Yesterday, to celebrate Bukowski’s 94th birthday, “the poet of the mundane”, some Twitter account posted: cuidado con aquellos que necesitan constantes multitudes, no son nada solos.* I translated the phrase and found a poem called “The Genius of the Crowd”, and doing justice to my ambivalent feelings about this writer, I loved every raw, absurd and meaningful line.
This poem is a concise and insightful study on human nature. On those who hide their thoughts using the opposite to what they really think, for most “preachers”, as Bukowski calls them, have a penchant for not practicing what they preach.
and the best at murder are those who preach against it
and the best at hate are those who preach love
As with every poem whose language is rather simple, the complexity and beauty lie elsewhere. The poet flirts with symbolism but his point of view is easily understood: it’s an invitation to be cautious and not let preachers and knowers question our decisions and, essentially, who we are.
beware those who seek constant crowds for
they are nothing alone*
beware the average man the average woman
beware their love, their love is average
Bukowski’s vision may be bleak and guilty of overgeneralizing, but that’s precisely what makes this poem memorable. He urges the reader to analyze and see beyond appearances, which presents an ethical dilemma for everyone involved. The crowd is huge; false pretenses, the common language; the wide range of sermons, perplexing. The line is blurring and it’s difficult to discern where is everybody, the people that surrounds the reader. Even the reader. In a world replete with preachers, one has to avoid the preaching that reflects their finest art.
* Credit: Book cover via Goodreads