Friday, August 20, 2010

Just what’s the point, of this whole joint?

Unanswered, ( Or is it unanswerable?!) questions from The Dharma Bums- Jack Kerouac
Oh what a life this is, why do we have to be born in the first place, and only so we can have our poor gentle flesh laid out to such impossible horrors as huge mountains and rock and empty space –Raymond Smith (RS)

Who played this cruel joke, on bloke after bloke, packing like a rat, across the desert flat? Asked Montana Slim, Was it God got mad, like the Indian cad, who was only a giver, crooked like the river? Gave you a garden, let it harden, then comes the flood, and the loss of your blood? Pray tell us, good buddy, and don’t make it muddy, who played this trick, on Harry and Dick, and why is so mean, this Eternal Scene, just what’s the point, of this whole joint? (Buddy poem) - RS

Is there a certain and definite teaching to be given to all living creatures? was the question probably asked to beetle-browed snowy Dipankara, and his answer was the roaring silence of the diamond.

'Japhy, do you think God made the world to amuse himself because he was bored? Because if so he would have to be mean.’
'Well, it says in the sutra that God or Tathagata, doesn’t himself emanate a world from his womb but it just appears due to the ignorance of sentient beings.'
'But he emanated the sentient beings and their ignorance too. Its all too pitiful. I ain’t gonna rest till I find out why, Japhy, why?'


O gnashing teeth of earth, where would it all lead to but some sweet golden eternity, to prove that we’ve all been wrong, to prove that the proving itself was nil...

What a strange thing is man like in the Bible it says, ‘Who knoweth the spirit of man that looketh upward?’

And also some esoteric statements..

Its only through form we realise emptiness -JR

When you get to the top of the mountain, keep moving- Zen

Tea –the first sip is joy, the second gladness, the third is serenity, the fourth is madness, the fifth is ecstasy.- JR

Make no formed conceptions about the realness of existence nor about the unrealness of existence – Diamond sutra

And then some mocking POVs..

Colleges (are) nothing but grooming schools for the middle-class non-identity which usually finds its perfect expression on the outskirts of the campus in rows of well-to-do houses with lawns and television sets in each living room with everybody looking at the same thing at the same time while the Japhies of the world go prowling in the wilderness to hear the voice crying in the wilderness, to find the ecstasy of the stars, to find the dark mysterious secret of the origin of faceless wonderless crapulous civilisation.

Comparisons are odious -JR

While reading The Dharma Bums I found myself thinking about J D Salinger and his Franny and Zooey. Both books have angst-laden youth on a spiritual quest to solve the riddle of human existence as main characters. Both have an autobiographical flavour. Kerouac and Salinger, perhaps never corresponded with each other. But I feel both represent a cultural high point of the American literature and life in the middle 20th century and may have given fillip to the rebellious youth spirit of that period. Salinger’s Franny and Kerouac’s Ray Smith somewhat stay disconnected from the realities of life, are in a messy, complex, struggle to reach and understand the divine, ultimate truth. Characters in both the books grope and drift aimlessly, in my opinion. Both of them are intellectually superior but unhappy, dissatisfied with the known. Their lives revolve around a certain form of spiritual strife. Interestingly both of them look to eastern philosophy, religion for spiritual answers and solace. Even though the characters somewhat come to peace with themselves in the end, as a reader I felt it was inconclusive.
Perhaps, it was because I had read Hesse’s Journey to the East much before I got hold of Kerouac’s On the Road(1), The Dharma Bums and Salinger’s Franny and Zooey. Hesse’s work is a mature conception of spiritual fulfillment and self-understanding. May be some other time I will write about HH and Leo and their ‘successful’ journey to the East. The quest of Japhy Ryder and Ray Smith in The Dharma Bums looks childish, immature and non-serious. I thought it is much better to stay put and have unflinching faith in 42!!

1.I had far outgrown my youth, figuratively speaking, when I read Kerouac’s On the Road. There was a twinge of regret. The thought that, had I read the book earlier I could have hitchhiked 2 kms of distance to my college at least once, not that I would have actually done so, honestly, had not failed to cross my mind then. You know, the regret that one feels upon realisation of missing out something because you had not known, because you were ignorant, is far greater and stronger than the regret if at all one might feel for having consciously rejected something for eg non-veg. Whereas your will, choice or lack of chutzpah, is involved in the later, the former is precisely because will, choice was not involved.

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