In May, 2020, Tomos Roberts (aka “TomFoolery”), a spoken word poet based in the UK, wowed our Covid-stricken world by composing and performing “The Great Realization.” (I blogged on the performance, some 15 months ago.)
In that “pandemic poem,” Roberts argued that the earth-shattering effects of Covid-19 offered an unparalleled opportunity to appreciate what matters–from one’s family to the environment that groans from our abuse. Other narrative poems have followed, all featuring Tom’s trademark rhyming couplets and indomitable cheerfulness, which coexists with his awareness of the injustices that fill the news.
Shortly after the success of “The Great Realization” (which American actor Jake Gyllenhaal promoted as a future children’s story), Tom encouraged the Covid-weary by delivering another poem, “The Inventor.” When Covid continues to wear on us and when so many of us lament the ongoing degradation of our earth, Tom’s speaker’s exchange with the cynical “inventor” (an authority figure and naysayer) may offer us insight and thereby hope:
“Sat in a chair, with a desk in the way, he’s looking at me looking like I know what to say.
What would you like to be, he unloads to the air, with his steely hard, unhelpful stare.
An inventor, I say, as I hold his eye, there’s a smirk across his face that doesn’t fail to pass me by. “An inventor,” he exclaims and then giggling repeats. “Do you have a new invention that this planet really needs?”
I’ve held my tongue for long enough, the effrontery’s too great, but calmly I stay smiling like I’m talking to a mate.
I’m sorry, I’m not here to pitch your product. I’m sure you couldn’t comprehend but if I were you I’d cool down a touch and try not to condescend.
I haven’t reinvented the light bulb, there’s plenty of people making phones. I don’t have a shiny gadget or an appliance for our homes.
No, I picture a new society. One of freedom, and of beauty, where people aren’t given menial positions and where every member knows their duty. I picture one in which rights and freedoms are afforded every soul, and not dependent on arbitrary factors but with a humanistic goal.
I picture a place without such structures, where only a tiny few can win–a place where we don’t oppress one another based upon pigmentation in our skin.
Maybe we could get to a place where health and education are free, since they’re things of incalculable value or at least that’s how it appears to me.
Maybe we could work less, as I see no reason why, if we had the technology available, anyone should toil until they die.
I picture one where leaders are chosen for diplomacy and not selected for brute power, one with structures of support for those that meet their darkest hour.
I picture a place where big business would be tasked with innovation and we instilled societal guidance to deter from domination. Competition is good. If it drives us to improve. But the utility doesn’t last long, if all the rest of us must lose.
I picture a place where dance and art and poetry can be held in high esteem, where children are encouraged to be creative, to imagine, and to dream. I can see you rolling your eyes at this but telling me it’s not true that imagination and creativity are things that robots just can’t do. A place where justice learns to operate without such human bias, that we can enjoy the gift of music, and the calm effect of quiet.
I believe that this is possible. I believe this is where we’re heading. I believe that this isn’t fantasy or just a story that I’m telling.
I believe that I have a part to play and I believe that so do you.
I believe that by believing it becomes more likely to be true.
I believe there are those who will slow us, due to lack of wisdom or private gain.
I believe that it’ll be hard to create and even harder still to maintain.
I believe we’re in touching distance, of being so much greater, because life’s a game, and a game will always be so much bigger than the player.
I know you don’t believe it’s possible. I can see you shake your head. But you know, the only reason we don’t already live in that world is because we haven’t invented it yet.”
Listen to Tom perform this poem, himself:
(c) Tomos Roberts (TomFoolery)
And now it’s your turn: Who is the “inventor” in your life, who challenges the value of your creativity, your inventiveness? Could it be the pandemic, itself?
Please drop me a note; I’d be delighted to hear from you.