Old Worthy


'Good day', said Dr. Spot
Doffing his top-hat, 
'It's a fine day for walking,
There is no doubt of that'.

Old Worthy simply nodded
Whistling his refrain
With bees about him humming,
Clomping down the lane.


'Bonjour', dit Dr. Spot 
Otant son chapeau, 
'C'est bien de vagabonder 
Lorsqu'il fait aussi beau'.
Vieux Worthy acquiesça 
Sifflotant son refr'in 
Au bourdonnement des abeilles 
Il suivit son chemin.


Old Worthy is naturally a model success. He is one of those who, even if he may sometimes be in the gutter,  he's looking at the stars.
Wilde, in his The Soul of Man Under Socialism, added- Sometimes the poor are praised for being thrifty. But to recommend thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less.
Yet most people would agree with Ogden Nash-
'I would live my life in nonchalance and insouciance
Were it not for making a living, which is rather a nouciance.'

But are there many wealthy people who are as happy and free as old Worthy? Accumulating wealth can be an obsession for those who seem to need to fill a void. They are often the ones who want to know the price of everything without ever knowing the value of anything. Their appreciation of art, or of whatever, is determined by how much it costs. Could this mean that a 'priceless' object for them would therefore be of no value?
Is not such blindness the worst poverty of all? The inveterate poverty of the mind. Life imprisonment shackled to one's treasure, the illusion of one's identity and reason of being. But how can one enjoy too many extravagant possessions without becoming their slave and prisoner? Again one thinks of Wilde's wit and wisdom : Le temps est une perte d'argent.

It's a socialist fallacy to believe that we are all born equal, but there's no doubt that in the natural sense we all die equal, and it's not the cost of one's coffin that can alter that.  

Once I went to the casino of Monte Carlo. It was with friends. A visit more for curiosity's sake than for any illusions of actually winning. We had decided that we would spend only a certain, modest amount, and that whoever would at least break even, would settle the restaurant bill elsewhere afterwards. Yet that same evening we saw an eccentric, over dressed, over face-lifted, old lady looking bored and dismal as she played roulette. She nonchalantly cast 500 franc chips on single numbers... A great deal of money in those days. It's probable that she regularly got through a day's dividends of several thousand each tiresome evening. It was as if she were mournfully, half-wittingly huddled in front of a fire, keeping herself warm by feeding it with bank notes. Astonishing.

When I was born, ration books still existed. Those who lived through the war years learnt how to make something out of nothing. There was no other choice. We were brought up to believe that wastefulness was a serious crime. A standard size tin of Heinz beans with toast was then considered sufficient for an evening meal for the six of us, and it was.
It's not a bad experience. Out of necessity you become generally resourceful. You appreciate the good times and natural things all the more. Priceless rainbows, sunrises and sunsets. The priceless gift of life itself, which might make you fortunate enough to become even as rich as old Worthy.

Text and illustration © Mirino. Citations of O.Wilde and Ogden Nash, with thanks. 
June, 2012

No comments: