The Middle Way

Zen Spot #55 -- Mindfulness, meditation and Charles Bukowski January 28, 2018 00:05

The act of creation 

Some people are carved from spit. Others are carved from ash. Still, others are beaten into sculptures like Michelangelo punished The David into perfection. And while nutrition and malnutrition effect the length of bone and the whites of eyes, the blunt force of words and belt buckles shape flesh and momentum.

Years of momentum.

I was told, at one particularly hard time in my life, when my natural momentum was to stand up and start flailing, that sometimes the most prudent action is to simply lay on the sidewalk and bleed for a little bit. The flow sculpts efficiently, precisely and permanently. It’s effortless. Not a finger raised. Not an endorphin earned. 

Just survive a beating. 

Bukowski bled on the sidewalk — and got up flailing

An amazing writer, he channeled his life in Los Angeles from the 1930s to the 1990s, using his serial alter-ego Henry Chinaski. The world confuses him despite a profound level of self-awareness. At once, he understands the world completely while, simultaneously, being lost in a culture — and family — for which there are no rational explanations. Cruelty is as abundant as sunshine. What wasn’t beaten into him was extinguished on his face. Self-loathing was gardened and fertilized by a German father who, ironically, left Hitler’s Germany to live in the land where the streets are paved with gold. 

I suspect Bukowski smelled badly. Both his body and his breath. That smoker’s stench, most evident in their cars and homes, where a slime of hardened or powdered nicotine is pudding skin on polyester. Oily. Greasy hair. Ground teeth. The hopeless dirt of a neglected or beaten child.

Make no mistake, however. Bukowski was a fighter — physically, metaphorically, creatively, spiritually. He wasn’t afraid to mash someone’s face. Imagine throwing a punch, with all its energy coming from a firmly planted back leg that slips in the soft gritty slurry that collects next to a sewer drain. 

His ability to describe the warmth of walking into a womb of alcoholic blackouts, and the resulting relationships with cops, prostitutes, abusive partners, desperate holes and clinging insanity, was unparalleled. His facility in describing an enlightened truism about humanity — one precision truism after another, on a daily basis — was frightening. The fact that he wrote prolifically, with an uncommon blood alcohol level, begs an analysis of the benefit of a disconnection from sobriety. 

The Buddha wrote something about suffering and the removal of suffering, I believe.

A generation removed from the beaten

I’ve been smacked and spanked, but not pathologically. Nobody has ever stood over me and smiled. That is the story of my ancestors, my grandparents and great-grandparents. They struggled to survive in America. Sometimes not knowing where the next meal or roof was coming from. Buckles and bleeding on asphalt sculpted them. 

I know.

That twisted comfort, coming from playing in a house where the slime and powder of nicotine is painted on everything is a womb into which I can crawl. My family smelled badly. Both in body and breath. Oily. Greasy. Ignorant. Ground teeth. The hopeless dirt of street children.

I know Bukowski. I never met Bukowski. I know Bukowski.

The interdependence of filth and cleanliness

In part, because of my family of origin, I know the comfort of filth. Not pornographic filth. Instead, a soul covered in street grime. My soul is grimy and I need to choose to wash it on a daily basis. No matter how clean my thoughts and deeds from the day before, the grime builds and clings. Pudding skin.

Cleanliness is sought. My soap is mindfulness and meditation.


About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit

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