness, indeed! ‘Kind’ is both ‘type’ and ‘benevolent’. Shakespeare often played with the difference. And I’d like the word ‘humanity’ to regain its old sense of ‘humane’.

  1. 1. Wonderful poem, Dave. Inciteful. And reminiscent of John Donne.
    2. I understand your standpoint. And your frustration. We have much in common here.
    Just so you know, though, I am what a lot of people who don’t know us call “fundamentalist”. I am a believer in Jesus Christ as my personal savior. It is MY belief. I have no right to tell anyone else how to believe, nor is their belief, or agnosticism, or atheism, in any way worth less than mine.
    My political values are based on my belief. Help where you can.
    And because I tried to practice that, one of the most unhappy times in my life was as an elected official for the musicians’ union, which, over here in the Rhineland, is fully in the hands of the very corrupt local socialist party.
    Which meant I wanted to help starving musicans protect their work and get free further musical education, and technical know-how,
    and they wanted to help each other steal from the local members. And use available jobs to buy favors to buy influence.
    I left.
    Perhaps we can agree that we, as humans, should all have a common goal: to make it feel good again to do good, to make problems clear, and give a clear path of what individuals can do to remedy those problems. without religious or political values entering into it. And without continuously selling those problems, and making them the basis of a media feeding frenzy.

    1. I’m a great believer in finding common ground and, as you so eloquently demonstrate, we are in the same ballpark. Where inspiration comes from doesn’t bother me, just so long as it comes. I’m sure we can both agree with Keats, who said that life was a process of soul-building. This implies that what you do is more important than what you believe. My belief involves a fusion of politics and religion. That you have achieved a synthesis is indicated in ‘My political values are based on my belief. Help where you can.’ You certainly cut to the chase in your union work in the face of blatant corruption. Thanks for your thoughtful and encouraging response. As the wonderful Little Walter sang, ‘It’s a Crazy, Mixed-up World’. Hey, cue song … and what about his chromatic harp-playing, eh?

  2. Worship sloth – precisely. It reminds me of Bertrand Russell’s essay “In praise of idleness.”
    He does not propose replacing unnecessary work with doing nothing, he suggests education.
    Fundamentally Dave, that’s what I take your blog to be about. Education in its widest and most enriching sense, allowing us to enjoy our environment and take time to do so.

    1. Confession time – I only put ‘sloth’ to rhyme with ‘both’ but then I thought, well, yeah … we all need downtime to think straight. It comes down to priorities. We’re all running to stand still, really, and wrecking the planet as a by-product. Your point about education hits the nail on the head, where my poem just danced about! Cheers, Mike …

  3. Tory policy is bearing fruit. The rich get richer and buy their way to health and education; the poor get poorer and have to cope with public services cut to the bone.
    It is so true what you say – the working class either buy into ‘pie ion the sky’ or revolution.
    I hope they buy into the new religion based on the sacredness of life!

  4. “A cuckoo in the nest…” One of the tragedies of what we’ve created, Dave, is that it is so easily exploited by the Trumps of the world. Those with little to lose and caught up in a non-functioning system that only promises more of nothing, turn to radical solutions they would dismiss as insane in better times. –Curt

        1. True. Perhaps we get the media we deserve … and are willing to pay for. That’s why there’s always so much argument about funding the BBC over here. Do you have much Public Service media?

  5. Lots of truth.

    I did read recently about all the rigorous testing over there in schools…poor kids! It’s as if the powers that be are determined to suck the souls out of children as early as possible so they’re nice and pliable- devoid of will or hope- by the time they reach adulthood so that they can be more efficient slaves. I see elements of that in schools over here, too.

    1. I think your analysis is correct, more’s the pity! My next post will be about childhood – we all share that, regardless of the cultural differences that develop later.

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