Perfect Laughter




Want to “ride life straight to perfect laughter”?

In a poem called “Roll the Dice”, Charles Bukowski tells us how. It starts like this:


if you’re going to try,
go all the way.
otherwise, don’t even start…

That’s the premise for his autobiographical novel, Factotum (also a film adaptation featuring Matt Dillon), in which Bukowski lends flesh and blood and plenty of booze to his poetic dictum, which continues on with a warning that…

this could mean losing girlfriends,
wives, relatives, jobs and
maybe even your mind.

This skid-row alcoholic with a typewriter—did he make such sacrifices consciously, or was his literary obsession a sickness?

it could mean not eating for 3 or 4 days.
it could mean freezing on a
park bench.

Where have I heard this before? From Guatama the Buddha and Eckhart Tolle, to name two who went all the way. Perhaps such radical determination is a sickness better than health. The sober night leading to the dawn of their perfect laughter.

it could mean jail.
it could mean derision

It could be a very long night.

mockery, isolat.ion.
isolation is the gift

There’s your twist, your ray of light, your crazy wisdom. “Isolation is the gift.” A good paradox drives most men crazy, although it was Bukowski’s sanity. Isn’t that what he’s trying to tell us? The conventional wisdom that characterizes the path of least resistance cannot deliver us to what’s ultimately good for us. In fact, we’re systematically discouraged in this culture from discerning a blessing from a curse.

all the others are a test of your
of how much you really want to
do it.

Do what? It. Never mind what it is. Our yearning is so strong we can taste it.

and you’ll do it
despite rejection and the worst odds.
and it will be better than
anything else
you can imagine.

We haven’t even imagined it. The payoff is that good. Like a satori. A quantum leap into meaning. We have unwittingly surrendered to its force field. As if subconsciously we know that whatever it is, it will be the only thing that, when we’re doing it, we won’t wish we were doing something else.

if you’re going to try,
go all the way.
there’s no other feeling like that.
do it, do it, do it.
do it.
all the way
all the way.

Bukowski seems to be pleading with us to consider the advantages of adversity, of risking the low road for the high road so that…

you will be alone with the gods,
and the nights will flame with fire.

What are hunger, bedbugs, hangovers, and loneliness when…

you will ride life straight to
perfect laughter.
it’s the only good fight
there is.

What astonishes me is that society teaches us nothing about perfect laughter. Yet, it is everywhere in fiction, as in Bukowski’s Factotum and his impossible poem that ends the story. Meaning what? That we don’t take fiction seriously? That being entertained by radical attitudes is one thing, and living them quite another?

Oh…one more thing to consider. Bukowski’s gravestone inscription. Take a close look. He’s such a tease.


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  1. says

    Inspired post, Mr. PJ. As Jung said, “Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument. To perform this difficult office it is sometimes necessary for him to sacrifice happiness and everything that makes life worth living for the ordinary human being.” If we don’t heed that call in the soul, we suffer. And if we do, happiness is sometimes displaced by ecstasy, but not always.

  2. says

    Thanks, Donaleen, for coming back to post your comment again after I accidentally deleted the last 20 comments. I am an idiot. It’s a daily regime to process out the spam. One wrong key stroke sent all comments into the ether. Otherwise, I very much like how easy WordPress is to work with. I’ll be more careful from now on…and please keep the comments coming.


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