“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If your going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”
Charles Bukowski in Factotum
I saw that quote recently on someone’s blog. With all due respect to Mr. Bukowski, I disagree. Really? “Going all the way” means potentially losing everything, not eating and losing your mind? I think this is a lesson in self-indulgence, not self-expression. I see writers and other artists who have self-destructive tendencies that get fed by their Bukowski-worship. They clearly confuse being a “bad boy” and self-destructive with being an artist. Nothing could be further from the truth. That’s a very last-century sort of thing and it doesn’t serve us.
Times are changing. I hear people lament how much the world is going to hell but I would argue that life is hell if you make it so. There is a huge difference between living your life and your art full out and getting your jollies doing whatever the fuck you want whenever you want. I am a proponent of moving through life with respect and integrity for LIFE–not just for ourselves and not just others but the wholeness of LIFE. Respect and veneration of the complex web of life that we are all a part of will help us to grow collectively and individually and help us co-create not only great art but a beautiful world.
I agree that a certain amount of isolation or independence is liberating and necessary, both creatively and spiritually (is there really a difference?). We cannot hold on to certainties as artists or humans (is there really a difference?). We must push forward, question authority, question the status quo, break a few rules and push the walls out. This kind of destruction is necessary for creation. However, it must be done mindfully or we lose the preciousness of life. We can love, honor and protect ourselves in the process. We also need to be really mindful of not getting overly identified with isolation. This is a trap of the ego that keeps us from realizing the truth and beauty in life. There is a great deal of potential in co-creation and synergy. This can only be harnessed with respect for the whole.
So yes, go all the way but don’t destroy yourself in the process. Yes, find your own voice and shine brightly but don’t do it at the expense of life, love and respect. The inherent tension between individual liberty and collective responsibility can be reconciled with love and mindful awareness. I believe this with all my heart.
Every thought, every movement, every dance on the web of life affects the whole. We are interconnected in ways that we are learning more about every day. Walk gently or walk boldly but walk with the awareness that you walk on the fibers of your own being.