"If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery--isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you'll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is."
1. First, most people who follow the "only follow your passion" advice WILL fail, so not only will they have lost their "girlfriends, wives, relatives", etc., but they'll feel the dejection of it not being successful.
2. More importantly, and this is really my main point, but I think most people who follow this advice and succeed will find it is a pyrrhic victory. When you've reached what you thought was they pinnacle of your success, but you look around and you see you've burned most of your bridges to get there, it turns out to be a very lonely place.
I think the vast majority of people will find that if they give appropriate attention to their self care and their relationships, it will make achieving their goals easier, not the other way around.
This is beautiful. This is my experience as a 30 year serial start-up man.
When I say to myself - "I will do whatever it takes to make this work" vs. "We'll see what happens" these have always been two distinct universes in terms of the journey.
"Whatever it takes" is always a nightmare filled with anxiety and stress, but the second attitude - I've rarely experienced any kind of real success with.
Both journeys are pain. The first is racked with anxiety and obsession the second is mostly fear and indecision.
The end state of both is relief. But "We'll see what happens" most always ends with some form of regret - perhaps I didn't do something I could have. Woulda coulda shoulda. And then it's over.
"I'll do whatever it takes" is always a crazy ride towards an unknown destination, has cost me far more than I anticipated, and the rewards are never what I predicted to begin with. But it's this universe I rarely regret (and reportedly those that were along for the ride with me).
So yeah, "If you're going to try, go all the way" resonates strongly with me.
It's also a perfect summary of why I'm struggling mightily with working a predictable job (that anyone should love) vs working on my next business or other volatile pursuit.
I need to get Go All The Way tattooed on my forehead. I hope it's a mindset I have the courage to maintain for the rest of my life.
However, I think if you linked the actual interview, it would be inappropriate according to HN's content standards: Bukowski uses some very colorful language.
 I was slightly incorrect in my previous post, she wasn't his wife yet at the time of the interview.
Bukowski spent most of his life being Bukowski. Better results than the post-office position. Beats the great, grey middle all to hell.
For us it's great, we get Bukowski. For Bukowski, it seems less enjoyable.
When you depart for Ithaca,
wish for the road to be long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
Don't fear the Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon.
> You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter.
Giving up doesn't sound sexy. It's definitely something everyone should learn, but hey, maybe we aren't "selling" the concept well enough.
In my experience, in most cases where you have to give up, what you really have to do is to stop trying to achieve a certain abstract goal through a certain specific method. Not renounce to the goal, the drive, the passion itself, but renounce to the methods, the rigid views you might hold.
Maybe you want to write great songs, but you are failing because you are just trying to repeat something similar to what your favourite artist already did. Maybe you want to get better grades, but are just re-reading the lessons, expecting something to stick, when you are not even focusing on it or trying to understand the previous lessons that lead to the current one. Maybe you want to jump a 2 meter fence, but you are just running against it, without ever having tried with smaller ones first.
It's never so simple, but this is the main point.
Sometimes we have to face reality. In many cases, the only thing we need to give up is our naive views and past mistakes. Some people will repeat the same mistake over and over and call that "trying really hard". Sorry, but no. Trying really hard is not that. Trying really hard is being able to let go your naivety, to keep exploring alternatives, to keep learning, and learning, and failing, and going back and retry in a different way.
[and this is still not what you were talking about]
Go all the way with it, don't trade yourself for whatever "benefits" offered to you, well, by your own mind, first of all.
Once you're out of _that_ slavery, then you're truly free wherever you are and whatever you do.
What was their life expectancy?
I worked remotely for a whole year and it was 100x better than working in an office. I can only imagine what only working 8 hours a week is like.
You won't have much free time if you and your family can only aspire to reach the ripe old age of 30, if you manage to be the lucky ones who are lucky on the infant mortality lotto.
That was never the case though; ancient societies had much lower life expectancy at birth because they were very likely to die in early childhood. People who made it to adulthood, sure, didn't live as long as today on average, but the difference is much smaller than life expectancy at birth numbers would suggest. You seem to recognize the high infant mortality, but not understand how it affects the other stats like life expectancy at birth.
You're desperately trying to avoid the question. Their free time doesn't mean anything if they die in their 30s while living a life where they are forced to endure famines and the deaths of loved ones for avoidable problems such as lack of medical care.
Yes, there is - their age.
What is your criticism? Working for someone else? Not everyone can own a business.
A person who makes a good wage and carves out a life for themselves is successful by any metric. As far as erections, I hope when you reach the twilight years you will have more on your mind than getting hard.
Just not by the metrics discussed in TFA, which is the whole point. It's not like everybody agrees that "a good wage" is success.
wagecuck -> working stiff
when you can no longer maintain an erection -> when you are past the prime of your life
With these simple substitutions you can once again sound like a reasonable human being who is not overly fixated on unnecessary crude sexual imagery.
Considering that we're discussing a Bukowski letter (who was "overly fixated on unnecessary crude sexual imagery" and proud of it), this is not necessarily advisable.
It sounds like a suggestion for the parent to "empty out" and adopt the officially tolerated sensitivity/language, lest some office drones be outraged.
You’re saying that only seems true because people who succeed repeat it?
I feel like survivorship bias is more about obscure tricks that happen to work well for a random group of people who happened to succeed. No?
The text reads like a lottery winner praising the virtues of spending all their savings on lottery tickets just because he got lucky. Will and determination alone are not relevant if the main factor -- opportunity -- is out of our control and might never materialize.
I’m not claiming that magic exists, that’s a straw man.
Because he got lucky. No, sacrificing everything for the goal does not always get you the goal. There's 1,000 Bukowskis out there, many better, and we'll never hear of them.
Sometimes you waste it all, and then you're supposed to look back and say, "Well, at least I gave it my all, and I just had bad luck." Yeah, that's really fucking comforting.
It's about intrinsic vs extrinsic rewards. For him, writing poetry was a reward in itself, and he didn't see himself joining the standard nine-to-five society anyway. So, even if he had failed after 40 years of writing during evenings and weekends, he wouldn't have any regrets. Of course, if someone does say startups just to get rich, and hates every minute of it, then it, if the spoils never materialize in the end, it will lead to bitterness.
But I've never seen a great musician in a crappy venue. And when I see a world class musician it is undeniable that they are great.
In my experience there are 1000s of writers not quite as good as Bukowski and some of them will make it but very few. When a truly great writer comes along I believe the hard part is actually writing the great literature and not finding a publisher.
What does being better have to do with it? Are you arguing against the idea that the best people always succeed? I don’t think I said that.
Because he is evidently a survivor. I guess we need more info on other who tried the same and succeeded or failed to really decide, but nonetheless it's one person reporting on their experience. It has all the hallmarks of it.
> if you are willing to sacrifice everything for a goal, you’ll beat out everyone else purely due to attrition.
Big assumption that persistence assures success. It likely is a significant factor but that does not seem to be what you are saying.
I'll put it another way - I don't accept it is a tautology.
My SO achieved so much, had it all, got through grad school great, was going to teach at a University I know you have heard of, do amazing research all over the world, help out humanity in a very real way, all that jazz. Then, bam, the pain started up and has never left. The chonic pain disorder my SO has is a real sumbitch. I love my SO, terribly so. But all that my SO had just evaporated into the pain. Just one bad infection, like about 2% of the US gets, and there it all went.
No amount of drive is going to fix it. No amount of work. My SO can't work through the pain as it exacerbates the condition. Lord knows my SO spent months and years just trying to ignore it, making it worse the whole while. That pain just winds you, for days at a time. Takes it all.
And the shame that my SO feels just kills me. All the desires, all that motivation and drive that my SO had, it's all still there, clawing at my SO's mind, telling itself that my SO is 'just not good enough'. That person is still there, just enveloped with pain, trying to break out and work again. What gave my SO everything, all that honor and accomplishment, is not tearing into my SO and making it all worse.
Bukowski isn't wrong, per se, but he is not right either. That fire is dangerous in the wrong circumstances and it's very difficult to tell when you are in the wrong place.
One quote that has really changed as it has aged is that Bourdain quote:
> “I understand there’s a guy inside me who wants to lay in bed, smoke weed all day, and watch cartoons and old movies. My whole life is a series of stratagems to avoid, and outwit, that guy.”
Yet Anthony died by his own hand. That drive, that spark and thumos, it was his undoing as much as it was his making. Would he have been as a sucess if not for that drive? The only person that could tell you is dead.
So, sure, sleep on the benches for it, go to jail for it, but remember, there are worse things than just temporary discomforts, mockery, and dishonor waiting in the weeds along that path.
If you're constantly striving and chasing some personal goal, ie. "once I achieve this, THEN I'll be happy" then there are two major risks. The first is that you'll fail - the fallout from this is obvious since your happiness was a self-imposed condition of achieving said goal. The second risk is that you do not live to see your goal, or, unfortunately as you've described in your personal story, the goal will become worthless for one reason or another - such as a major personal crisis or illness.
That's not to say you shouldn't strive for great things or have lofty goals and plans. I personally don't have the answers on the "key to happiness and success", but I do know that always chasing and never stopping to reflect or enjoy what you actually have can't be healthy either. I suppose that's where a lot of the power of things like meditation and mindfulness come from; because they're about being in the moment.
Personally, I think it's important to take each day as it comes and aim to be the best version of yourself you can be that day. You win some, you lose some, but hopefully, the cumulative effect of more good days outweigh the bad, and you can one day reflect on that without too much regret and with some sense of happiness.
On another note, Bukowski's requested that "Don't Try" is engraved on his tombstone. Some feel it is a comment about being authentic, not pursuing or pushing for something that isn't you, and about letting the work you naturally enjoy flow from you, as opposed to forcing it - or trying too hard.
Sometimes people achieve their goal only to realize that happiness didn't follow.
Of all the people I know who have made a similar statement and then found success, this was the most common outcome.
Being happy can be a surprising amount of work, and there aren't any instructions. It's better to figure out how you can be happy while also spending time on the goals you think are worthwhile. If you need them, there are other tricks you can use to motivate yourself that don't involve deliberately sabotaging your own well-being.
It is the human condition told by the laws of large numbers. Devilish people prosper and divine people suffer. The only option is to do your best with what you got, and help your community do the same.
You gotta keep on keepin' on. Life's a garden, ya dig?
It does, however, make it a lot more likely.
Conversely: Not working hard makes failure a near certainty.
Success requires luck and doing, action. The odds are strongly against you in most all cases, even with some luck. In the equation of success, those two things cannot be separated, they are bound together in all cases.
Not doing, not taking action, guarantees you will not succeed, you will simply never start at all. Luck will have no role in that for you have already reduced the possibilities to none other than no success / no attempt.
The more cynical view can be summed up as saying that because luck is a requirement, effort is mostly futile because you can't control everything. It's a personal mindset projection (someone is telling you their bias, giving you insight into their experience, their fears, etc), rather than any kind of useful insight into how you can or can't create something successfully.
Specifically, I read it as a warning against voluntarily putting your destiny and satisfaction in the hands of other humans or organizations; it is a call to independence of thought and action.
Your SO’s situation is an unfortunate roll of the dice. Any of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow. But these seem orthogonal to Bukowski’s point.
It sounds like you have a very special bond.
Thank you for sharing this.
No disrespect, I don’t want to diminish the utter torture that is chronic pain, but nothing you mentioned sounds like it’s preventing your SO from maintaining a posture of relentlessness every day until she dies.
It might not be what she wants, it would probably destroy her relationships and her mind, it would probably require her to do things that she abhors, but the door is still there.
What then is left of a person?
But some sort of other drive may help put it out. Look into Ayurveda and the source of inflammation (infection), i.e. pitta energy, and the sorts of anti inflammatory diets she could pursue, or reply for some links and pointers. Alexander the Great was going to create the most cultured empire out of a seat in ancient Babylon but then died of the fire, a fever after too many military campaigns and Indus conquest. Incredibly ironic too, since Aristotle was his personal tutor and Ayurveda (from India or the ancient Indus valley vedas) was the basis for Aristotle and other Greek natural philosophy, but they lost contact with the sources.
If geniuses like Alexander and Mozart had known about these philosophies out of India they might not have died on the prime of their third decade of life. But as you put it, the human condition is not so simple as only having drive.
Also avoid prolonged screen time, look for kindle or paper books and conducting work or research out of plain (or fancy) old notebooks as much as possible.
If there is no way to successfully retreat until you've won, then you win or die. Great way to focus the mind on winning (success) once casual retreat is no longer an option.
- Achilles, the Iliad IX, 500-506
You don't really get to A/B test your own life. You don't really get to know for absolute certainty where the road not taken would have taken you had you turned left instead of right at that moment on that day in that place with those people.
What you can do is develop mental models and compare against first-hand experience. Most actual choices in life don't literally involve life and death, at least not in an immediate sense.
Some can be life-or-death decisions -- casually sleep with the wrong person without protection, die of AIDS some years down the road -- but if you run around telling other people that every little thing you do in your life is life or death, they will soon decide you are a lunatic. So taking a reference to "burn the boats" too literally and acting like I'm the drama queen is really you being dramatic.
In practical terms, "burn the boats" is shorthand for "Make an actual decision and then commit to it. The longer you spend trying to leave your options open, the more time you waste."
If you stand at the cross roads forever trying to make it possible to choose to go either left or right, you stand there going nowhere at all. Just pick one, start walking and don't spend a lot of time looking back, walking back to the crossroads over and over, wondering if you should go the other way instead.
But I'll remember to shout "burn the boats" before my next choice of soup or salad.
On a tangent Yoda in Star Wars is also bullshit. You should always try.
I had a friend and consulting boss who once told me, "I don't care what work I do; it's just a day job, and it's money." And as with people who can happily do hookup after hookup on Tinder, I sometimes wish I were like them. But when you really care about shit, it ties you up. And when the stuff you care about is just one or two cogs in a big machine that isn't really worth supporting, you die slowly for a wage.
My advice to young people (those of you who are in your first 5 years of employment) is to realize now that unless you want to become a business owner or want to do 12+ years of good effort in one of the big 5 (4?) consulting firms, you should just never grow your personal cost of living and instead focus on doing stuff you love - money be damned. You may just find yourself in the enviable position where doing the thing you loved resulted in a windfall (Google bought you), or at least funds you 5+k/mo while you travel the many other awesome parts of the world which cost way less than the US and western Europe.
From the point of view of the working world, do what people pay for.
From the point of view of simple optimization with no bias, find the ideal intersection of both.
From the point of view of taking it easy in life, find the highest value, lowest energy activity.
From the point of view of working on impossible problems that you find fulfillment, put yourself in situations that are constantly above your capacity and fight for every step of the way.
Or, just do what you think is best according to what you know, no need for "absolute best" ways to approach life.
But while doing that, remember to be happy with what you have at present.
I wouldn't say that I live to work, and I definitely need my breaks, but I haven't been without a job for more than 2 months since I was 15. If I made a windfall, I couldn't quit my job and travel the world for a decade, I'd go crazy. On the other hand, I have some friends who simply don't like working. They can't hold down a job for more than 6 months, and just bounce around doing whatever odd jobs they find.
The challenge comes when we put our energy into work in places where our output is squandered. For a great example, imagine the game developers who built entire AAA games, only to see their games canceled just before release. Yes there may be many reasons for the cancellation, but the feeling of wasted time and creativity is real.
Manual labor is practical, and it can be useful and even meditative. Unfortunately, it usually doesn't pay enough to live in most modern areas of the world.
I don't know the age of your friends, but I would posit that they bounce around because they have a strong sense of "this is not right" when they get into a job. I have had more satisfaction from some of my days waiting tables (providing a really good dining experience!) when I was young, and I have had some soul-crushing days sitting in futile meetings about projects that were doomed from the start at big companies. If you asked me during those meetings, I would have rather been a waiter making $3/hr + tips. At least then I would be making people happy.
I've heard many people claim this, and yet, I have some doubts on whether that is REALLY what's going on in their mind. I won't call them liars; perhaps they don't even realize that something deep inside is not going the way it should.
And you absolutely need that, because the reality is soul crushing.
Finding a pursuit that helps others leads to a greater sense of satisfaction than the purchase of a new thing.
Now good food - good dining - is something I haven't yet reached a satisfaction saturation of ;)
Nothing ironic about it - it's the plan, it's how capitalism has always been intended to work. It creates disvalues in order that the working classes must consume their way to a modicum of satisfaction. Ivan Illich was good on this, or read some of the early 20th century marketing literature.
A simple, undemanding, cooperative way of life in a healthy ecosystem is the capitalist's worst nightmare.
That's an illusion. I used to think so. I was one of them and I burnt out. I knew many of them and most of them did burn out. Maybe there are a few that don't burn out. But going hook up through hook up is just textbook for: I'll pretend there is nothing wrong here and I'll just keep "happily" going. At some point you'll hit the wall. And the longer you keep at it, the harder is the downfall.
I actually enjoy working, but there's something deeply unsatisfying about the 9-5 5 days a week grind. It's just so... inflexible. It consumes you; particularly if you specifically have to live somewhere for it (e.g. SF, London) and so you're tied to living there for good or bad.
Seriously, the “full time” schedule sucks. I was extremely lucky to be able to get out but if you’re wondering... yes it makes a huge difference. It’s worth every minute saved.
I know when I'm working, and I know when I'm not. Yes, it's inflexible, but it's also predictable. I don't need to work at night, or on the weekend, I don't miss important events in my loved ones' lives because I'm away on a work trip.
I would like more flexibility in my ability to take time off (it was a really nice day yesterday and I wanted to go to the forest), but I enjoy the security and stability I get. Running a business, or contracting, or any kind of hustle isn't really how I want to live my life. I've got enough stress and other shit going on in my life, having 40 hours a week where I can switch all that off is actually quite nice.
I have not studied this scientifically, but my experience is that the more places a traveler has been, the greater their desire to explore.
I love having my stable job, getting to come home and spend time with the wife and kids after every work day, and knowing they have a stable life where they aren't having to move schools or worry about constant change.
People are different.
Nobody says that you cannot have stability. But clearly you are in a stage of life that I have passed through. (Although, I did take my kids to a very new environment when they were 10-ish, and they got to experience snow skiing as a regular Friday activity, and hiking and mountain biking in good weather in the non-winter months.)
If your energy is focused on your family, and you are happy, and your job doesn't make you feel like your talents are wasted, then great! That's enviable. But it doesn't have anything to do with people who have experienced travel wanting to do more of it. It's a bit saying there's no value in trying foods other than what you grew up eating.
My issue with the original comment was the assumption that the ONLY reason you wouldn't want to wander is because you haven't done it enough. Some people have wandered, and just aren't drawn to it.
This goes for any statement like that; "If you don't like x it is just because you haven't had a good one" or "You only like y because you haven't tried x yet"
People have different preferences, and it is not always simply because of lack of experience or knowledge... people like different things.
I don't see the paternalism in your previous statement either tho.
In the end I found a place I liked and I settled down. I still enjoy travelling, but I've got a home and a community and a life here.
I would venture to guess that some people who travel thrive on the connections and relations they make along the way. Chances are I've only met those types of travelers, because the opposite type was busy in the malls?
Like anything else, if you've done a LOT of one thing (say you've traveled 100+ countries, tasted everything, learned 2-3 extra languages), then maybe you get bored with travel for the sake of travel. Even still, that cannot be as mundane as spending the same period of time at one job in the corporate world.
I'm not a 100+ country taveler; I'm a 10+. And for me, meeting nice people and experiencing new foods is my lure. But once I get someplace, exploring the architecture, sampling the music and local culture, and meeting other travelers to share stories are the attractions. Likely 10 years from now I'll care a lot more about stuff that involves less travel.
So to your point, yes there is probably an asymptote. I bet it's far beyond what most people have experienced. And without being too peace-hippy-ish, I would argue that the more people get out and meet others from distant lands, the less conflict we would have globally. It's much harder to say the Chinese are evil Communist thieves when you've met a number of really great, kind, thoughtful Chinese people. (I just use this as an example.)
> The anticipation of travel was a more powerful driver of happiness than anything participants experienced overseas or conjured up in post-trip nostalgia.
The Men That Don't Fit In 
By Robert W. Service
There's a race of men that don't fit in,
A race that can't stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain's crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don't know how to rest.
If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they're always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: "Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!"
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.
And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It's the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that's dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.
He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life's been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He's a rolling stone, and it's bred in the bone;
He's a man who won't fit in.
And this is poetry, where specific word choice is incredibly important to the work. I would feel uncomfortable even adding missing filler words like "the" and "and" to the output of a respected poet. "Vandalism" is a good name for what John Martin did.
On top of that, I'm not really a "literature person"... I'm wholly unqualified to defend my opinions of why one work is good and another is bad... And my opinion was primed by the author's negative opinion of Martin...
But the Martin version of this poem, in addition to not being faithful to the original material, is really awful.
Having worked mind-numbing jobs like packer at a warehouse, I can assure you
that most people can see "all this" just as clearly as Bukowski. Like
Bukowski, they are unable to do anything to change "how things are", but
unlike Bukowski they don't have a guaridan angel to lift them off the daily
rat race and into a successful creative career. More importantly, perhaps,
unlike Bukowski, many of those people have responsibilities, specifically to
their families and particularly their kids, responsibilities that they
recognise and that they usually accept. Or in any case, those who accept those
responsibilities give up any dreams of a "free" life and do what best they can
to fulfil those responsibilities. If that means working at a 9-to-not-quite-5
job that eats you from the inside, because there is no better option, then
that's what it means.
But Bukowski asks: why do people have children? Because that's what people do,
if you look around you. People make more people. Perhaps we are all slaves of
evolution that has programmed us this way but a sizeable chunk of people find
that they love their children even before they have them, even if they find
that they can never have them. Some people are not like that and some can't
even stand the idea of having children. Perhaps those people are lucky,
perhaps they are the real unlucky ones. Who knows.
One thing I really like about Latin America is how important connections are. People are on the street meeting and talking to each other on a level I don’t see in the US; personal connections have more value there.
Now that I am a single father to a young child, I’m back in the states working again, but it’s not the grind it used to be, much less the grind it was back in 1986. With work at home and flex hours being a thing that it wasn’t two decades ago, I can handle work without having the horrible burnout I had before.
If you are single, have few obligations and live frugally in the Bay Area as a software engineer for a massive company making $200,000 per year and able to save up thousands of dollars per month, it may be difficult to see that issue. But just try to realize that most jobs and situations aren't like that.
If you are a well-compensated tech worker, you probably have some measure of control over what you work on, even if that occasionally means voting with your feet. And you are probably able to save enough to leave and arbitrarily pursue your passions at least once a decade, whether that means going back to school, trying to start a business, getting more involved with your family, or just escaping a toxic environment.
It's easy to lose sight of the fact that not everyone has those sorts of choices available to them.
You're reply is basically an example of survivorship bias.
You can take a similar path in retail, manufacturing, construction, or any other number of industries that don't even require degrees.
But you can't just do the minimum and do it poorly and expect to advance. It's not a bad thing that the system works that way. Rewarding hard work, and smart work, is what we want in an economic system.
There's such a thing as affordance.
You're a qsort implementation who wasn't so unlucky as to be spammed with only pathological inputs. There are heapsorts who will fare worse for no other reason than being matched up with workloads that would've choked you, too.
If you have a job, you have something to be grateful for, first if all. Secondly, you always have free agency in a free country. If you don't like it, move on, but don't project your own self loathing or dissatisfaction onto other people. Plenty of people get a lot of satisfaction out of their jobs and provide for their families from 9-5s and don't look at it from this pessimistic angle.
Those patterns of thought are either great if they inspire you to move onto other industries or toxic and bad for you if they cause you to become cynical.
I was actually disagreeing with the idea that 9-5 jobs need to be soul-sucking, and speaking from the perspective of someone who is able to decide what I work on.
But it's important to understand why some people hate their situations and feel unable to escape them. Poverty traps are real, especially in the United States, and we should be doing more as a society to help people escape them.
Also, I disagree that having a job is inherently something to be grateful for. Having a job is something to be paid for.
9-5 three days a week.
40 hours labour just isn't necessary for all of us.
We need to work to actually produce things like food and transport and so on. Services.
The vast majority of people I know are not working for that. It's a side effect. We're in this absurd zero sum race to outbid each other for housing (and not just in SF/London, it's all over nowadays).
Like, come on. Once you have an income at a level sufficient to spend, say, 50% on a house, get a mortgage etc, you have truly terrifying amounts of funds left over in terms of normal material goods in the prosperous towns.
I like stuff. It is fun to play with.
Of course you don't need the things, but they are enjoyable. I like to live a life beyond bare necessities.
Of course I may be wrong here but it sure doesn’t feel like that; I’ve had the blessing to be able to compare my life with a lot of money closely with my life with very little money.
I have also lived having money and not having money. It is way better to have money. Not having to stress about bills, not having to stress about things breaking or needing repair, being able to eat good food when you want... it makes life better. The stresses of figuring out how to get by when you are poor really hamper your ability to enjoy life.
I tend to bounce around from low to high cost of living locations. My mindset changes a lot without it really being under my control.
In a high CoL area the limits to what you want can be truly absurd because there's so much wealth swimming about. It's normal.
It takes some grounding, but also interaction with a community that accepts you for who you are, to temper that.
I am not sure how that changes me liking to play with gadgets.
But it's no problem of course if you're happy as you are. Good for you. The problem is society expects everyone to work 9-5, 5 days a week, 45 to 50 weeks a year. That's a little insane, and for many people, intolerable.
I would be ashamed to have written on my tombstone "worked 1/3 of his life as a sys admin".
There is no meaning in that. Just an empty job to have money, for what? For more stuff? To teach your children to do the same? Keeping materialistic corporations afloat with me taking care of the servers and stuff.
Or if you insist on keeping 9-5, then why not do it 4 days per week? After all, why do we only work 5 days/week? Could it be that maximizing the output of corporations is not the sole priority of a country?
"In 1908, a New England mill became the first American factory to institute the five-day week. It did so to accommodate Jewish workers, whose observance of a Saturday sabbath forced them to make up their work on Sundays, offending some in the Christian majority. The mill granted these Jewish workers a two-day weekend, and other factories followed this example. The Great Depression cemented the two-day weekend into the economy, as shorter hours were considered a remedy to underemployment." - https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/08/where-t...
Then, influentially, Henry Ford dropped it down from six days of 14-16 hours, in 1926. http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2016/09/five-day-wor...
And, for most of us, "less hours" is going to equal "less pay". How do you imagine that we should deal with that? Or do you imagine that the corporations (or the country) are just going to pay us anyway?
Most people earn enough to live, and would do if they worked 20 hours less, it's just sucked away with various zero sum games like rent.
Imported goods make up a fairly small fraction of the average person's budget with the exception of stuff like, a German car say.
This is precisely what "cost of living" is; in higher competition areas, everything is more expensive.
>To not to have entirely wasted one's life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.
Is Bukowski acknowledging that he has exchanged working for a boss to writing for Martin? Does this change the message of the letter to the point that he actually doesn't see his life as an accomplishment?
I thought "yr boy" could mean that the publisher was an older father figure. Just checked, John Martin was born in 1930, Bukowski in 1920. So that theory is out.
"Boy" doesn't always have a racial undertone in American culture - it's commonly used as a familiar term, among good buddies.
How much of the obstacles that we face are there just to 'resist' the shining light we each could bring into the world? Or the work we were meant to do?
Mental tasks occupy all your waking hours, and its very hard to avoid.
If you've found yourself at the end of a bad economic bargain (which is most people), you tend to rationalize your ambitions and switch attention away from work to more fulfilling things outside of work
I know few people with a "rich, full life", and a lot more people who work all day, buy fast food for dinner, and then play League for 5 hours until they fall asleep. It's not fulfillment they're after, it's distraction, comfort, escape. Self-medication comes in the form of drink, food, tv, gambling, drugs, even other people.
Using your example, some seek family, a close social circle, a white-picket-fence life. There's nothing wrong with that, but another group seeks relative solitude, doesn't see a purpose in creating a family or having a nice house, and fills some kind of intellectual hole, be it with creative writing, or relatively non-conformist research.
My point is, I don't see Bukowski as one who lacks empathy, rather, someone who follows his own purpose, though, potentially blind to some others' happiness doing other things.
Lastly, the workforce ethics back then were quite different from today's. It's my understanding that the pay was significantly lower compared to costs of living while progressing in ranks was near impossible without a degree.
He's describing the people he saw every day for decades. If you think you understand those people you've never met more than he did, you're the one who lacks an understanding of empathy.
If society wanted to be more humane and empathetic, it would force all young adults to be homeless and impoverished for some time, and working three jobs to get a taste for how it is for everyone else that isn't sheltered or privileged. The golden rule and empathy isn't practiced as much anymore because there are greater convenient distractions, selfishness, ignorance and lack of community that has the effect of atomizing people from each other... we are mostly divided-and-conquered and enslaved.
His further writings talk about escapes hes tried: drinking, gambling, abusing women. He was abused himself. He didn't have an easy life. He was homeless. He won the proverbial lottery but that didnt let him escape himself. Not fully.
There is no hint of a contrived disaffected and put-on teenage style angst here (even if that is a thing!). He is celebrating his freedom from bondage at age 65, from the tyranny of a boss wielding his fate at a whim, from suffering the fate of “emptying out” as a consequence of slaving at jobs that are no better than slavery was for folks living in ancient times.
You read that as “teenage angst”? May I ask how old are you? And may I ask kindly also: was there ever a choice in your life when you thought being a barfly would be better for you than toiling at your “post office”?
If we can’t countenance his exposition of our pathetic working lives (and he does this in brutal and lucid prose), it’s only because we are likely deluding ourselves we aren’t living the way he sees it.
Cognitive dissonance may be at work here.
Something about our psychology that meshes terribly with society, but obviously not for all members of society. However, those it hits seem to get hit quite hard.
- no ownership of your physical and intellectual contribution to your employer
- devoting at great cost to your own personal life the most productive time of your own life to your employer
- running the very real possibility of marooning your skill sets for the exclusive benefit for and relevance to your employer (you do as told)
- running the risk of being fired at a whim especially at later stages of the “career”, becoming of zero value economically in a system designed to create humans as obsolete - much like when a slave is “freed” by a master when he is of no use to him.
I’d take toiling all day in the farms if it meant it’s my farm and it’s my time, and my way of farming. And my kids are toiling with me too.
Yes, this is quite the Marxist way of thinking ... but this perspective needn’t require a Marxist eye - see it for what it is from a value-system that doesn’t dehumanize and disenfranchises the individual from his works.
I agree that it certainly doesn't require a Marxist eye, and I'm not sure that it is even specifically Marxist in it's analysis. It sounds closer to a Distributist model of thinking. As G.K. Chesterton said, "The problem with a capitalist society is not that there are too many capitalists, but too few". Too few who own their own means of production, too few who can rely on their own capital and community to weather the storms of life or prevent the encroachments of monopolists and the state alike.
This is doable, there are people living like that even in first world countries.
"They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive and come back to work. I could see all this. Why couldn't they? I figured the park bench was just as good or being a barfly was just as good"
Could have been posted on Reddit IAmVerySmart or im14andthisisdeep for the style of writing. He genuinely believes that he is more clever and seeing something they cannot see? (Why does he think they are unhappy at all if they can't see that?). And is somehow working under the idea that he could have no income and a bar would still serve him alcohol, because if it's his role in life to be the more-intelligent-than-you outsider, of course the bar would fall in line with this vision (narcissism). And note that after seeing this truth which they were too dumb to see .. he didn't go and live on a park bench. It clearly was not "just as good" to him, he only wants to posture that it was as good so he looks better. So much for deep insight nobody else possessed, he was doing the exact same thing they were.
They know this. Everyone knows this. Everyone who has had a job they don't like for more than a month realises they have no way out. He even quotes several of them saying that exact thing he claims they can't see, in his letter.
I now write from an old mind and an old body, long beyond the time when most men would ever think of continuing such a thing,
Oh fck right off, 66 at the time of writing and still singing his own praises like that? The USA and UK are raising state pension age to 67 as we speak, and that's for labouring jobs as well. Working at age 66, Writing at age 66, is no superior feat of endurance. Admiral Grace Hopper retired at age 60, was recalled to the Navy within a year, retired again four years later. Returned to active duty again, was promoted again, retired again at age 79, then went to be a senior consultant at DEC and stayed employed there until her death age 85. And she wasn't boasting about how great she was, she was talking about the younger people she was training and supporting.
Even Heinlein doesn't explicitly self-promote this hard, at least he tries to lecture the reader with "worldly wisdom" for the reader's own benefit, and you just get the superiority as a secondary effect from the way every wise character is Mary-Sue, and it's never done in a "plus you're a loser" way.
He is celebrating his freedom from bondage at age 65, from the tyranny of a boss wielding his fate at a whim
According to the article his income depended on him being a full-time author, and the whim of a wealthy patron. And his "freedom" was age 51.
from suffering the fate of “emptying out”
Jobs he somehow survived thirty years of, and didn't quit to be on a park bench, and didn't consider himself empty and broken and devoid of anything to write about. I guess that's just another way he's better than all those other shlubs, eh?
It's like shitting on Hamlet because it's just a "recycled Lion King".
the feeling of not being understood by anyone and that the person is alone in the world. When in reality about a million other people are feeling the same thing.
Whining about how much your life "sucks" even though you live in the richest nation in the world and are a pampered little while [white?] boy/girl. Usually teenagers desplay this quality of "No one loves me or understands me".
A feeling of despair, anxiety, and depression. It is usually applied to a deep and essentially philosophical anxiety about the world in general or personal freedom.
a feeling of dread, anxiety, or anguish that is commonly associated with the teenage years. And angsty teenager tends to wallow in these feeling melodramatically, wanting pity from others while also simultaneously wishing to remain tragically misunderstood, much to the annoyance of his friends.
So as far as I understand it, people are angsty because they feel afraid but they can't put their finger on the cause, so the only way to react is being angry at each and everybody.
From my point of view, people are using 'angsty' to distance themselves from a problem that they have chosen to ignore. E.g. there are some problems with global warming, but even now, you can ignore them by telling yourself that it's teenage angst that makes people care about it.
And praise this alcoholic.
I love my '9-5'.