Thank you for signing up
for your HP daily updates.
Each day we reveal
your most important task.
Before you had this service,
words and deeds you left
undone, passed over
in your routine haste.
is to assist a woman lost
on Highgate Hill. She clutches
a page with the address.
These are your clues.
Seek out the rest.
Two sources overlap as inspiration for today’s verse. Firstly, I’ve been invited by a friend to participate in Poem A Day October. (For details and to sign up click here.) Today’s prompt suggests, “write about a technology that doesn’t exist yet”.
I’ve often wondered how you should know what might be your most important deed for that day. Should you invest particular energy into a work-related assignment or stop to help a stranger on the street? Is it that moment when you arrive home frazzled, commute-battered and hungry when you’re called on to exhibit patience with a family member or housemate? Is it the decision to do press-ups before bed and pass on cake? To help with such decision quandaries, I’ve wondered if it might be possible to have updates sent to one. In the days gone by, I fantasized about discovering a guiding note in an envelope under my pillow. Nowadays, an email or text or other similar message (whatsapp, FB message) would suffice. All we need is the service rendered through a communication channel. In fairness, though, this isn’t really ‘a technology’, but perhaps it could draw on science. Maybe someone could work out an algorithm to attune each person’s Highest Priority task.
The second source for today’s verse is a study about which I read. (I’m trying to recall the book. It was possibly a title about human habit and behaviour.) In this study a group of pastors in training were asked to prepare a sermon on the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). They were then sent to a second venue where they were to deliver the sermon at a particular time. En route, ‘a stranger in need’ was placed on their path. Almost none of the pastors stopped to help. The conclusion for this behaviour was that when people are in a hurry and focused on upholding a time-bound commitment they are less attuned to others around them and certainly do not feel at liberty to help.
I too have fallen into this pattern. Many a person in need and distress I’ve passed by, sneered at, dismissed and judged, especially when I am harried and going someplace. Sometimes I wonder, was that moment possibly my true task for the day? If only I had some guidance that could reassure me, if you help this person and are 15 minutes late for the next thing, it will be ok.
However, finding yourself waylead and not being on time are the hallmarks of somebody who most certainly does not have their priorities in order.
Then there is the other matter that sometimes I am just sceptical about helping. But that could be a verse topic for another occasion.
(P.S. I am aware of the tautology of ‘highest priority’. In the poem the acronym serves a double purpose (Highest Priority > Higher Power). The tautology also references the commonplace usage of the expression to mean the item that is absolutely at the top of one’s list of things to do.)
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012