The Dharma Bum Gets His Own Wiki Entry

Jack Kerouac and the other Beats were my heroes (I was, of course, not alone) when, in 1991, I moved to Boulder, Colorado… home of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute (now known as Naropa University). I could not afford to attend Naropa — who can? — but I did meet Allen Ginsberg on several occasions, which made relocating here worth it.

Kerouac, Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs have all moved on to adventures beyond my wildest imagination… and, of course, I’m still in Boulder, wondering when my boat will leave the dock.

Here’s a random Kerouac quote that reflects my own reality at different times in this life:

I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.

And here’s something from his Wiki entry (sans irritating Wiki footnote numbers and internal links):

Kerouac is generally considered to be the father of the Beat movement, although he actively disliked such labels, and, in particular, regarded the subsequent Hippie movement with some disdain. Kerouac’s method was heavily influenced by the prolific explosion of Jazz, especially the Bebop genre established by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and others. Later, Kerouac would include ideas he developed in his Buddhist studies, beginning with Gary Snyder. He called this style Spontaneous Prose, a literary technique akin to stream of consciousness. Although Kerouac’s prose were spontaneous and purportedly without edits, he primarily wrote autobiographical novels (or Roman à clef) based upon actual events from his life and the people he interacted with.

Many of his books exemplified this approach including On the Road, Visions of Cody, Visions of Gerard, Big Sur, and The Subterraneans. The central features of this writing method were the ideas of breath (borrowed from Jazz and from Buddhist meditation breathing), improvising words over the inherent structures of mind and language, and not editing a single word (much of his work was edited by Donald Merriam Allen, a major figure in Beat Generation poetry who also edited some of Ginsberg’s work as well). Connected with his idea of breath was the elimination of the period, preferring to use a long, connecting dash instead. As such, the phrases occurring between dashes might resemble improvisational jazz licks. When spoken, the words might take on a certain kind of rhythm, though none of it pre-meditated.

Kerouac greatly admired Gary Snyder, many of whose ideas influenced him. The Dharma Bums contains accounts of a mountain climbing trip Kerouac took with Snyder, and also whole paragraphs from letters Snyder had written to Kerouac. While living with Snyder outside Mill Valley, California in 1956, Kerouac was working on a book centering around Snyder, which he was thinking of calling Visions of Gary. (This eventually became Dharma Bums, which Kerouac described as “mostly about [Snyder]”.) That summer, Kerouac took a job as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak in the North Cascades in Washington, after hearing Snyder’s and Philip Whalen’s accounts of their own lookout stints. Kerouac described the experience in his novel Desolation Angels.

Desolation Angels, by the way, is my favorite Kerouac novel — and I do believe I’ve read them all.

I don’t care what anyone says about his place in the literary pantheon: Jack Kerouac was an original from head to toe, and I’m glad I went through a life-phase with him at the center.

About Those Commandments….

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Makes you think!

Moses was high on drugs: Israeli researcher

High on Mount Sinai, Moses was on psychedelic drugs when he heard God deliver the Ten Commandments, an Israeli researcher claimed in a study published this week.

Such mind-altering substances formed an integral part of the religious rites of Israelites in biblical times, Benny Shanon, a professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem wrote in the Time and Mind journal of philosophy.

“As far Moses on Mount Sinai is concerned, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don’t believe, or a legend, which I don’t believe either, or finally, and this is very probable, an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics,” Shanon told Israeli public radio on Tuesday.

Moses was probably also on drugs when he saw the “burning bush,” suggested Shanon, who said he himself has dabbled with such substances.

“The Bible says people see sounds, and that is a clasic phenomenon,” he said citing the example of religious ceremonies in the Amazon in which drugs are used that induce people to “see music.”

He mentioned his own experience when he used ayahuasca, a powerful psychotropic plant, during a religious ceremony in Brazil’s Amazon forest in 1991. “I experienced visions that had spiritual-religious connotations,” Shanon said.

He said the psychedelic effects of ayahuasca were comparable to those produced by concoctions based on bark of the acacia tree, that is frequently mentioned in the Bible.

You know, I must not have been there the day in Sunday School when they talked about this….


There’s Room for Everyone!

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Even those with no time to read (let alone meditate):

Originally published by the author in 1972, the underground classic Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment teaches how to improve the quality of life, to feel good, and to determine what’s real. Golas leads the reader down the path toward enlightenment with simple steps, like memorizing key phrases and incorporating them into daily life and thought. This classic book is full of useful tips on how to live a more conscious life and to be an engaged and aware member of the universal community.

In 1988 an audio version of The Guide was recorded. The audiobook was abridged and contained only two-thirds of the content of the printed edition.

In 2005 I obtained a copy of the audiobook on ebay. I did not realize until it was in my possession that the reader was Thaddeus Golas. Although the first five minutes of the tape had been overdubbed the rest of the recording was clean. Golas changed some of the content and it is interesting to listen to the tape and follow the words in the printed book. In the audiobook most mentions of LSD and sex were excluded from the recording.

The audiobook is out of print and the company that created it has closed. On this page are mp3 files made from the audiobook so that users of The Guide may share in the experience of hearing Golas’s words in his own voice.

I’m thinking that the printed book plus these mp3’s would be the ticket….

Another Bittersweet Goodbye

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R.I.P., you modern-day Socrates.

I already miss your watery eyes, your cigarette curls and your linguistic sword slashes.

The world can hardly afford your absence… but lucky for us, you left plenty of grist for our collective mill.

Stealing from a wonderful Poputonian post at Hullaboo, here’s a final salute from A Man Without a Country:

I apologize to all of you who are the same age as my grandchildren. And many of you reading this are probably the same age as my grandchildren. They, like you, are being royally shafted and lied to by our Baby Boomer corporations and government.

Yes, this planet is in a terrible mess. But it has always been a mess. There have never been any “Good Old Days,” there have just been days. And as I say to my grandchildren, “Don’t look at me, I just got here.”

There are old poops who will say that you do not become a grown-up until you have somehow survived, as they have, some famous calamity — the Great Depression, the Second World War, Vietnam, whatever. Storytellers are responsible for this destructive, not to say suicidal, myth. Again and again in stories, after some terrible mess, the character is able to say at last, “Today I am a woman. Today I am a man. The end.”

When I got home from the Second World War, my Uncle Dan clapped me on the back, and he said, “You’re a man now.” So I killed him. Not really, but I certainly felt like doing it.

Dan, that was my bad uncle, who said a man can’t be a man unless he’d gone to war.

But I had a good uncle, my late Uncle Alex. He was my father’s kid brother, a childless graduate of Harvard who was an honest life-insurance salesman in Indianapolis. He was well-read and wise. And his principal complaint about other human beings was that they so seldom noticed it when they were happy. So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

So I do the same now, and so do my kids and grandkids. And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

Goodbye, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.