Measuring Up. ~ Ruth Calder Murphy (Arciemme) {Poem}



A few hours after I wrote this poem, my mother told me that here in the United Kingdom, it’s been suggested by the powers that be that cancer drugs should be issued not on the basis of need, but on the “economic value” of the patient.

Of course, in many countries, including the United States, this policy is already in place, in the form of expensive health insurance packages.

Many people draw themselves up in righteous indignation and say that yes, that’s right. A person’s worth should be measured in this way: If you can’t pay your way, you should be left behind.

Do I agree? No. Certainly not.

I don’t agree for many reasons, but this stands out: A person’s worth is not dependent on how they measure up economically, physically or intellectually.

A person who’s never worked because she’s emotionally sick, or someone who’s worked so hard that he’s driven himself to breakdown and will never work again, a person who’s intelligent, bright and witty, but physically incapable of lifting her hand to her mouth, or even the person who struggles so much intellectually, that he’ll never speak in recognizable words—not one of those people is worth less than I am, or less than top scientists, or less than politicians who make these judgements.

Moreover, economic contribution is not a measure of anything, other than, well, economic contribution.

Are we really so materially-minded and so shallow that this is the single most important thing? Are my children, who’ve taught me more and given me more joy in their short lives than anyone else, except perhaps my own parents, really less worthy until they start earning or “contributing economically”? Of course not.

The mistake we make in our so-called civilized societies, is to think that a person’s worth can be measured in these simplistic ways.

Perhaps we need to stop measuring altogether and concentrate on connecting, loving, being. Perhaps, if we do that, our need for expensive cancer drugs will, over time, become so reduced that there’s no need to make “difficult choices” about who gets them. The stress, aggressive behaviour and our ignoring of the health of the planet—and therefore of our own species—that’s so prevalent at the moment, will be laid aside, in favour of gentleness and respect.

We will all be more healthy—in mind, body and spirit.


Don’t measure me with scales and tapes.

I’m not a prize pumpkin that should be reckoned so.

Don’t measure me by height or weight,

discard or accept me, judge me or pity me,

love me or despise me

based on the bodily size of me…


I’d ask you to measure the pleasure my words bring,

or the perspective of my paintings

or the depth of my thought…

but I ought not, for in the dark of night,

when words flee and sight’s irrelevant

and my brain is incapable of anything more than staying afloat

—of staying alive

(And I’m not talking of physical night,

that falls softly and at dawn, slips away,

but the darkness that thunders ‘round my soul,

in plain sight of day…)

What then?

Will I be found wanting when all sense and sanity

have gone away?


Put them away,

your plumb lines and your calipers,

your gauges and thermometers,

scales and tintometers…

Close your eyes, if you must

—what they see is only dust,

though stardust, true, and beautiful…


Now, in the silence and the dark,

feel the beating of your heart

and Spirit, running through.

These things alone are true and they should be

the only measurement of you, or me.



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Ruth Calder Murphy (Arciemme)

Ruth Calder Murphy (aka Arciemme) is a writer, artist, music teacher, wife and mother living in London, UK. Her life is wonderfully full of creativity and low-level chaos. She is the author of two published novels, “The Scream” and “The Everlasting Monday”, several books of poetry and one or two as-yet unpublished novels. She is passionate about celebrating the uniqueness of people, questioning the unquestionable and discovering new perspectives on old wonders. She is learning to ride the waves that come along—peaks and troughs—and is waking up to just how wonderful life really is. You can visit Ruth and view more of her art on her website, or on her writer’s page on Facebook. Her books are available on Amazon, here.