Podcast: Charles Bukowski – You Get So Alone At Times That It Just Makes Sense
Hi, and welcome back to the Radio of Resistance. I am your host, Thanh Dinh, who had overcome the weary of sleepless nights, walked across tideless ocean, and crossed barren, cold, cruel bosom of the deserts to come back to you with another episode.
Because I made a promise to you that the resistance will be back. And it will be stronger than ever. And the me who have been so very tired of broken promises and the impossibility of dreams just have to will myself back to the resistance, no matter what.
So, within the week that I had been gone, the world had been on fire. Not that I had anything to do with it, because I believe I will never have that big of an importance on anything, anyone, or any matter, really.
No. It’s never one person. It’s all of us.
Before I get into Charles Bukowski and Arthur Rimbaud, I would like to have a few words about George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. If the content might offend you in any ways, feel free to quit the episode now, or fast forward to the part about Charles Bukowski. But if the content is what you come here for, as with any other episode of the Resistance, feel free to stay.
Sometimes after George Floyd’s death, I came upon a series of art to raise awareness about Black Lives Matter, which contained the last words by African American victims who were killed by police force.
You know, I often thought words alone hardly have any power with it. It’s the back story. It’s the emotion. The history. The lives after the words were said and the lives that were lived before them.
And this series of Black Lives Matter art hits it right there: the highest power of words. The strongest power of meaning. That the people who were shot, the people who were killed, the people who said those last words, once lived a life like us.
They go to the grocery store like us. They sometimes stop at their usual coffee store like us while wondering whether they should order the store’s new drinks like us. They often – maybe far too often – forget to air out the laundry like us. They might not like cleaning their room, after all, cleaning does not always bring joy like how Marie Kondo teaches us.
And suddenly, on a normal night, while our life moves on, their lives end.
They ends with simple words. Like “Don’t shoot.” Or “You shot me.” Or “I don’t have a gun.”
Or “I can’t breathe.”
They are college students. Football players. Passerby. If you force me to point out something – anything – in common between them, dear sir and madam, there’s only one. It’s the color of their skin.
I used to take a Psychology 101 course in college. My professor posits that the minority often faces prejudiction and discrimination because the proportion of the people in their community who commit the crimes to the proportion of their whole community is, in the eyes of the normal community, or the majority community, disproportionally large. And thus, they are far more likely face stigma, stereotype, prejudiction, and discrimination.
Like a black dot on a white paper. If the paper is large enough, you can hardly see the black dot. But if the paper is too thin, too small, the black dot is all you can see.
Seeing the series of the Black Live Matters art, I wonder what the police officers see in the victims’ eyes. Is it the black dot? Is it the white paper? Is it a human, belong to a minority community, which, unfortunately, had been subjected to a history of racism, brutality, injustice, and discrimination?
I was handy with a rifle
My father’s .303
We fought for something final
Not the right to disagree.Happens to the Heart, Leonard Cohen
We fought many wars. We’ve been to many battles. We’ve seen blood shed and lives being lost. There are two comrades eating food ration by our side this morning, and now there are only us.
And yet, we still maintain the right to disagree.
We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.Charles Bukowski
I won’t be dancing around who Charles Bukowski was, just like how later on, I won’t dance around who Arthur Rimbaud was. After all, as Mr. Bukowski puts it, those are trivialities, and I dont’ want to be eaten up but them.
Just like how in the world outside, people always let the trivialities eat them up real sweet.
I wonder until when we will realize that, no matter what our skin color is, no matter what sins we commit, no matter what good deeds we ever do, it won’t save us from dying. I wonder if we will be horrified by that thought once we realize it. Or just like me, you will feel a sense of relief. A sense of nothing ever matter anymore. A sense of all is well.
A sense of because we are going to the end, this, too, shall pass.
Right when I realized that thought, I went up and hugged my mother. My mother shall pass. She will pass before me. Her burdern will also end before mine, and for that, I should be glad. She held my hands in hers and asked me what’s wrong with her gentle smile, and though within that moment, nothing was wrong, this was forever ingrained in my heart.
That we are all dying. That one of these days, I will continue to fight this battle alone, without my mother – my strongest comrade and commander. That it is true, as with all battles, there might be two of us this morning, but there will always be only me this evening. And I must go on.
And for God’s sake, can we foresake the right to disagreement?
You know I’m damned! I’m drunk, crazy, livid,
Whatever! But please, go to bed:
I don’t want anything to do with your torpid thoughts.The Righteous Man…, Arthur Rimbaud
It’s hard to find any better storytelling in poetry better than Arthur Rimbaud’s. It’s even harder to find any better satire in poetry than Arthur Rimbaud’s. But I will leave it at that, because I believe that in my audience, there has forever and always been an Arthur Rimbaud, and I don’t want my Arthur Rimbaud to blur out yours.
And we will leave it at that to go back to Mr. Rimbaud’s Righteous Man. A person who is damned. Who you can called a drunkard, crazy, livid, or whatever. But never Righteous. A person who demands to be free of your torpid thoughts and standards. He demands to be living, to not be framed by words, to not be treated as a dead definition. To be free.
And I wonder how many of us had, once in our lives, thought like that. I don’t want to be righteous. Call me anything you like. Use your torpid thoughts and dead definitions against me, I don’t mind. I have grown to weary of choosing side, and I don’t know if your side is a better bargain because staying this long in the battle, we both know there’s no wrong or right. So I will stay here. I will fight for something final. And stop calling me righteous, I don’t want to be a hero.
[…] the courage it took to get out of bed each
to face the same things
over and over
was enormous.the freeway life, Charles Bukowski
This is coming from the author who declared that life in America is a curious thing. I guess life everywhere, as it happens, is a curious thing. The lines above are the ending lines after the description of the incident where Mr. Bukowski had to deal with his car keep on being broken on the freeway. The courage to get out of bed each morning, of course, relates less to his car than to living the freeway life.
The life of knowing your gasoline tank breaks but have no one to call and the people behind keep pushing you out of their way. The life where all you can depend upon is some service done by some strangers whom you rarely have a chance to get to know better. And after all, why should you know them better? Perhaps after knowing you better, they will stop fixing your car. The life of thinking everything has finally gone back to normal, then God turns around and notices that he had been far too easy on you this time so he decides to pull another 90 on the freeway and break your car again.
Yest, that kind of life. The courage it took to get out of bed each morning to face the same things over and over – to face that kind of life over and over – was enormous.
And curiously enough, we all share that kind of life.
No less beautifully, and with no fear of the grave,
Let him believe in open endings, Dreams
Or endless Promenades through nights of Truth,
And may he call you to his soul and sickly limbs,
O Sister of charity, O mystery, O Death!Sisters of Charity, Arthur Rimbaud
Where Bukowski treats life as a burden, Rimbaud treats life, and death, as an acceptance of the truth. Yes, we’ve been living. Yes, the result of the living is the dead. Yes, I have no question about that. And when the time calls for me, I will return to the home where I once was, no less beautifully, and with no fear of the grave.
It is fair to say, if you have made it this far into the podcast, that I am Charles Bukowski, and I long to be Arthur Rimbaud. I am living the freeway life, I know that we are all going to die, and to me, life is a curious thing. I muster the enormous courage required of me to wake up in the morning and face the same thing, over and over again.
But while living as Bukowski in disguise, I long for the one of these days, where I can see beauty of flowers in the eyes of the young Arthur Rimbaud. The disgust he showed for the torpid thoughts of humanity. The rebel he held against the ugly dead definition. I yearn to have the same youthful heart that holds passion and desire near and dear. A heart that fear nothing of the death and nothing of the living. A heart that finds within it the strength to believe there is beauty beneath the grotesque surface that life shows to it.
And though to me, Charles Bukowski will always has his reasons, after all, to him, “nothing matters and we know nothing matters and that matters …,” his poems sometimes are too pessimistic. And I think that we will fare better in this business call “Life” if we allow ourselves to enjoy Rimbaud’s flowers and sea-bearer here and there. And if you ask what do I mean with that, it’s easy.
You can find enough poison and strong liquor in Charles Bukowski’s works, and for that, you can only find relief in Arthur Rimbaud’s beautiful verses.
Don’t live the Bukowski life. Live the Rimbaud life. A life where no dead definition and humanity’s torpid thoughts can define you. A life where you are your own rebel.
Whether in Babylon or Bayonne –
Let them ramble, let them range
Over paper like low moans:
Graze the poem: make it strange.On the subject of flowers: Remark, addressed to the poet, Arthur Rimbaud
I also think it is strange that I should end this episode with a quote from Rimbaud’s critique on another poet’s work. But I don’t want you to focus on the clever word play and the fiery emotion Rimbaud had put in the long remark. I only want to focus on how Rimbaud had ended the poem, and how I want to end my podcast with it. No matter where you are, physically, emotionally, literally, metaphorically, be a rebel. Let your poems ramble, let them range. Graze your poems, make them strange.
And yes, indeed, it takes an enormouse strength to get out of bed each morning to face the same thing over and over again. But there are more to living the freeway life than facing the same thing each and every morning. There are more to living that just existing and breathing.
For example, within this very moment of chaos and unrest, you can leave your freeway life. You can step out of the dark. You can leave your broken car behind and join the mass of people who are fighting for a cause higher that you.
Like Arthur Rimbaud, you can be a rebel. And there is no better time than now to be a rebel.
For all of you who had made it to the end of the episode, thank you, sincerely, from the bottom of my heart. If you want to support the podcast, which is dearly in need of support, please become a Patron on my Patreon, which is linked in the podcast description. If there is an author you want to share with me, or if you just want someone to talk, send me an email at the address in the podcast description. For more of my works, which include a poetry collection, short proses, and novels, you can check out my blog at tasteofsmallthings.com.
Once again, thank you for your patience. This is Thanh Dinh, and you are listening to the Radio of Resistance.