Higher purpose of a loser

Success has its signature marks; it brands people. If you use charm, fantasy and inventiveness, you can pretend to be successful like the talented Mr. Ripley from the same-name movie, or Frank Abagnale from “Catch me If You Can”, or even the Tsar, like False Dmitry I and False Dmitry II.


But you can’t pretend to be a loser. Outsiders are God’s foot-sloggers, they don’t get the ride – they trod, often along the wayside of life and further than others have to. They are the supreme romantics, not even opposing the World, but factoring themselves out to observe it. If, as Boris Pasternak puts it, “Men who are not free… always idealize their bondage”, then free men idealize freedom and constantly search for their own atmosphere and breathing space.

No two losers in the nature are ever alike – each of them shapes himself according to a unique and delicate pattern. Who else could have shaped them like that? Each outsider is a 100% self made man. It’s interesting how some men are simply born losers, while others choose this path on their own accord, because they feel the power to reach the bottom and then resurface. Some fail to do so, but those who don’t eventually come up with amazing stories of what they’ve seen and where they’ve been. It is a different world – dark, seductive and dangerous like Temptation itself.

Charles Bukowski

Almost all of Bukowski’s prose is biographical, honest, bitter and funny; it tells of a writer who is trying to survive within a loser workaholic junky personality. Despair is a prerequisite for each next step; despair is purifying fire – agony before restoration to health and to literature.


I was laying in bed one night and I thought “I’ll just quit – to hell with it.” And another little voice inside me said “Don’t quit – save that tiny little ember of spark”. And never give them that spark because as long as you have that spark, you can start the greatest fire again. I was working in a women’s clothing store, they would make me work two hours overtime, and I continued to keep the spark, saying “I won’t quit, I won’t quit, I won’t let them kill me!” So I came out once, and the two in the office were smoking cigars: “Hey, Bukowski, come in for a second”. They were laughing at me, and I knew they were laughing at me, because I was just a slave; I stood there. And I went home, and it was a long way, and I remember the frozen trees, it was winter, and it was St. Louis. And the hotel keeper had shoved these letters under my door, and I opened one of them, and it read “We are buying your sketch” – oh! The fire that I had kept finally got a chance.

Sergey Dovlatov

My debts have easily crossed the line of indifference. The literary clerks have long ago put my name in some wretched list. I didn’t want to or couldn’t fulfill myself as a family man. My wife would bring up emigration ever more often. Irrevocably I felt lost and fled to Pushkinskiye Gory… I was technically a bachelor, healthy; I remained a member of the Journalist Union. I belonged to an amiable ethnical minority. Even Granin and Rytkheu did not deny my literary gift. Pro forma I was a full-scale man of letters, but in fact I was close to insanity…


Tom Waits

I’d sell your heart to the junkman baby
For a buck, for a buck
If you’re looking for someone
To pull you out of that ditch
You’re out of luck, you’re out of luck

The ship is sinking
The ship is sinking
The ship is sinking
There’s leak, there’s leak,
In the boiler room
The poor, the lame, the blind
Who are the ones that we kept in charge?
Killers, thieves, and lawyers

God’s away, God’s away,
God’s away on Business. Business.
God’s away, God’s away,
God’s away on Business. Business.


As you see, all of this doesn’t need any pastoral, exciting landscapes, sensual descriptions or extensive elaborations, because all of this has no bearing on the “grand” life. Woods and seas belong to all people; they are seen by anyone who is able to see. It’s the fragments of time, perceptible from a very narrow angle, seen and captured by one man only, that become arty. Ultranaturalism, both physiological and habitable, becomes a backdrop for the persona. One must take out the garbage, burn the ex’s car, wake up in a pool near some bar – and write about it simply and severely.

Why does it work? Why is this experience so compelling? How do losers reach greatness? How come each of them is able to kick ass of a square-jawed handsome or a heraldic prom-trotter? Negative charm times negative experience equals plus – a huge and overblown sign that also resembles a cross which outsiders carry on their chests in the beginning of their outsider ways, and which calls romantic and confused souls to pilgrimage.

It appears that only an exceptional and unique person can be admitted into the privileged caste of losers. Someone who is able, for example, to deny the authority of material goods or easily overlook it. Someone who has, in any case, a strong spirit to overcome a lot of hindrances and make it on his own – living anywhere and working nowhere (from the society’s point of view). But eventually the biographies of losers show a path to those who believe there is no path. This is, perhaps, the higher purpose of great losers.

Just don’t say he isn’t real

Forrest Gump: «That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run».

If outsiders had a town of their own, Forrest Gump would be the mayor, or the Patron Saint, or there would be a square named after him, or he would simply mow the lawns in the name of all brilliant losers. Forrest Gump is one giant heart, running in unison with all the losers in the world.


Sergey Dovlatov: «If there had been (I’ve drawn aside the curtain) a “Caravelle” or a “Boeing”… I would have boarded and taken off».

This massive flight is a necessity. This is not lyrics, but physics. Losers don’t belong here any more than lucky men do. Their souls are open for the power of the Universe, which does a lot of things: grows the trees, winds the clouds, sweeps the rivers trough the length and breadth of the continents and rotates the planet. It is this centrifugal pull, perhaps, that draws the losers into an open space. And there, on another planet – some Saturn, or maybe not Saturn itself, but its ring, with its own speed and non-planetary trajectory – the great losers keep on with their higher purpose, or no purpose at all, watched through a spyglass by false-happy False-Tsars.