Saturday 12 January 2013

Day 204: Age is No Crime

'age is no crime/but the shame/of a deliberately/wasted/life/among so many/deliberately/wasted/lives/is.' 

I hate when people define themselves in terms of age (and especially, limit themselves in terms of age.) Age has no power over us.  It is not how old we are, but how much life is in us. Sometimes I wish I could explain this to those age-obsessed people! But Bukowski says it best here - blunt as a bullet, as always.

be kind - Charles Bukowski

we are always asked
to understand the other person's
no matter how
foolish or
one is asked
to view
their total error
their life-waste
especially if they are
but age is the total of
our doing.
they have aged
because they have
out of focus,
they have refused to
not their fault?
whose fault?
I am asked to hide
my viewpoint
from them
for fear of their
age is no crime
but the shame
of a deliberately
among so many


  1. Yes Esther, it certainly is! you're only as old as you feel! Age is an illusion!

  2. I understand the perspective, I usually love Charles Bukowski's poetry, and I understand that there can be wisdom and foolishness at any age, that age is not necessarily a mark of anything but the passing of time. And yet, this poem feels full of a reactive - wounded- harsh judgment which strikes me as short on empathy, wisdom and compassion, and perhaps a little fearful of being tainted by someone else's bitterness, of being afraid of death and of grief or sadness, of having our light dimmed by their shadows... it seems to be condemning grief, which is a process, in which some people become stuck, and which we cannot condemn people out of... or know that we may not become stuck in ourselves at some point... love and kindness (and a good set of boundaries) are, to my mind, the most useful responses to the bitterness of other's regret... along with acceptance that they are already suffering enough - what right do we have to add to that suffering with our judgment and rejection? I think what we say and do is not so important as how we say it or do it...we can believe our own beliefs confidently without having to insist that others adopt them or approve of them, surely? and we must be careful of becoming an ageists at any age - as Nietzsche says about fighting monsters, we must be careful not to become what we are fighting against.... Why must there be blame at all? Is it necessary to feel defensive... Why must we perpetuate an "us and them"attitude towards humans of other ages than our own? In some ways, it seems to me that if we do these things we have internalized the oppressor, and have in our turn become oppressive.... We are all human, and if we are lucky we will each live to be young, teenaged, middle aged, and old.... We all make mistakes, have regrets, change perspective, and when we are younger we may not realize what we will ourselves regret as our perspective changes over time.... I believe that kindness is the highest form of wisdom.... When I am as old as I will become I hope that what I remember of my life is having been kind, though I know that will not be how it's been my whole life... I know that choosing to be outspoken and "right" instead of kind is already something I have lived to regret.... and that in all our relationships, especially with those who are vulnerable, it's good to tread lightly and with loving kindness... we are all still dreaming.... and as long as we are breathing, we have the capacity to change, to becoming unstuck with the aid of the kindness of others, especially those who model the loving kindness we have not learned in the past.... and so we have all the capacity to become more alive...- Kathryn

    1. Hi Kathryn,

      Yes, I agree with some of what you're saying - but lots of Bukowski's poems are full of reactive, wounded, and sometimes, harsh views (that's his style) - I don't know if they're 'judgements' as such, more, his own blunt opinions. He was renowned of course, for his blunt and direct honesty.

      I think he's just saying here that wasting one's life is the real crime - which, I would agree with whole-heartedly - and can see around me in many shapes and forms. People who choose, voluntary, to waste their lives, to do nothing, except sit around and wait to die and feel sorry for themselves. That is a crime, in my opinion. And all throughout Bukowski's life, he rejected society's version of a 'perfect life' which he felt was sanitised and limited and led to this inertia, and chose to go his own way. And all throughout his poetry, he attacks this form of non-living and advocates living life - which he is doing here, in his albeit, blunt way.

      I must say, you express a very enlightened view Kathryn! Kindness, is the ultimate that we should all as human beings, aim for, of course. But if it wasn't for that frisson of conflict that the individual experiences with society (and themselves), then we wouldn't have a lot of poetry (and art).

      Bukowski, especially, if you've read most of his poetry, is very reactionary, a devil-may-care-lash-out-attitude, and mostly a coarse realist who doesn't dwell on kindness and goodness (because that would be naive), but more so, on the reality of the pain and wounds and divisions and differing opinions that life inflicts. But he does this to get at the truth, as he sees it. He tells it as it is, to him. Isn't that what we as artists should all be doing? Even if it conflicts with aspiring to being kind? Shouldn't we be true, first and foremost?

      And Bukowski it has to be said, had seen (and perpetrated) a lot of unkindness in his life. But still, he writes with tenderness about the human condition. He has some beautiful poems on respecting and being compassionate to our fellow man. His poetry on the whole, is full of benevolent and malevolent moods and feelings - in other words , a human being's true and honest response to the world.

      And you can't hold that against him!


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