Jack Kerouac II: One Passage Gets It Right
No one called me out for saying that Jack Kerouac was not a beatnik (capital b?), which he really wasn’t since he spent most of his 47 years living with a) his aunt, b) his mother and c) his briefly wed wives. He did, however, hang out with people who could be called beatniks (B? again), but mostly he was a drunk who eventually died from wounds inflicted in a barroom beating that he endured.
Now, I don’t have the time or space to go into an exegesis of On the Road, which is at any rate a largely rambling and disconnected piece of literature (nor would I consider myself qualified to do so), but from my reading of the manuscript in the Penguin Classic edition, one passage seems to have answered Kerouac’s journeylong quest for God and truth, though it’s just buried on page 173 when he passes a fish-‘n’-chips joint and fraeks out the female owner:
"And for just a moment I had reached a point of ecstasy that I always wanted to reach, which was the complete step across chronological time into timeless shadows, and wonderment in the bleakness of the mortal realm, and for the sensation of death kicking at my heels to move on, with a phantom dogging its own heels, and myself hurrying to a plank where all the angels dove off and flew into the holy void of uncreated emptiness, the potent and inconceivable radiances shining in bright Mind Essence, innumerable lotus-lands falling open in the magic mothswarm of heaven. I could hear an indescribable seethig roar which wasn’t in my ear but everywhere and had nothing to do with sounds. I realized I had died and been reborn numberless times but just didn’t remember especially because the transitions from life to death and back to life are ghostly easy, a magical action for naught, like falling asleep and waking up again a million times, the utter casualness and deep ignorance of it. I realized it was only because of the stability of the intrinsic Mind that these ripples of birth and death took place, like the acton of wind on a sheet of pure, serene, mirror-like water. I felt sweet, swinging bliss, like a big shot of heroin in the mainline vein; like a gulp of wine late in the afternoon and it makes you shudder; my feel tingled. I thought I was going to die the very next moment. But I didn’t die, and walked four miles…."
Had he stopped his journey here, all his questions would’ve been answered, but he treats the whole experience as if a time out of mind. Poor fool.