IN several short notes to friends, the late German-American writer Charles Bukowski had preached of ‘don’t try’ so much that it had become synonymous with his rambling and supposed- beatnik perspective. As such, when he passed away in 1994, the two words were eventually etched in his epitaph. Since then, other writers and biographers had used it to describe his life philosophy and approach to writing and poetry.
As for myself, “Don’t try” has indeed, become an adopted valuable life lesson. Of course, you have to take it in the context that, when you find yourself trying too hard at doing something and then, nothing as yet is attainable, stop awhile. This is simply that part where you don’t push it. Don’t try.
It does not mean to ‘be idle’ or really stop at what you are doing or pursuing at the moment. On the contrary, what it actually means is go ahead and ‘just do it’, no matter what. Trudge on. Going back to Bukowski, his wife Linda had explained this, when asked to explain those infamous two words by the writer. She said, “Don’t try, do. Because if you’re spending your time TRYING something, you’re not doing it…so DON’T TRY.”
How useful is this? Whenever I reach a dry spell in writing, I just go and write streams and whatever. Eventually, I get back on track and continue on. The same is true in music. Whenever something becomes too technical and it feels difficult to proceed, it pays to be lost for a while. This is akin to trance-like walkabouts where one just lets the music flow like Bruce Lee’s water.
In the 80s, similar themes have likewise appeared through several books, notable of which were Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and (of all things) a tennis book, The Inner Game.
If one had heard of the now-used term “in the zone”, this is precisely what’s talked about in these paperbacks (especially the latter). The premise is, in order for one to excel or be adept at a particular task, one has to stop being conscious when doing it, and then, just trust in the process that you already possess innately. The perfect analogy would be the touch typist. As he encodes a document, his thought process is not really in the conscious reading of each text but, relying on his already-honed skill of typing. In sports, some call it muscle memory. I guess this can also work for other processes in daily life. Prove me wrong.
Another similar process is Ouido (pronounced as widow). Basically, it refers to the ability to play a musical instrument or a song after listening to it without relying on tabs or notation. Jamming is another more popular relative.
In all, the above concepts do manage to take away stress a bit, don’t they? Let’s just sum these all up in an old folk song:
“Be not too hard, for life is short,
And nothing is given to man.
Be not too hard when his soul is wrought
And he must manage for what he can.”
As parting words, Linda says again… So, don’t try. “It’s Monday. Get out there. Just do it. But patiently. And don’t break a sweat.”
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