He was Beat — the Root, the Soul of Beatific.

9 Mar

‘The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream.’

Jack Kerouac – On The Road

For those of you who don’t know, I read a lot. While what I read is quite varied, it does tend to focus around travelling, or a least the concept of it. Even then, it’s hard to encapsulate. As Mark Twain said, the man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.

So I have just finished ‘On the Road’, by the drug-addled epitome of the Beat Generation that is Jack Kerouac. It follows his three journeys across post-war America, and his quest for his own hedonistic fulfilment, largely in the form of him (as Sal Paradise) and his friend Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassidy in real life) driving around looking for beer, weed, girls, parties – you get the idea. It is not the ideal lifestyle, but it does have its incentives.

There is the concept of just you, and the Road. Not Cormac McCarthy’s Road, with a shopping trolley and a gun with half as many bullets as wanton suicide victims. And I’m definitely not going to go hug the nearest patch of tarmac. The open road, the concept of absolute freedom. Travelling with no real purpose, but no real constraint either: ultimate independence.

On the Road has the ever-present theme of youth. The arrogance of youth, the excitement of youth, the ragged and ecstatic joy of youth! Sal Paradise and Moriarty are young, ‘tremendously excited with life’, and believe that ‘the world belongs to them because they are poor’. It is dangerous stuff. It reads so well, it almost excites you to seize the day, and get out now. While you still can. But the world has changed, and I don’t think it quite works that way anymore.

And the theme of these very pages. Travelling. The world is a book, and those who don’t travel read only a page! I understand that a lot of people don’t want to travel, but in tying with my last post, sometimes we just have to ignore the voices that say no and just take the plunge. As I travel, I will post, and for some that will suffice.

In keeping with what I read, I have a lot of burgeoning ideas and ambitions. But it would do no good to take anything too far. Jack Kerouac ultimately died at the age of 47 from a lifetime of heavy drinking and living. Just because I read Walden doesn’t mean I want to live by a pond. Christopher McCandless’ ambitions outweighed his experiences. So maybe I can forge my own path, free from too much influence.

But the Road is ever enticing. And keep your eyes peeled for the film version coming out this year.

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2 Responses to “He was Beat — the Root, the Soul of Beatific.”

  1. Tracy Zhang March 9, 2011 at 8:03 pm #

    Great post. Horizons are there to be sought, and even broken. Traveling in Europe this year has really changed my perception on culture and living. I hope you enjoy your travels! Looking forward to reading more from you.

    • Tom Lawrie March 9, 2011 at 8:25 pm #

      Thanks Tracy! Means a lot. And I know I will!

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