Bit of a rough week adjusting to some new glasses (progressives because… age), so since my life is basically feeling like one big adjustment, I didn’t have much inclination to work on Adjustment. However, since I don’t want to leave anyone hanging (especially myself), how about a poem that I go back to from time to time called “The Secret of My Endurance” by Charles Bukowski?
This has always been a favorite “later” Bukowski poem for me because it uses self awareness and humor to lend some perspective to an artist who had built a persona for himself of the mad, drunken underdog living on the edge. The first half of the poem is kind of what you’d expect from that persona – talking about the lost and the desperate, how they identify with him, and to some degree, how he identifies with them.
About halfway through is where things start to take a turn before really going sideways. This is a man who used to live in the slums who has now seen some success, gotten himself together some money, and is living what could be considered the “good life”. Of course, the funny part is that if you believe what some of his friends and his publisher say, Hank always had some money that he didn’t touch – that he lived below his means and wasn’t quite the stumbling loser in his some of his poems.
The idea of having the young boy to write his stuff and the critics loving it more is what always gives me a chuckle. Bukowski didn’t so much change as evolve – his style changed a bit as he got older, but he also still lived his life by some of the same core principles. He lived below his means, he was a keen observer of the human race, he still saw himself as an outsider, and most importantly, he still showed up for work at the typewriter most every day.
That workman-like approach to writing and creating art was the real secret of his endurance… and probably the one safe aspect of his life to borrow from as well.