Debunking Jack Kerouac the nihilist: More spiritual than beatnik

#1
http://www.theamericanconservative.com/a...-nihilist/

EXCERPT: Catholic mystic poet Jean-Louise Kérouac, better known to the American public as “Jack,” was destined to be misunderstood. The spiritually inverted radicals of the Sixties who sacralized their politics and secularized their spirituality—blame Reich and Marcuse—read Kerouac with blinders on. They only saw what they wanted to see, and what they wanted to see was a celebration of the “freedoms” of hedonism. The rootlessness. The veils of marijuana smoke drifting through jazz clubs. The anonymous, sweaty encounters in bohemian apartment buildings decorated with abstract art. Kicks for the sake of kicks. The very definition of nihilism.

The real tragedy of Kerouac’s reception was that the people who should have known better took the en vogue hedonist reading at face value, writing him off as a word-vomiting miscreant. But that’s a caricature of Kerouac that over-emphasizes the most obvious personal flaws of an intensely spiritual writer. It’s an oversimplification by way of calling someone a simpleton. The truth is more complex and so much more interesting: Kerouac was one of the most humble and devoted American religious writers of the 20th century. Robert Inchausti’s recently published Hard to be a Saint in the City: The Spiritual Vision of the Beats makes an attempt at recognizing the heterodox spiritual focus of the entire Beat oeuvre, but it only points the reader in the right direction. Its simple and hodgepodge construction suggests the vast amount of analysis, particularly of Kerouac’s work, which remains to be done in order to change his reputation in the popular imagination.

The charge of mindless hedonism dogs Kerouac despite his wearing his spirituality on his sleeve. In most of his less famous books, such as Visions of Gerard, Dr. Sax, and Tristessa, you can read his influences like a palimpsest. The Romantics, especially Shelley and Keats, are there. The Transcendentalism of Thoreau looms large. But there’s also a deep dedication to the Buddhist vision of the Void and escape from the spinning wheel of Samsara, which was cultivated long before Buddhism became a lifestyle trend among certain American crowds.

Underlying all of this as Kerouac’s spiritual bedrock was his Catholic upbringing in Lowell, Massachusetts among working-class French Canadian immigrants. Kerouac described himself as a “strange solitary Catholic mystic” whose ecstatic vision of life was the direct result of an eschatology of the end of time. What he longed for was contact with the heavenly eternity overlaying and occasionally penetrating our anodyne perceptions of time. “Life is a dream already over,” he said. It was the furthest thing from an existential claim of the primacy of death and absurdity. It was life reinvigorated by recognition of a transcendent reality.

[...] Oswald Spengle [...was...] probably the only significant common influence between the major figures of the Beat Generation. [...] for Ginsberg, being fellaheen meant embracing a blend of Whitmanesque sex-worship and a strange Buddhist Utopianism. For Burroughs, it meant a kind of transhumanism in which we leave our species behind and prepare to live in space. Kerouac’s response was different. For him, Spengler’s eschatology was just a secular parallel to his own idiosyncratic (and heterodox) but definitely Christian mysticism. His sensitivity to time and loss and his hunger for eternity moved him to write things such as “All is well, practice kindness, heaven is nigh” in Visions of Gerard [...]

[...] Kerouac wasn’t a hedonist and he wasn’t an Epicurean. However questionable his methods and his theology, he believed that his life had a spiritual purpose...

MORE: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/a...-nihilist/
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#2
Jack's Buddhist spiritual/mystical influences comes thru loud and clear in this passage:

“I have lots of things to teach you now, in case we ever meet, concerning the message that was transmitted to me under a pine tree in North Carolina on a cold winter moonlit night. It said that Nothing Ever Happened, so don't worry. It's all like a dream. Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don't know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind is known that everything is alright forever and forever and forever. Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing. It's a dream already ended. There's nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about. I know this from staring at mountains months on end. They never show any expression, they are like empty space. Do you think the emptiness of space will ever crumble away? Mountains will crumble, but the emptiness of space, which is the one universal essence of mind, the vast awakenerhood, empty and awake, will never crumble away because it was never born.”
― Jack Kerouac, The Portable Jack Kerouac

Kerouac also shares with Whitman the sense of being a wanderer or nomad of the world at large, homeless yet totally at home underneath the stars. Both were all about the sensuous experience of life itself, in all of its variations and manifestations. The Zen of embodied impassioned presencing ever surging onward in its ecstatic detachment from the illusion of static being. The continuous contrasting reaffirmation of absolute oneness thru a life of exploring and celebrating the 10 thousand things.
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#3
(Feb 16, 2018 09:25 PM)Magical Realist Wrote: Jack's Buddhist spiritual/mystical influences comes thru loud and clear in this passage:

“I have lots of things to teach you now, in case we ever meet, concerning the message that was transmitted to me under a pine tree in North Carolina on a cold winter moonlit night. It said that Nothing Ever Happened, so don't worry. It's all like a dream. Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don't know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind is known that everything is alright forever and forever and forever. Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing. It's a dream already ended. There's nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about. I know this from staring at mountains months on end. They never show any expression, they are like empty space. Do you think the emptiness of space will ever crumble away? Mountains will crumble, but the emptiness of space, which is the one universal essence of mind, the vast awakenerhood, empty and awake, will never crumble away because it was never born.”
― Jack Kerouac, The Portable Jack Kerouac

Kerouac also shares with Whitman the sense of being a wanderer or nomad of the world at large, homeless yet totally at home underneath the stars. Both were all about the sensuous experience of life itself, in all of its variations and manifestations. The Zen of embodied impassioned presencing ever surging onward in its ecstatic detachment from the illusion of static being. The continuous contrasting reaffirmation of absolute oneness thru a life of exploring and celebrating the 10 thousand things.


Yeah, there's no "On The Road" stream of consciousness, "just leave whatever comes out unedited" approach there to bewilder the easily confused who can't get beyond the mere unregulated appearance or style. Strange how concepts like "beatitude" and "beatification" got mutated into the pulse, oscillation, or bassy rhythm of cultural nonconformity ranging from the pop-market coining of "beatnik" itself to The Beatles to the "beat goes on".

Peter Gilmour: Jack Kerouac hated the term beatnik, coined by San Francisco columnist Herb Caen in 1958. Kerouac claimed, "Beat doesn't mean tired, or bushed, so much as it means beato, the Italian for beatific: to be in a state of beatitude, like Saint Francis, trying to love all life, trying to be utterly sincere with everyone, practicing endurance, kindness, cultivating joy of heart. How can this be done in our mad modern world of multiplicities and millions? By practicing a little solitude, going off by yourself once in a while to store up that most precious of golds: the vibrations of sincerity." --Blessed Are The Beatniks

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