A Life-Exam

Robert Crawford

Answer truthfully from your own heart:

1. Rewrite The Waste Land using only English words of one syllable.

2. Rearrange the entire Bible into two columns, one headed KNOWLEDGE, the other WISDOM.

3. How many women did Henry VIII fancy, apart from his wives?

4. Make one of the following dramatic entrances: Natural, Caesarian, Episiotomy.

5. While breathing regularly, count up your limbs and cry.


Love comes before a fall in
Love conquers all in
Love-in ...


I love ...

7. Knit together the plates of your skull correctly.

8. Successfully avoid all of the following: cot-death, meningitis, heart-defects, leukaemia, projectile vomiting, polio (continued in the third volume)

9. Relax.

10. Negotiate the almost simultaneous sale of your present home, mortgage arrangements, the purchase of another, roomier dwelling in exceptional order, a minor illness, a break-in and giving birth.

11. Fall in love with a refugee from a completely different culture, whose parents are clearly, kindly against you and who wants to move to America.

12. Have you broken the following Ten Commandments? Answer each just yes or no.

13. Escape from this trap.

14. Record honestly your feelings before hearing from your surgeon the Pathology Lab’s full report on your sample of tissue excised.

15. Fill this bottle with urine, tears, or sperm.

16. Realise while in another country you should have married someone you knew quite well back home.

17. Act on this.

18. Without the aid of a calculator, Napier’s Bones, parent, child or prior instruction, emulate ancient arithmeticians’ calculation of pi.

19. Grow a tree. Manufacture a light bulb. Weave a carpet. Make paper. Be humble.

20. Calculate the liquid viscosity of a dead parental eye.

21. Rewrite at least one of the following: Kipling’s ‘If’, your National Health number, the official birthdays of the Royal Family, your vaccination details, your unchosen names.

22. Which of the following is incorrect? The New Testament; the Gitas; the Koran.

23. To whom is each of these most important? Hitler, Jesus, Greta Garbo, you.

24.With a view to bioengineering suggest at least six names for new animals.

25. Imagine your reaction to the news that all the technologies of your childhood are utterly outmoded junk.

26. Preserve these four fashion items: flared trousers, nose rings, moustaches, clones.

27. Try to understand the laws of physics.

28. If appropriate, break your voice here.

29. Describe accurately the following diagram:

30. Draw a diagram of your own:

31. How many words can be made from letters of the Western alphabets?

32. Catch and cook lunch.

33. While estimating the atomic weights of trichloroethylene and palladium plus mendeleevium work out if the one in the corner fancies you.

34. Attend a funeral.

35. Die.

36. Describe the onset of your first period.


Avoid this subject entirely.

37. Describe a new ritual appropriate to EITHER masturbation OR the purchase of a used car.

38. Write a poem in the style of Homer, beginning ‘If I won the National Lottery ...’

39. Make love.

40. Do not read Finnegans Wake.

41. Which of the following domestic items seems to you most useful for the practice of augury? tealeaves; crazy paving; used nappies.

42. If you were given your chance again which three questions might you answer differently?

43. Name several people who found the New World.

44. Name several people who lost it.

45. ‘God is love.’ Discuss.

46. Who would you most like to meet?
the inventor of the guillotine;
the inventor of the repeating rifle;
the inventor of toilet paper.

47. Which independent country has as its capital Reykjavik; Harare; Dublin; Edinburgh?

48. If allowed your own private army, would it comprise (a) your immediate family, (b) your town, (c) the complement of a modest nuclear submarine, or (d) 500 million souls?

49. Should your life become the subject of a soap opera, would the audience find it (a) amusing, (b) triumphant, c) compulsively watchable, or (d) none of the above?

50. Describe your spiritual exercise regime.

51. Write about the (non-financial) disadvantages of early retirement.

52. Propose an original toast.

53. If you had to choose to be a forest fruit which would you be and why?

54. Construct a cv dealing with all areas of your life other than those of work.

55. Produce Freudian, Jungian and Thatcherite analyses of yourself.

56. Now analyse yourself in terms of your favourite religion.

57. Write an essay called ‘My Own Environmental Achievements’.

58. Summarise in ten words the history of your greatest love.

59. Where do you see yourself in 50 years’ time?

60. Think about water.

61. Could you tell by the syllabic patterns of names of people you met how much they would come to mean in your life?

62. Could you tell by bumps, angularities and other phrenological signs on heads of people you met how much they would come to mean in your life?

63. Could you tell by looking at the clothes of people you met how much they would mean in your life?

64. Could you tell just by the sex of people you met how much they would mean in your life?

65. Could you tell by looking deeply into the eyes of people you met how much they would mean in your life?

66. List a hundred personal possessions you could readily do without.

67. Now list a further hundred.

68. What is the question you’d most like to have asked and never dared to answer?

69. Write here the names of those you pray for.

70. Write here to whom you pray.

71. From here on you may add optional questions, and need not supply answers.

(Success or failure in the above paper will lead inevitably to riches or poverty; define these in your own terms.)