A Few Simple Questions

A Few Simple Questions

by Saul Spiro
A satiric take on the Mental Status Exam.
In This Article…


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"I am going to ask you a few simple questions. Do not be concerned. Just try to answer them to the best of your ability.

First of all, could you tell me the name of this place where you are now?"

I responded that the places
where a person was,
were mere constructs
of coincidence and arbitrary
and that where I was now
was safely ensconced within my own
where I was expected to remain,
as all the other places in the
faded away
during my silently whispered
departure for a

"Could you tell me what day of the week it is, and the date today?

The days of the week have been voided
for those who have retired,
and months only count for those
who pay bills and receive
------or watch the lunar
As for the year,
we recall only our first birthday,
and we anticipate that date which
will be chiseled into the stone
commemorating our last.
The rest only count for those foolish enough
to still play the game
of caring.

"Could you tell me my name, please?"

I could not have told you your name
at a time when it still made
a difference to me.

Now it not only makes no difference,
but it is clearer
that the process of naming only
serves to obscure
the essence of
which I am more aware of
as labels
and their declensions
drop away
from all that matters.

"Now I am going to tell you some proverbs, and ask you to say what they mean to you. O.K.?"

"A rolling stone gathers no moss."

In fact, all stones gather moss.
For it is
that all objects which roll
encounter resistance
which some call friction,
and friction depletes momentum,
eventually causing them to come
to rest---------
and to gather moss,
which is the life and universal
which softens and obscures
the oblivion
ultimately embracing
us all.

"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. What does that mean to you?"

A bird in the hand
is never the equal
of two in the bush,
for Platonic ideals exist beyond
our external vision,
flying freely through the rarified
of imagination
into the creative skies
of our psyches,
and even into the mysterious
storms beyond the
of our power.

"People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."

This is a strange and paradoxical
For those who are courageous
and confident enough
to permit themselves transparency
before the hostile
should also be vigorous
and bold enough
to engage it in worthy combat,
and to defend the beauty
of transparency,
and that which lies within the
open gates
of candor and

(into a dictating machine) "Orientation as to time, place and person are severely impaired. Abstracting ability is non-existent. In its place we find intellectualization, digression, and idiosyncratic, personalistic, rambling misinterpretations verging on delusion. There is grandiosity as well as evidence of melancholia."

All in all,
the questions were simplistic,
and the questioner was moralistic,
culture-bound to the most
prosaic formulas,
possessed limited imagination,
was quite presumptuous,
and fairly boring.
He asked the same set of questions
for days on end,
perseverating to a degree which
suggested neuronal vacuities,
and I had the impression that he felt
some power
over me,
causing me to wonder if he has
the same delusive debility
which afflicts most people's
relationship with the universe  

Copyright © 2003 Psychotherapy.net. All rights reserved.
Saul Spiro retired from the practice and teaching of psychiatry in 1994, and focuses his attention on his second career of would-be author and sculptor. He resides in the San Juan Islands with his wife, two dogs, five peacocks, and Franco, a hedgehog who wandered into the area and now has settled into his living room, along with two worm farms for her provisions.