Friday, August 24, 2007

Be not pensive


From On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Sal Paradise and Dean are travelling to Denver with three strangers on a share-a-ride trip…
“…the point being that we know what IT is and we know TIME and we know that everything is really FINE.” Then he [Dean] whispered, clutching my sleeve, sweating, “Now you just dig them in front. They have worries, they’re counting the miles, they’re thinking about where to sleep tonight, how much money for gas, the weather, how they’ll get there – and all the time they’ll get there anyway, you see. But they need to worry and betray time with urgencies false and otherwise, purely anxious and whiny, their souls won’t be at peace unless they can latch on to an established and proven worry and having once found it they assume facial expressions to fit and go with it, which is, you see, unhappiness, and all the time it flies by them and they know it and that too worries them no end. Listen! Listen! ‘Well, now,’” he mimicked. “’I don’t know – maybe we shouldn’t get gas in that station. I read recently in National Petroffious News that this kind of gas has a great deal of O-Octane gook in it and someone once told me it even had semi-official high-frequency cock in it, and I don’t know, well I just don’t feel like it anyway…’ Man, you dig all this.” He was poking me furiously in the ribs to understand. I tried my wildest best. Bing, Bang, it was all Yes! Yes! Yes! in the back seat and the people up front were mopping their brows with fright and wishing they’d never picked us up at the travel bureau. It was only the beginning, too.”

I read On the Road for the first time half a lifetime ago, at age 17. I re-read it again this summer and it was like reading it for the first time. Kerouac's prose has a lyrical, rhythmic quality to it. Of course, the beatnik tone of voice has been parodied often since, like, yeah, man, can you dig it? but the energy and love for life is still there.

This quote reminds me of the trail life. The hippie hiker mantra is, "It's all good!" To go on a long-distance hike requires one to roll with whatever nature and humanity presents. And always, ever always, confidence in fate and circumstance pay off. True peace and serenity, to me, means giving myself over to the moment, to whatever will present itself, and rolling with it, like swimming with the current. I fight fight fight so much sometimes to shape reality to fit my ideals. It's better not to fight. Better to observe, take note, find the right moment, upbeat or down, and take whatever is freely given by the fates.

Can you dig that?

In On the Road, the grand sage is Dean Moriarty (based on the real life Neal Cassady), the mad man who ends of disappointing and failing in some severe, crucial way everyone who crosses into his mercurial orbit. He fathers children he'll never care for and cheats on three different women, leaves Sal Paradise (Kerouac) fevered and alone in Mexico City, and seems to have no sense of direction or depth of feeling. He's all about the latest new thing, the pre-serotonin reuptake inhibitor poster boy for ADD.

And yet he knows IT. He's in tune with some greater wisdom that eludes most.

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