I have started reading Charles Bukowski recently and finally now understand the genius behind the man. Though I do confess to be a wee bit averse to this term, ‘genius’, owing to the general carelessness with which people typically use it.
I have still read only a few poems in the poetry collection, “Pleasures of the damned” as yet. But enough, to conclude that these are undoubtedly some of the most beautifully written poems that I have ever come across.
In one of his poems, “No leaders, please”, he says,
“Invent yourself and then reinvent yourself,
Don’t swim in the same slough.”
He emphasizes again,
“Invent yourself and then reinvent yourself and
Stay out of the clutches of mediocrity.”
The whole poem is about inventing and reinventing oneself in order to shun mediocrity. I am not of the opinion that mediocrity is something that must be considered as essentially an appalling thing, but if a man is not going to push his limits he will never know what he is capable of achieving. It is too easy to settle for mediocrity and too difficult to keep trying for something beyond that. Not everyone is destined for greatness but it would be utterly wrong to believe that one is just not capable of achieving it, without even giving it a due try.
Mediocrity is a general excuse people give for not trying. They would blame circumstances, people, even the weather. They would just not take responsibility for their own life. And would cruelly ridicule the ones who are crazy enough to try.
It is one thing to try and fail innumerable times; in which case mediocrity is inevitable. It is completely another to have some potential but settle for mediocrity nonetheless. The latter, I believe, is the death of all passion in a person.
I am not saying that I haven’t done this. For I have spent half of my life wasting my time, thinking that people other than myself were responsible for what I have become. After giving it a considerable thought, however, I have reached the conclusion that no one other than myself was responsible for what I did (or did not do) with my life. I was the one who let others rule my emotions and me when I could just as easily have decided that they wouldn’t affect me. I know, it is easier said than done. But now, when I see it all from a distance, I believe I could easily have avoided the pain and the agony that I caused myself. Yes, much havoc was caused in my life that could have easily been avoided had I not let the circumstances get to me.
But they say, all’s well that ends well. And so I believe.
He ends the poem with these motivating yet eloquently simple lines;
“And reinvent your life because you must;
It is your life and its history
And the present belong only to you.”
And I shall definitely remember this.