Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 11 September 2016


The Weakest Link

A long time ago
someone bound me
to the pillar of reason.

It might even have been me:
I can't remember now.

But don't think me tamed
after all these years.

When was the last time
you looked at my eyes?

When was the last time
you really looked
at my eyes?

Even the finest chains rust in time.

6 August 1989

I’ve always thought of myself as a reasonable man. And then I started to think about what the word ‘reasonable’ actually means. When I say I’m reasonable am I saying I have sound judgement, that I’m fair and sensible? That sounds reasonable. It doesn’t feel quite right thought, does it? There’s the suggestion of only having moderate expectations. A reasonable man doesn’t hope for too much out of life. And that’s true of me too. I keep my expectations in check. So I’m rarely disappointed. But I still do get disappointed. So maybe I’m not doing it right. When someone asks you to be reasonable what are they really asking? For you to give the matter some thought? Or to back down. Or at least to give ground. Reasonable people settle. 

In 1989 there was much about me that was settled. I’d recovered from the hiccup that was my first marriage and was pretty much where I would’ve expected to be at thirty. A reasonable man would count his blessings; pay the mortgage, check the air, oil and water in the car; mow the lawn; remember Valentine’s Day and his wedding anniversary; be on time to visit with his kid and make sure the Blockbuster videos were wound back to the start and returned on time. Yeah, all that stuff and more. 

And yet.


vito pasquale said...

Jim - I've been meaning to write to you about this poem for a week now! I enjoyed your riffing on the word "reasonable" and what makes for a reasonable person. Even mowing the lawn (who would ever want to do that?) somehow falls into this behavior. The poem is wonderful. The rusted chains binding us can break at any time. And then what?

I wrote a poem a few years ago titled, "Self Portrait of an Ingrate" and the opening line was: If I felt compelled to count my blessings / I'd have to be counting them all of the time. Needless to say, the person in the poem doesn't bother to do the sums.


Jim Murdoch said...

I think Carrie and I did Thanksgiving once after she came over. Or maybe more than once. I forget. But at least once. I don’t remember if we said what we were thankful for but I don’t think we did. I find it an odd celebration if I’m being honest, Vito, in much the same way as I find Halloween (the Americanised version that’s trying to find its feet here) strange. I’m not an unthankful person—I always thank my wife for whatever meal she’s prepared even if that only involved sticking something in the microwave—but that doesn’t mean I spend every day, Scrooge McDuck-like, counting my blessings. I don’t think I like the word. Who or what has blessed me? My mind goes back to Esau and Jacob. I never got why Isaac couldn’t retract the blessing Jacob conned out of his father or why he couldn’t also bestow his blessing on Esau. It’s not a tangible thing.

As far as reason goes I’ve always held it in higher regard than feeling. Not that I’m unfeeling either, far from it. But I understand reason more than I understand feeling. Feelings so often don’t make any sense. And why should they? It’s reasonable things that make sense. When reason breaks down—as it did in 1989 with all that B. malarkey—well, you’ve no idea the state I was in trying to rationalise my actions. No wonder I was churning out poetry on practically a daily basis.

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