Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Third Installment - Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac's Poetry and Fascination with Buddhism
Jack was influenced by many of the free thinkers and members of the beatnik movement. In particular, Allen Ginsberg became a good friend to Kerouac and encouraged him both to pursue his poetic desire and explore other religious/spiritual routes besides Catholicism. Jack found particular comfort in the dharma of Buddhism and wrote a few works devoted to the subject, but his behavior got in the way of his belief system. He could not follow the tenant of Buddhism that says one should treat his/her body with respect and keep it free from toxins. Jack continued to drink heavily throughout the rest of his life. I don't think this personally held him back from producing great art. However, the greatest artists tend to have great suffering that influences their art. Although Jack is better recognized as having a talent for writing novels, his drunken poetry is also quality work in my opinion. Here is a bit of prose that reads like scripture and describes the feeling of unconsciousness in an enlightening way.

... During that timeless moment of unconsciousness 
I saw the golden eternity. I saw heaven. In it 
nothing had ever happened, the events of a 
million years ago were just as phantom and
ungraspable as the events of now or a million
years from now, or the events of the next ten
minutes. It was perfect, the golden solitude, the
golden emptiness ... There was no question
of being alive or not being alive, of likes and
dislikes, of near or far, no question of giving
or gratitude, no question of mercy or judgment,
or of suffering or its opposite or anything. ... It seemed
like one smiling smile, one adorable adoration,
one gracious and adorable charity, everlasting
safety, refreshing afternoon, roses, infinite
brilliant immaterial golden ash, the Golden Age.
The ‘golden’ came from the sun in my eyelids,
and the ‘eternity’ from my sudden instant
realization as I woke up that I had just
been where it all came from and where it
was all returning, the everlasting So, and
so never coming or going; therefore I call it
the golden eternity but you can call it anything
you want ... (Kerouac 1994, 59 – 60)

For as depressed and dark of an individual Kerouac was, he managed to vividly describe enlightenment, happiness, and life in many jaw-dropping and inspiring ways through his writing that would fool you into believing he was actually an incredibly energized and happy presence. Well, maybe he was, and maybe we all can be.

1 comment:

  1. He doesn't strike me as a "happy presence," but that may be related to what appear to be our very different ideas of what constitutes "scripture." He was certainly a cultural force and influence, I'll give him that.