"Careless Content" by John Byrom (poetry reading)
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Uploaded on Mar 31, 2009
People ask me - what's your favourite poem? Well, I particularly like this one.
John Byrom was an intellectual giant. Do I believe what he tells me? No, I don't. People only believe things because it hurts not to.
He was very intelligent, male and hence autistic, which means remote from the instinctive behaviour that gets the rest of us through life. So he's figured out what he thinks are a set of basic rules to live by. At least his rules are not as crazy as Diogenes's, Jesus's or Freud's. The only small problem is that Life has no rules. We're only an elaborate sort of jellyfish.
It was George Bernard Shaw who said, "Only in the first nine months of his life does a man manage his affairs as well as a tree does." That applies after he's born too, for quite a while. Think how good babies and children are at getting what they want and it becomes obvious that the only purpose of our lives is to have children and provide them with stuff they need. It's called evolution, isn't it?
Mankind has intelligence but it serves no useful purpose other than providing children with what they need to help them get through life. They inherit a whole infrastructure of Art and Science, Cities, Roads, Railways, Houses and crazy, stupid ideas like Freedom and Justice and Equality and so forth.
Everything in the world belongs to living human beings, individually or collectively. So does everything in the Universe, but it is useless if it's far away. Other life forms get by with less stuff. They work harder than we do too. Especially bacteria. And do we ever thank them?
Let's declare Bacteria Day to thank them for making the amino acids other lifeforms can't make - all life depends on them. We all have to get something bacterial, like food poisoning. Nothing viral though - viruses are a bunch of nasty, useless, parasitic bastards - like most humans.
A side-effect of intelligence, apart from its main purpose of keeping your kids warm and fed and entertained, is to try to understand life and find things to believe in. Aye, there's the rub. Life has no rules and there is nothing to believe in. It just works and it's better not to examine how or why too closely. If you even start thinking about breathing you can't do it properly.
If Life had rules we couldn't understand them: we're just the result of a process called "Disinterested Design". We just happened. We don't even know why we do some things and not others, or prefer some things to others. But if we didn't do these things we wouldn't be here - something else would. We can't KNOW anything so we end up believing fairy stories - all beliefs are limiting and harmful.
Diogenes was that old cynic who lived in a barrel. He went out at noon with a lantern, looking for an honest man. When Alexander the Great came to see him and offered him anything he wanted he said, "I would like you not to stand between me and the sun." He despised possessions. "Stuff? Who needs it?"
That didn't seem like much of a life even though it was really cool to flip-off Alexander - only a prick calls himself "The Great" (except Muhammad Ali) We felt sorry for him because he must have been wet and cold and bored, so one of my students put together a time machine from plans I had drawn on the back of a dunning letter, went back in time and fetched him.
He turned out to be a good laugh so we got him a cozy barrel. Once he had watched a few TV shows, eaten a few TV dinners, got an Electric Blanket, etc., he changed his mind about not needing stuff. Now we can't get him off the Internet: he's obsessed with Amazon. He's made a long Christmas list and won't accept that BC means Before Christmas which disqualifies him.
When we fetched Jesus we thought he would try to get us to love one another, but we talked him out of it. It was, "Don't try to love thy neighbour as thyself, because he might not like it when thou putteth thy hand down his trousers." That one really creased him up.
He's gained a lot of street cred since we got him out of that dirty robe. He wears chinos and a T shirt and - er - sandals. He's had his hair gelled into horns. He's busy updating the Sermon on the Mount. He's not so sure that the Meek will inherit the Earth, now he thinks it will probably be the Chinese. He got a bit narked with me when I told him that Nostrodamus had already predicted that.
We decided against Freud, because he was the biggest villain of the 20th century. Some people are sad or nuts, Siggy, but there's nothing you can do about it. Shakespeare understood people better.
So we got Shakespeare instead. He's still busy reading Shakespeare. He keeps saying, "That's damned good, I wish I'd written it".
Let Bill and Ted, who had this idea first, have the last word "Be excellent to one another and Party on, Dudes!!!"
John Byrom invented shorthand and wrote "Christians Awake".
Look at his lovely curly hair! He must have eaten all his crusts like a good boy.
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