I’ve written many times about Charles Bukowski’s motto, “Don’t try”. It’s written on the stone that marks his grave, and if you watch the few interviews done with him, he repeats it in all sorts of ways but mostly by saying that “writing was easy” (I paraphrase).
Of course, by the standards of the 19th/early 20th century we’ve got it easy — particularly in work — but then again, there’s very little joy in our lives unless that it is we’re intent on buying our way into it.
For a moment, think of one thing that you do where (in all seriousness) you don’t have to try.
Have you ever considered what it might be like if that one thing infused all your life, or better still was your life?
I know, it all sounds so whimsical.
Also, we’ve been brainwashed to believe that we’ve got to ardently desire something, apply great gobs of perspiration and, hey presto, we can have (almost) anything we like.
…And that was me for a very long time: if I wasn’t half-killing myself, I thought myself a failure. Work was my elixir. No, it was more than that. It was my personhood.
You might ask, what’s wrong with that? I mean, what else are we supposed to do with our lives if it’s not working our proverbial socks off to get somewhere?
It’s a good question. In fact, it’s the question of our age; namely, if we hadn’t invented work, where might we be right now? Sorry, that’s a sleight of hand. The question again: if we weren’t working, what we do with our lives?
I don’t know. The thing is, it’s not within my life’s purview, nor my parents or grandparents. It would be nice to think we could live in the gift economy and we could go back to a more natural, indigenous way of life but that’s just fanciful. For starters, how would we pay for the Health Service, the roads, and all the other things we’ve come to depend on that now makes up our lives?
Back to my ‘don’t try’ point. I accept that even artists and poets need patrons and they, in turn, need money and mostly they’ve made it by their endeavours or inherited it. But then again, if we lived in the gift economy, said artists and poets might be exchanging their gifts for something other than the dollar. That’s what the late Robert Lenkiewicz did and I’m sure applies to many artists.
Don’t worry, I can see how circular this post is and I’m not intending to play word games further than is necessary; but I am inviting you to consider how else you might fill up your life other than with work. I’m not saying you shouldn’t work, but I’m asking gently that you might think about all those other areas of your life that in the process of working harder and harder just to make ends meet you’re leaving undone.
If my experience is anything to go by, the longer you leave them, the harder it is to pick things up again, and the more shallow and repetitious life becomes.
Have a great day.