Against Self Control

There's a sort of self control
That ought to be avoided
How it goes few there knows
- All our efforts then are voided!

So hear a moment about this thing
And think about that strictness
Where men refrain from doing well
Such confusion all of this is!

"I need to sleep in now" says one
Or he that only works well past 2
But neither's strict policy
Involves a prayer or two;

"As much as it hurts I have to go"
Says the one-night stand
What happened to the sleeping in -
Bright and early across the land!

And like the man who trudges past
The altar to the pot of coffee
The church is near but the roads are slick
(Drive to the bar so caref'ly!)

Careful arrangements there are made
By the avaricious accountant
Years of counting hours and hours
A mistake might make him decent!

That idol of slippery success
For which a thousand trophies stood
Hard earned and dusted across the walls
A fall could do them good!

Let me say of the man
Who won't partake of meat
His self-control may make him 'whole'
But his pride's a crow to eat!

Running, walking, pumping lead
Scrubbing outsides as they said
The tombs are white for all to see
But all the bones are dead!

What sort of mad ascetic feats
Do ordinary men perform
Just to keep from doing right
And to uphold the norm?

A failure of this well worn rule
Could only benefit us
To slack off a bit then I'd say!
(Who'd dare to recommend this!)

So about this self control
It ought be observed
Skill can be applied to fail
And mediocrity be served!


  1. Do you think that Innocent Smith just might've been a sort of holy fool? I imagine that all his feats of asceticism were motivated by this unabashed splagchna for his fellow men and not by any desire to keep up with appearances for normalcy's sake. Anyway, I think that the correct kind of self-restraint should leave one feeling free instead of fretful and fettered by all manner of frivolities. The question that remains is this: If in the course of executing self-control a prideful desire is found, must that particular method of self-control be relaxed for the sake of squelching pride? And only when pride has taken a full and hearty beating would it then become advisory to again, take up that method of self-control? But this time with caution, care, and watchfulness.

    Once again, I enjoyed your poem. Thanks for posting!

  2. My thought is that we cannot equate ascesis with goodness. I recall a simple Antonian maxim:

    "There are those who have hurt themselves through excessive fasting. They are far from God."

    There is a tendency to see 'eating healthy' as an unabashed good, but many times we are eating well only out of fear of getting sick (we will get sick anyway) rather than out thanksgiving for the gift of life.

    When we looked at the Goji berry stuff, I always see the silver-bullet syndrome coming up; obviously it is possible to harm one's self by drinking the juice. But in the service of encouraging people to drink it, they will say anything in its favor. Is that the right thing to do? I don't know.

    I would suggest that simply an enjoyment of the berry as it is is a better reason to drink or eat a lot of it than a scheme for improving one's health. You might get hurt (as you can with anything) but then again you might keep perfect health until an untimely accident with a falling pipe. Frailty!

    I just wish some people would slack off in their programs of self-control that lead to error! That's quite it... we can do amazing feats of difficulty just to feed a passion.

    As for Mr. Smith, he would have been nothing if he also was not righteous. That was the cornerstone of his whole thing; that he never stole, that he never committed adultery, that he never actually hurt a man. He might have damaged another's property, but no request was made for its restoration!

    All of the mentions I make are of people who are ostensibly using their 'reins' to drive themselves into a ditch. It should not be thought that virtuosity guarantees virtue; Picasso's later paintings could have only been done by a master who was purposefully making crap.



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