A Disembodied Aesthetic of Jack Kerouac
There’s a point in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road: he’s not been travelling for that long but he wakes up in a strange motel room not knowing who he is. That is, it takes him a few minutes to come to a recognition, as to who he is or where he is.
It’s not like ‘a lacking’, a doziness, a morning drowsiness, that loss of self, it’s closer to the true self than anything else we ever discover, uncover or recover. We find, we have thoughts, things flow through us.
Most of the time we barely even consider why or where the thoughts have come from, except to say ‘I thought…’ this or that. That’s why reading has such a peculiarly strong pull on us. Why should it draw us so, thought in ink? We reflect, absorb and create, we play, we doze, we imagine, we are transported, to ‘far off places’ they say. But all places, from the page, are far off, all surreal in their existence. Why? Because we have to translate from another mind, transpose the inner of them made exterior, to the inner of us. That is a peculiarity, a specificatory element of humanity: story, word, thought, language. It makes us human through the generations.
But so, this self, this Who-am-I?-asker, is already cloudy in their question. Far from the place of answer. Why, how even, can one ask, who oneself is? The question is full of paradox. You the speaker ask, who you the speaker is? Are you the voice of the question or are you the source of the voice of the question or are you beyond any voice?
I will not go on too much about the being of the being, as Heidegger might put it. I get lost, I think, in the being of my being, being the being, beyond which I have being but am (or perhaps am not). It is beautiful in its meditative, transcendentalism. His work, his mind. But it’s outside of me.
His words, circle likes eddies in a whirlpool, round and round and back again. They cannibalize each other, each thought, tracks back and loses itself (and you), back in and on itself. Its better… no it helps, to pause and try to think within one’s own thoughts, feeble as one might feel them to be.
But they can’t be febrile because, in the end, they will tap into and contribute to the inner sanctum, of the eons old mind, that all of us maintain. The akasic record, the record of every human thought written on the wind, is recorded too, within our being. The Jungian archetype is me and it is you.
The poetry of being, is a thing inexplicable to words. It is ineffable, unutterable. Words cannot explain what it is to see a herd of deer, unexpectedly, cross your path, whilst walking in the forest. The path of your life, led to this vision, the immensity of chance, fate, material force, brought you before the deer but that cross flowing of innumerable coincidences, of infinite past, that reaches beyond (not only) you; all that, can only be described, a hint upon the breath.
Word ignites visions you have seen with those unseen. It reaches beyond the terrestrial. Logos has long been a god, part of a lower pantheon, but now it is a secular god in its own right. Though truly speaking, (writing) I think all gods are dead, not just the one singular God, as Nietzsche decreed. Seers and oracles are no more; higher beliefs void; prayer silent. The mystical higher self, is here, it is you. Nothing more is needed, the only philosopher alive is you. Not in solipsistic oneness, there is ‘other’ beyond the eye, it’s just, I think, that all being is equally powerful. Not, though, masterful.
There are all kinds of masters and slaves, all kinds of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. All manner of subject and subjugation. But being, is mode beyond control, infinite in its existence, outside of time. This is not belief, some kind of faith, it is seen and so it is. It is and so it is seen.
Proof, is not the body I have and truthfully, I just wonder if this is how it is. But I relate to that loss of self, have experienced it and have had conversations with others about it. A good friend of mine, just the other day said, late at night, she realized nothing held her up. Her existence was, as if it were, air, a light nothingness, a puff of cigarette smoke, twisting like a dancer to no tune. For moments together, she had the feeling that all her thoughts, all her disquisitions on Life, Art, Love, Politics, Food, Home, the Universe or whatever and whatnever, meant nothing. Everything was, as fragile and fleeting, as mist on glass, touching and not touching a hard reality.
It touched her like a spectre, at least for a moment, she was afeard, frightened by its immateriality, its lack of it-ness, her lack of it-ness that is.
These moments of the abyss we do not live in. We exist, but we do not live. Like the dark, pallid vision, of the inner self of a zombie, we are undead, unlife. It’s as if we are floating in the infinite, the cosmos of void, we are filled with without-ness. But it is a twilight, an inner being holds us, pulls us back but we understand that being does not belong to us or rather we do not own it, it just is, without word, without explanation. Is-ness is. As Wittgenstein lamented, of that which we cannot speak of, let us be silent. Some take this to mean beyond what we can speak of is meaningless, others (including Wittgenstein) that only meaning exists beyond our silence.
But we live with spectres of one sort or another all the time. The ‘What will I do?’ the, ‘Am I doing this right?’, the, ‘What have I done?’ and the, ‘I wish I could’. In fact, mostly we mix a little of all of them together in every thought and gesture. The fear of finding nothing at the bottom of our well, drives most of us, either to keep digging ever deeper or to dig more wells, and yet more wells, as a distraction, very consciously. We thirst. The problem of existing is, we thirst for the emptiness of being and return to being, only to thirst again. We can be every day, every day, but every day we know that every day, is more than every-day-ness.
Why? Because you cannot, as Heraclitus said step into the same river twice: as you eat, the apple rots; as you sleep, the body ages; as you look, the cloud rolls. Can you hear the music or just one note at a time? Events as Humean bundles trundle past and time is just a construct of our Kantian minds: we make cause, fill event with meaning, beyond the phenomena, we hope the noumena.
But probably we know as much as tree, leaf, twig, foot, ant, brick, nose, pike, felt-tip, gooseberry, angel, rhino, lampshade, dog, kneecap, tooth, elephant, rocket, lettuce. We are as knowing as glass, as dark as pitch, words spill from us like light from the sun but not much is illuminated, not much of what is.
Being is not good or bad, living is. Do you own empires Adolf? Genghis? Nero? Is the cosmos yours Buddha? Christ? Muhammad? Is the sun conscious, the sea alive, the air delighted, the ground a holiness that smiles? Can you measure happiness, record a void, scale a vanished mountain, saddle unicorns? These are dreams that illuminate nothing much but occupy us, entertain us, in our existence.
Jack captures this sense of things; it reads well, I think.