Charles Bukowski published a wonderful poem in his 1972 book “Mockingbird Wish Me Luck”.
Style is the answer to everything.
A fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous thing
In our networked world, has Style lost its meaning? Style has become synonymous with Trend, and Trend is never further than a few clicks away. In fact, thanks to The Modern Marketing Machine, we don’t even need to click to find Trend. Digital marketing pixels follow us, and trends find us. They land unsolicited in inboxes; they are fed to influencers who in turn feed them to Instagram feeds. They are showered over us, and we love it.
To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without it
To do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art
Style has become a cultural object, but also a saleable commodity: a status symbol that can be bought and sold with cold hard cash. Just another form of currency. Style as a facade that we don for public appearances, to keep up the impression that we are keeping up. But what are we keeping up with? The trends, of course. Style is like a robe that enfolds ego. It is reflected everywhere: status updates, Instagram stories, Tiktoks and Boomerangs and Wechats. Mirrors on mirrors on mirrors on mirrors. We all have so much style that we are overflowing.
We pursue Style because it distinguishes us, but Style is an illusion, a vector for tribal belonging, a pass-card that admits us into the halls of our allies, real or imagined. Style has become a form of sameness. We all appear “different” together, in the same ways — so we are the same.
But Bukowski’s Style is a more ancient Style. A Style of presence, not of pretence. A type of art:
Bullfighting can be an art
Boxing can be an art
Loving can be an art
Opening a can of sardines can be an art
Bukowski’s Style is a style of attention, of intention. I don’t think that style is ever accidental, but it is also never entirely conscious. Rather, it is a byproduct of presence and of care. To do something with style is to be so attentive to the moment, so singularly focused, so enwrapped in a task that the quality of that task is beautiful.
Not many have style
Not many can keep style
I have seen dogs with more style than men,
although not many dogs have style.
Cats have it with abundance.
Why do cats have style? I don’t know, but they clearly do. A particular sort of grace. Finally:
…Style is the difference, a way of doing, a way of being done.
Six herons standing quietly in a pool of water,
or you, naked, walking out of the bathroom without seeing me.
It would behoove us all to do everything, to do anything, with a little more Style.