Rimbaud vs. Rambo

When I was very young, I wanted to be a hero. Not just any hero – Rambo! To grow-up & be brave, save people, and to be unstoppable.

What little boy wouldn’t want that?

But I grew up, as some little boys are blessed to do.

My 8-year-old Self would never have believed he would grow-up to become The Villain. Even worse: I chose to become a Villain.

At the age of 20, filled with aspirations, dedication, ambition & Romantic Enthusiasm, I discovered the Most Dangerous writer to ever influence me. I will not deny Charles “Hank” Bukowski & the good Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, along with the Earl of Rochester, have their special spaces in my Heart & Mind. However: it was the hypothesis of Rimbaud – that Ethereal, French enfant terrible – which provided me a certain kind of permission, a blueprint, to become a Poet (writer).

For almost fifteen years, I would incorporate into my life a Philosophy Rimbaud conjured up in his mid-teens. In a letter to his teacher, Paul Demeny (1844-1918) dated May 15, 1871:

But the soul must be made monstrous: in the fashion of the comprachicos, if you will! [Note: Comprachicos: kidnappers of children who mutilate them in order to exhibit them as monsters]. Imagine a man implanting and cultivating warts on his face. I say one must be a seer, make oneself a seer. The Poet makes himself a seer by a long, gigantic and rational derangement of all the senses. All forms of love, suffering, and madness. He searches himself. He exhausts all poisons in himself and keeps only their quintessences. Unspeakable torture where he needs all his faith, all his superhuman strength, where he becomes among all men the great patient, the great criminal, the one accursed – and the supreme Scholar! – Because he reaches the unknown! Since he cultivated his soul, rich already, more than any man! He reaches the unknown, and when, bewildered, he ends by losing the intelligence of his visions, he has seen them. 

Arthur Rimbaud, age 17

On October 20, 1854, Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud was born.

Grew up in Charleville, France.

He was an excellent student.

And by the age of 15, this Wild Child Poet would forever change writing, influence artists & musicians – and remain a Mystery.

He wrote poems that are complex, Byzantine in their symbols & enigmas. To this very day, Scholars are still publishing articles & biographies about him. These sometimes desperate writings are filled with possible answers trying to explain the Mysterious & Darkly Beautiful Works.

And then there is the big question concerning Rimbaud: Why did he stop writing at the age of 20?

By the time I was 20 (by that time I identified myself as a writer,) I was not only ready to commit time& energy into The Word. I was willing to commit my health, my safety, my sanity, MY LIFE. And so it began.

There was nothing out of the ordinary about my drinking before Rimbaud entered my life. And when I read that letter in my dorm room at Ohio University, the challenge was on.

And that was how I saw it: A Challenge! “Rational derangement of all the senses.” It would become an endurance contest.

In the many rooms at the many institutions & centers I have been to, at some meeting in each one, the statement is made: No one just wakes up one day and says they want to be an alcoholic or an addict.

I stopped trying to explain myself in groups when I would raise my hand & say that I, as a matter of fact, did.

What my 20-year-old naive mind failed to grasp was it was not just my life I was going to alter with such madness. It was going to change others, as well.

And not for the good.

Far away from France, years after Rimbaud succumbed to Cancer, a Canadian-American novelist by the name of David Morrell published his debut novel, First Blood, in 1972, introducing the world to Rambo.

Morrell claims he came up with the name for his Troubled & Tragic protagonist after biting into a Rambo apple. There was the “sound of force” in the name Rambo. Morrell was also familiar with Rimbaud, and his most famous work, A Season In Hell, and he described “which I felt was an apt metaphor for the prisoner-of-war experiences that I imagined Rambo suffering.”

Oddly enough, I discovered the “little old-fashioned Rambo” apple was said to have been found “in almost every orchard in Ohio,” as according to Varieties of Apples in Ohio (1915).

This is a fun little tidbit of fact for me. I am an Ohio Native.

Within the Novelization world: Morrell’s character was born John James Rambo, July 06, 1947, to Italian father, Reevis & Navajo mother, Helga.

Location: Bowie, Arizona.

Like I said, when I was a child, I wanted to be like Rambo. What is ironic – & a cruel irony it is – was how much of the character I ended up feeling I related to in my adult life as result of Rimbaud’s challenge.

Rambo, not as full-fledged fighting machine, but as the “Lost Man”.

There were so many times I thought about him when I was homeless, walking from one city to the next. Sleeping outside in both rural & urban areas.

I have been escorted by Police from one county to the next because I was not welcome to aimlessly wander the roads.

Sylvester Stallone as John J. Rambo, First Blood, Carolco Pictures (1982)

Even the opening Score to the film, Composed and Conducted by Jerry Goldsmith, played as an earworm in my head, comforting me & giving me courage during that time.

Leonardo DiCaprio delivered the line, “The only unbearable thing is that nothing is unbearable,” in the 1995 film Total Eclipse. A then 19 (possibly 20) year-old DiCaprio portrayed Rimbaud in Agnieszka Holland’s film depiction of the volatile, toxic relationship between the teenage poet & Paul Verlaine.

And those words, written by Rimbaud himself, ran inside of me as a Mantra:

The only unbearable thing is that nothing is unbearable.

Those words & that sad, haunting Score helped my feet move from one mile into the next.

Both Rambo & Rimbaud with me.

No. I was not tortured & traumatized by an opposing army to develop P.T.S.D.

My P.T.S.D. stems from Self Loathing at how far I took things – how dangerous what I did & became annihilated my whole world, wrecking what I love most. I became monstrous. Physical & Psychological abuse, Abandonment & Manipulation from my last lover exacerbated my disorders even further, me becoming so unstable & worthless not even she could tolerate me for more than a few days at a time.

So I wandered: weeks & months went by where (I felt) there was no one. Not that there wasn’t. There is a difference. And I acknowledge that.

Well, I do now.

In response to Stallone’s 2008 film Rambo, author, David Morrell, described the character as: “Angry, burned-out, and filled with self-disgust…”


I could relate.

Self-identity & Worth were constantly being questioned. Painful Reflectivness and feeding my addictions & diseases accompanied me on my wandering.

Then there came a day – a night – drunk, when I gave a very REAL consideration of Rimbaud, my plight, and Rambo.

Rimbaud grew-up. He stopped writing at the age of 20. To me: he threw in the cards, called it quits. That is like saying you escaped Hell by blowing out a candle.

Had Rimbaud even come CLOSE to suffering? Had even come close to knowing LOVE?

Imagine the true & hellish suffering a parent has at the loss of a child!

I felt even more damned that night because I did not loose a child. I gave mine away!

I had done it; I had morphed into something monstrous, fully aware I was something that was not appropriate enough, let alone safe enough, to be around my son & two nieces.

And, in all honesty, that is how I gage & level & classify a person: Are they somebody I would want around the children.

My Ex-girlfriend, my Great & Radiant Demon, was never nor ever will be – around my children. I have three beautiful children, I love them & two of them are my sister & brother-in-laws.

There is something that little piss-ant Rimbaud knew nothing about when he wrote his Doomed & Dangerous creed: the love a Parent has for a Child. Hell, the love any descent adult has for a child. That protective love even the fictional Rambo was fortunate enough to have for his adoptive niece, Gabrielle.

“All forms of love, suffering…”


And, not to pat myself on the back, but I think I got you beat, Rimbaud. Even though you were a teenage Genius, you are lacking on a great deal of important components to the Human Condition.

I am growing up. And will continue to do so. And I will keep writing.

If this were a competition of some sort, Rambo, of course, would have won. Because Rambo does not lose. A hero’s greatest quality is enduring through the lives they’ve touched. I grew up & out of Rimbaud’s beautiful terror.

But Rambo is still with me.

Rambo never let me down.


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