This is a question we all feel like asking ourselves from time to time. What’s the point of our lives? I guess artists and writers may ask the question more than most; although if I was a shelf-stacker at Asda or a hotel cleaner I might feel a different sense of pointlessness. The artist, however ignored, however unsuccessful or underpaid, does at least have the happiness that comes from art and the strength which arises from self-determination. In fact I sometimes think that no amount of fame and money can compensate for losing your own artistic voice. Whereas if I was a shelf-stacker or a cleaner – particularly the latter – I might well feel unimportant and ignored. Cleaners are almost universally underpaid, taken for granted, ignored and marginalised. Imagine coming in to work early in the morning, before anyone else is awake, to do a job nobody appreciates or even notices unless it is not done right, and get paid a pittance for the privilege. One of my recent poems is a response to the ‘Christ on a bench’ sculpture:
and it goes like this:
The Second Coming
If Jesus Christ returned today
no-one would recognise her
before the darkness drives away
she is the morning riser.
she hoovers early corridors
and rides a bleary bus
she clears a porthole in the fog
and looks like one of us.
The idea being, as with the sculpture, that Jesus could be any one of us. Like the song says in ‘Bruce Almighty,’ What if God was one of us?
And those who expect some glorious triumphant figure entirely miss the point. I also like the idea of Christ returning as a woman. Unexpected.
But seriously, what is the point? What is the point of anything? What is the point of a new-born baby? What is the point of philosophy? Someone asked Socrates that exact question once. The great philosopher turned to his student and said, ‘This man wishes to profit from learning. Give him a penny.’ At least, that is the story I read, but now I can’t find it anywhere and even the domestic oracle doesn’t know. Still, it’s a good story.
Hang on, the oracle now thinks it might be Euclid. It’s quoted in ‘The Ascent of Man’, which is probably where I remember it from. Hey, I wonder if philosophy, like history, is what you can remember? ‘Socrates and All that.’
Ah, now the oracle has found me a reference. Hang on… yes, the exact quote is ‘Give him threepence, since he must make gain out of what he learns.’
So now you know.
Hang on, what was the point of this post again?