written and posted by members of Lancashire Dead Good Poets' Society

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Summit Up?

Ever one to strive to avoid the obvious, the Saturday Blog in tackling the theme of  summit  will make no more than passing reference to mountain peaks or high-level political pow-wows (and that was the passing reference.)

In fact, gentle reader, I'm going to subvert it somewhat, tip it upside down and see what truths fall out of the generally accepted notion that being at the top is a permanently happy place.

Those of you familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy will know he suggested that human beings have five levels of need. In ascending order from the most basic they are: physiological (food, water, sleep, shelter et cetera), security (personal, emotional, financial et cetera), social (family, friendship, grouping, coupling and so on), self-esteem (confidence, sense of worth et cetera) and self-actualization (utilising abilities and talents, seeking happiness...the idea that "What a man can be, he must be" - and for man, read human being).

Maslow's basic premise was that you only start getting to grips with a level of need once the one below it is catered for. It's a bit rigid as a concept although it contains some obvious good sense especially at the base end of the pyramid - who after all worries about self-esteem and self-actualization if they're are consumed with finding food to eat or somewhere to sleep safely at night? - but I contend that the sequence of fulfilment becomes a bit topsy turvy the higher one moves up the rank of needs... the social, self-worth and transcendent happiness bits mix up, wax and wane. We can't be constantly "going at our peak" (to quote the magnificent Game Theory).

For example, here I have to quote Hamlet (from the play of the same name):
"What a piece of work is man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving, how express and admirable in action, how like an angel in apprehension, how like a god: the beauty of the world; the paragon of animals; and yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust?"

Powerful prose, don't you agree? But he was one depressed (and possibly repressed) Dane; though the point is that no matter what we aspire to in the belief that it will bring us lasting satisfaction (a good job, a happy union, financial well-being, lots of stuff) there will be times when that 'whatever' won't appear to do the trick (unless we are very hollow).

Hollow Henry Hoovering Happily?
Mankind (human kind) may appear to be the crown of creation but that is no cause for arrogance or complacency. Our place on the podium - as individuals and as a species - is not guaranteed.

As if to prove the point, here's something I wrote for World Mental Health Day about the curse of the cur, depression...

Black Dog
When it followed me at first
I thought it must be
someone else's hound
lolloping soundlessly at heel
through the park at dusk,
but there was no one else around.

I shook it off that time
but when it joined me next
as I took my customary evening stroll
I guessed it must have searched me out.

Several times it even followed me home
and I figured it for a stray.
I always turned it away.

More recently I've woken
to find it waiting at the gate.
It never barks, just glowers darkly.
I'd put off venturing forth
till it was gone
although it sometimes made me late.

And now, I don't know how,
it's found a way into the house.
I hear it pacing, breathing,
right outside my bedroom door.

I think I'll never leave my bedroom

Hollow Henry's Hellhound
Okay, to lighten the mood, I leave you with a musical bonus: Jefferson Airplane performing  Crown Of Creation  (Just click on the song title to activate the hyperlink.)

Thanks for reading! To thine own self be true, S ;-)


Boz said...

That's one hell of a poem la. Bang up there with your best.

Rochelle said...

A thought-provoking blog Steve and I really like the poem. I gave up on the audio link after 30 seconds of some advertisement for Grammerly!

Anonymous said...

Love the Black Dog poem, very moving.

Tyger Barnett said...

Interesting blog and a cleverly worked extended metaphor of a poem.

Anonymous said...

I have not the slightest clue what "self-actualization" is! Need I worry? Should that thought depress me? :-D

a v said...

Very good Steve.

Matt West said...

Hope your not depressed Steve. We just got our club back. Should be happy mate.

Tom Shaw said...

Your poem is deceptively simple but its progression is inexorable in a quite shocking way, combining menace and pathos. As for Maslow, I don't think he's held in wire regard anymore here in the US.

Steve Rowland said...

Matt, no worries. I count myself fortunate (so far) to have avoided the 'curse of the cur' as I termed it. The poem is an imaginative leap, nothing more. I remain a cheery so-and-so but a home win or two wouldn't go amiss.

Tom, you may well be right about Maslow. My familiarity with his theorising goes back 30-odd years and as I say in the blog I think he's a bit rigid.

Anonymous said...

Well written and a very affecting poem. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

If I had a black dog I'd call him Hamlet :)

Deke Hughes said...

An interesting blog Steve. I thought your poem was very well put together. Nice to enjoy a bit of Jefferson Airplane again as well - read the comments above and I didn't get that annoying advert first. The link just dropped straight into Crown of Creation. Stay cheery.

Anonymous said...

A thought-provoking read - that insidious slide into the trap of depression - got me wondering if it is possible to write effectively if one is depressed; or does the articulation only come afterwards? Serious question...

Anonymous said...

Love that poem, so moving.

LG said...

Thank you Steve, another seriously good poem. And I'd not heard Jefferson Airplane before - pretty good. Further recommendations please.

Harry Lennon said...

That's brilliant Steve.

Anonymous said...

Excellent *****

Anonymous said...

I agree with comments above. It's a powerful and quietly shocking poem.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I really like that poem - very good.

Guy Brown said...

'You find out when you reach the top you're on the bottom.' Bob Dylan said that. And your poem is amazing Steve.

Anonymous said...


Rod Downey said...

Wow. That's a stunning poem.