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65 Charles Bukowski Quotes on Life, Love, Society, Humanity

Charles Bukowski was an American poet, novelist and writer, born on August 16, 1920, in Andernach, Germany.  Bukowski's writing prominently featured his home city of Los Angeles and it often depicts many aspects of the ordinary lives of lower class Americans, alcohol and relationships. Bukowski published his first story at 24, started writing poetry when he was 35, and he published his first poetry book in 1959. He went on to write thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels, eventually publishing over 60 books. Today we featured 65 quotes from Charles Bukowski:

 

On living life to the fullest:

On living life to the fullest:
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"You have to die a few times before you can really live."

"If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start ... 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."

"I wasn't much for a petty thief. I wanted the whole world or nothing."

"...We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us."

 

On drinking:

On drinking:
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"That's the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen."

"Drinking is an emotional thing. It joggles you out of the standardism of everyday life, out of everything being the same. It yanks you out of your body and your mind and throws you against the wall. I have the feeling that drinking is a form of suicide where you're allowed to return to life and begin all over the next day. It's like killing yourself, and then you're reborn. I guess I've lived about ten or fifteen thousand lives now."

 

On poetry:

"Poetry is what happens when nothing else can."

 

On sanity:

On sanity:
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"Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead."

 

On distractions:

On distractions:
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"How the hell could a person enjoy being awakened at 6:30AM, by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?"

"People are strange. They are constantly angered by trivial things, but on a major matter like totally wasting their lives, they hardly seem to notice."

"I would say that Mickey Mouse had a greater influence on the American public than Shakespeare, Milton, Dante, Rabelais, Shostakovich, Lenin, and/or Van Gogh. Which says 'What?' about the American public. Disneyland remains the central attraction of Southern California, but the graveyard remains our reality."

 

On society:

On society:
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"Some lose all mind and become soul, insane.
Some lose all soul and become mind, intellectual.
Some lose both and become accepted."

"The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence."

"Boring damned people. All over the earth. Propagating more boring damned people. What a horror show. The earth swarmed with them."

"A whole god­damned nation of assholes driving automobiles, eating, having babies, doing everything in the worst way possible, like voting for the presidential candidates who reminded them most of themselves. I had no interests. I had no interest in anything. I had no idea how I was going to escape. At least the others had some taste for life. They seemed to understand something that I didn’t understand."

"I guess the only time most people think about injustice is when it happens to them."

 

On governments:

"The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don't have to waste your time voting."

"Somewhere down the line eventually there is going to be a damn fool or madman in power who is simply going to blow us all quite to hell. That's all, it figures."

 

On humanity:

On humanity:
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"We're all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing."

"You know, we're monstrosities. If we could really see this, we could love ourselves… realize how ridiculous we are, with our intestines wound around, shit slowly running through as we look each other in the eyes and say "I love you," our stuff is carbonizing, turning into shit, and we never fart near each other. It all has a comic edge… And then we die."

 

On morality:

"People with no morals often considered themselves more free, but mostly they lacked the ability to feel or love."

"If you're losing your soul and you know it, then you've still got a soul left to lose."

 

On human nature:

On human nature:
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"The human heart, as of course we all know is essentially good.  But between governments, false gods, striving for survival, the heart gets mixed up with the head and the feet and the elbows and the intestine. And the peace and the madness. And the heart gets strangled out a bit. It's a good organ and there is complete hope for humanity if it ever gets a little bit straight. It's all there, it's totally there, there is total hope of goodness forever. But we got lost somewhere. How we can ever straighten that out, I don't know."

 

On saving the world:

On saving the world:
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"You begin saving the world by saving one man at a time; all else is grandiose romanticism or politics."

 

On faith:

"Faith is all right for those who have it. Just don't load it on me. I have more faith in my plumber than I do in the eternal being. Plumbers do a good job. They keep the shit flowing."

 

On needs:

"The less I needed, the better I felt."

 

On loving yourself:

On loving yourself:
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"If you have the ability to love, love yourself first."

 

On life:

On life:
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"We must... We must bring our own light to the darkness."

"Drink from the well of your self and begin again."

"Life is as kind as you let it be."

 

On perseverance:

On perseverance:
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"What matters most is how well you walk through the fire."

 

On getting out of bed:

"Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I'm not going to make it, but you laugh inside - remembering all the times you've felt that way."

"I don't know about other people, but when I wake up in the morning and put my shoes on, I think 'Jesus Christ, now what?'"

 

On reassurance:

"Too often the people complain that they have done nothing with their lives and then they wait for somebody to tell them that this isn't so."

 

On unfulfilled potential:

"We are like roses that have never bothered to bloom when we should have bloomed and it is as if the sun has become disgusted with waiting"

 

On the role of an artist:

On the role of an artist:
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"An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way."

 

On great art:

"To do a dull thing with style, now that’s what I call art."

"Great art is horseshit, buy tacos."

 

On genius:

"Genius might be the ability to say a profound thing in a simple way."

 

On passion:

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"Find what you love and let it kill you."

"A spark can set a whole forest on fire. Just a spark. Save it"

"She's mad but she's magic, there's no lie in her fire."

 

On sex:

"Sex is kicking death in the ass while singing."

 

On death:

"I carry death in my left pocket. Sometimes I take it out and talk to it: 'Hello, baby, how you doing? When you coming for me? I'll be ready.'"

 

On writing:

"If I stop writing I am dead. And that’s the only way I’ll stop: dead."

"'Well,' I said, 'it’s simple, it's either you get it down on paper or you jump off a bridge. Writers are desperate people and when they stop being desperate they stop being writers.'"

 

On books:

"Without literature, life is hell."

 

On good people:

On good people:
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"...the free soul is rare, but you know it when you see it - basically because you feel good, very good, when you are near or with them."

 

On other people:

"People, mostly, I can do without. They don't fill me, they empty me. I respect no man."

"Some people like what you do, some people hate what you do, but most people simply don't give a damn."

"I don't hate people, I just feel better when they aren't around."

 

On friendship:

"If you want to know who your friends are, get yourself a jail sentence."

 

On relationships:

"Love is a form of prejudice. You love what you need, you love what makes you feel good, you love what is convenient. How can you say you love one person when there are ten thousand people in the world that you would love more if you ever met them? But you'll never meet them. All right, so we do the best we can. Granted. But we must still realize that love is just the result of a chance encounter. Most people make too much of it. On these grounds a good fuck is not to be entirely scorned. But that's the result of a chance meeting too..."

"Of course it's possible to love a human being if you don't know them too well."

"If I had been born a woman I would certainly have been a prostitute. Since I had been born a man, I craved women constantly, the lower the better. And yet women - good women - frightened me because they eventually wanted your soul, and what was left of mine, I wanted to keep. Basically I craved prostitutes, base women, because they were deadly and hard and made no personal demands. Nothing was lost when they left. Yet at the same time I yearned for a gentle, good woman, despite the overwhelming price. Either way I was lost. A strong man would give up both. I wasn’t strong. So I continued to struggle with women, with the idea of women."

"Men were children. You had to humor them. They could take no hurt. It was a thing every woman knew."

 

On love:

On love:
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"I loved you like a man loves a woman he never touches, only writes to, keeps little photographs of." -from Love Is a Dog from Hell

"A love like that was a serious illness, an illness from which you never entirely recover." -from The People Look Like Flowers at Last

 

On being alone:

On being alone:
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"Real loneliness is not necessarily limited to when you are alone."

"I wasn't lonely. I experienced no self ­pity. I was just caught up in a life in which I could find no meaning."

"There are worse things than being alone. But it often takes decades to realize this, and most often when you do, it's too late. And there's nothing worse than too late."

"Sometimes solitude is one of the most beautiful things on earth."

"Being alone never felt right. sometimes it felt good, but it never felt right."

"...there is a loneliness in this world so great that you can see it in the slow movement of the hands of a clock" -from Love Is a Dog from Hell

 

On reading:

"I often carry things to read so that I will not have to look at the people."

 

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