Charles Bukowski Meets Simone Weil
Both refused to live conventionally, the Laureate of Low Life and the Red Virgin. Both said No to the bourgeois life. But their styles of refusal were diametrically opposed. Both sought a truer and realer life, one by descent, the other by ascent. For one the true life, far from the ideological sham of church and state and family values, is the low life: drinking, gambling, fornicating, drug-taking, petty crime like busting up a room and skipping out on the rent, barroom brawling. Not armed robbery, rape, and murder, but two-bit thievery, whoring and picking fights in dingy dives. Nothing that gets you sent to San Quentin or Sing-Sing.
For the other the true life is not so readily accessible: it is the life in pursuit of the Higher, the existence and nature of which is only glimpsed now and again. (Gravity and Grace, 11) The succor of the Glimpse -- this is indeed the perfect word -- is unreliable, a matter of grace. One is granted a glimpse. A matter of grace, not gravity. It is hard to rise, easy to fall -- into the the bed of sloth, the whore's arms, the bottle. The pleasures of the flesh are as reliable as anything in this world.
In that reliability lies their addictive power. Satisfaction of crass desire breeds a bad infinity of crass desires. Desire is endlessly reborn in each satisfaction. One is not granted the rush of the lush kick by a power transcendent of the natural nexus; it is a matter of determinism once you take the plunge. Drink, snort, shoot and the effect follows, which is not to say that one does not freely decide to drink, snort, shoot. The point is that the free agent's input sets in motion a process utterly predictable in its effect. Not so with the "lightning flashes" (GG 11) that reveal the Higher.
At best, one positions oneself so as to enjoy the gusts of divine favor should any come along. Like al-Ghazzali in search of a cooling breeze, you climb the minaret. There you are more likely to catch the breeze than on the ground, though there is no guarantee. One cannot bring it about by one's own efforts, and the positioning and preparing cannot be said to be even a necessary condition of receipt of the divine favor; but the creaturely efforts make it more likely.
Bukowski versus Weil. The Dean of Dissipation versus the Categorical Imperative in skirts. Self-indulgence versus self-denial as opposed paths to the truer and realer life. Dissipation versus concentration, versus Weil's attention. "Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer." (Gravity and Grace, p. 106)
The low life will not renounce but dives head first into the most accessible goods of this world, the lowest and basest and commonest. The angel in him celebrates the animal in man thereby degrading himself and 'gravitating' towards food and drink, sex and drugs. You just let yourself go and gravity does the rest. The fall is assured. No self-discipline in matters of money either. Our man worships at the shrine of Lady Luck, betting on the horses at Santa Anita, Del Mar, and Hollywood Park, all within striking distance of his beloved Los Angeles.
The spiritual aspirant who aims high and beyond this life, though tempted by booze and broads and the whole gamut of the palpable and paltry, seeks the Good beyond all finite goods. Pursuit of the Good demands detachment from all finite goods (GG 12 ff.).
The Aporia. Positivistic dissipationism versus a concentrationism that is hard to tell from nihilism. Self-loss via dissipation, the dive into the diaspora of the sensory manifold versus self-loss by absorption into a Transcendence that cancels individuality. Salvation of the self by annihilation of the self. ". . . the object of all our efforts is to become nothing." (GG 30)