Skid row was disgusting. The life of the sane, average man was dull, worse than death. – Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye
Charles Bukowski was an American poet and writer. We were introduced to Bukowski in 2011 at the Huntington Library in southern California. In the same room as one of eleven Gutenberg Bibles known to exist, was an original manuscript of Ham on Rye. It was open to a page where the main character, who was based on Bukowski, was about to get beaten for the first time by his father.
We stood there and read the passage over and over. We wrote down the title and the author so we wouldn’t forget it. We didn’t need to, though, because the people that run the Huntington Library are not idiots and it was not the Upset of the Year to find Ham on Rye for sale in the gift shop.
Ham on Rye is one hell of a book, as good as we’ve read, with Bukowski contributing no less than 30 quotes to our personal quotebook, an extraordinarily high number for what is a novel of average length.
Fans of Bukowski are familiar with the theme of today’s Thought, because Bukowski talks a lot about ordinary people leading ordinary lives and Bukowski’s characters spend no small amount of time coming to terms with the mindlessness of everyday life, about the conformity required to get along, much less get ahead.
This is hardly a bulletin. In fact, it is the sum of our human experience since time immemorial. You’re born and you die. In between you pass a life, a life of undetermined length, a life you generally have no idea when it will end.
…dull, worse than death.
Why do some people seem to avoid the life Bukowski talks about, while others appear not to? The difference lies in those who get the most out of the gifts they were issued at birth and those who do not.
A good life awaits those who look deep inside, realize the life they were meant to live and have the courage to go and live that life. It sometimes means going against the grain, even when most people you know might not. People who do this generally look back at lives well-lived Those who don’t might well be looking back at time squandered.
When in doubt, be yourself. Answer to what summons you from deep inside because we can’t climb Mount Everest if we are aimlessly wandering around the Gobi Desert.
The Thought for the Day runs regularly. Quotes are from Gaylon’s personal quotebook – begun in 1988 – and all commentary is original.