Riding the bus across town today, I’m going for canvases. A book of Charles Bukowski’s letters to editors accompanies me. The letters are so personal it touches nicely a nerve to see how he was. I’m sitting in the back enjoying the sights and soaking up this man’s mind. I’ll need to pick up a pen before the art store.
It matters who my heroes are. Who is more “every man” than Bukowski? It tells me what’s important to me. I study the photos of the writer seated at a humble desk facing a wall with plaques, he’s in his underwear and with a drink. Scotch was it? Sacrificing for the art is an important concept and we’ve seen plenty of examples of the wrong way to carry out that notion. Bukowski is one of those who died younger than he should have because of the drink and the smoke which were the comfort he allowed himself. Other things like wives and lovers could go to hell but these two, they would never leave him and his typewriter.
So many of us want to speak for others but that’s not going to get us to the finish line is it? Riding the bus today has me on the subject of collective action and how does a project get carried out? How do humans do big and good things? The like-minded unite, right? People come together in agreement. Perhaps their agreement is centered on something rejected–something their group dislikes–but their aim is to achieve something. The concerted effort is what reins in the change sought after. Some individuality must be sacrificed for the collective and that is a voluntary action. It’s an agreement entered into.
Is this a gift? Is it altruism to enter into this agreement with a group to collectively enact something? Is there personal gain expected from the agreement? If it makes you happy to help the under-served, then this happiness is a fair outcome. It’s a harmonious goal. This is compassion. Win/wins do happen in life.
The only way to make myself a bigger person is to let go of more ‘self’. Debts and balances can’t overshadow what’s right. “You owe me” is not a mindset cohesive to healthy inter-dependence. Healthy co-existence depends upon a sane level of true compassion and compassion is not keeping track.
So often we see a power battle ensue while objectivity evaporates from existence. It’s a subject important in politics, love, and life. All interactions happen in relation to compassion. Some have no compassion at all.
Even Bukowski’s compassion comes through in these letters of his. Most of them are in regard to rejection letters he’d gotten but you can see that literary imagination and courage light him up and he expects these to light others up as well as he accepts his fate, continually. Such is his craft. It’s his gift to the world. Bukowski sacrificed himself, in ways, to his art. I’m grateful.
At the very end of that one you see my just start to paint Bowie, that was the night I learned of his death and started painting.
The next one is painting Bowie but sped up. It’s so much better in fast motion. There will be a part 2 of that theme.
Here’s the previous post, Part 2: