Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Dharma Bums

Yesterday, I paid a visit to Santa Fe’s most famous used bookstore. Since I am not one to turn on the television except to watch the news, I need to read. Nikolas Potter Bookseller sits quietly off the quaint downtown plaza. It is in an old home, with a small garden in front and along the front walkway a sign warns you to be aware that bees are buzzing about. Yesterday I arrived in the late afternoon and was gratified to see the front door open, so climbed the few short stairs and went inside.

Used bookstores all have an aura of intellectual refinement and usually a musty air of old paper and used items. In this store, the books are crammed along every possible surface, from top to bottom. The walking spaces are narrow and the place feels tight and intimate. Labels mark sections of the shelves; poetry, art, technical, mystery, etc. I sort of knew what I wanted and so browsed to the literature section to look for a novel or maybe a memoir. Eventually I found The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain, and pulled it off the shelf. After browsing some more, I came to a Jack Kerouac book, The Dharma Bums and after glancing through the pages knew the book was resonating with me, so I had to decide which to keep. Both authors are famous individualists and known for breaking ground as authors. This day, Kerouac won out and I left Twain for another time.

I like Kerouac’s free, direct style of prose. He wrote in a manner that has been described as poetic jazz, blowing the words onto a sheet of paper like a sax player blowing into the night. I feel a kinship to him because he had little care for possessions and traveled freely across the land collecting experience and deepening his soul in the process. His most famous book is On The Road. He had an uncanny ability to transform seemingly everyday events into sacred moments of beauty. Kerouac took the risk of writing with little censorship and believed ‘first thought, best thought.’

Here are some Jack Kerouac quotes:
"The best teacher is experience and not through someone's distorted point of view". On the Road

"Down on the lake, rosy reflections of celestial vapor appeared, and I said, "God, I love you" and looked to the sky and really meant it. "I have fallen in love with you, God. Take care of us all, one way or the other." To the children and the innocent it's all the same. The Dharma Bums

"Houses are full of things that gather dust"

"Life must be rich and full of loving--it's no good otherwise, no good at all, for anyone."
Kerouac: Selected Letters: Volume 1 1940-1956

"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."
Selected Letters 1957-1969 and is a letter he wrote to his first wife, Edie in 1957.
The Portable Jack Kerouac

"Don't use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry."

See some of my recent photographs posted to Facebook: Colorado Sojourn

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