They couldn’t understand it and they could…They had their food and water right there, but what was that open space? – Charles Bukowski, Post Office
Charles Bukowski was an American writer, though he was born in Germany. I was introduced to his book Ham on Rye – one hell of a book – at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, where there was a copy of the Ham on Rye manuscript on display, in the same room as the Gutenberg Bible…I was so moved by the page of the manuscript that was on display I bought the book in the gift shop.
Post Office came out about ten years before Ham on Rye and though a novel, it is an autobiographical account chronicling Bukowski’s time working for the post office.
Today’s quote came from a time when Bukowski’s character is shacking up with his girlfriend. He is working graveyards at the post office and his girlfriend’s birds keep him up by chirping when he is trying to sleep. Eventually, Bukowski has enough…He can’t really kill the birds, but he does take their cage outside, opens the door and gives them opportunity to flee. The birds aren’t entirely sure what to do.
…but what was that open space?
Us humans are faced with this on a daily basis. We have the comfort of our homes, but what’s that open space calling us? That open space is the 24 hours every day that all of us have, the only commodity all of us are issued in equal measure. It is also the talents and ambitions all of us are born with.
The open space can either be feared or embraced. Those that build good lives for themselves embrace the open space, putting their time and their talents to work for them. Those that end up unhappy generally fear the open space, squandering their lives by wasting their time and ignoring their talents.
It’s not easy fleeing the cage and flying into the open space. It takes courage, and no small measure of it, but our lives are happiest and this planet works best when we do. We must make our time on this planet serve us, instead of merely serving time.