Recently, I have been obsessed with the Jack Kerouac quote featured in Jason Silva’s Nonconformity and the Creative Life:
the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.
When I think about the way that I act, and the way that I think about the world, I always come back to passion. We live in a world that could very easily become a dispassionate, mundane, banal, and tedious existence. People like Jack Kerouac, Ken Kesey, and Terrence McKenna break from banality, and embody that emotional spirit. They are those who are swept up in the moment, and travel from place to place searching for their identities in the greater world. They write down, and try and bring their ideas back to us. Arguably, the more interesting person in Jack Kerouac’s On The Road is Neal Cassady/Dean Moriarty. He is the one who helps light a fire under Jack Kerouac, who becomes the object for Kerouac’s writing. Ken Kesey once told Tom Wolfe (the writer of Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test), that he would rather be a lightning rod than a typewriter. While the passionate are important, the ability to bring that back and integrate it is the role of the writer, who tends to be moved and inspired by those they chronicle.
Jack Kerouac is more than just a person, or a character from a novel. Jack Kerouac is a model for self-discovery, and reclaiming passion. Jack Kerouac embodies a very American spirit of self-searching and self-growth, and his books lead us through his journey of confusion, a search for finding ourselves. The Jack Kerouac archetype is the clunky Hero’s Journey, the bildungsroman that we all have to travel through if we wish to transcend our everyday living. It’s awkward, it’s raw, and after we learn about these people’s journey’s we long for exploration of our own, to plunge into the depths of our relationship between our social world and ourselves. What people like Jack Kerouac do is disturb our understandings of the world, and of ourselves. They make the banal become an exciting possibility. On The Road reads like it was written by a madman, the sentences fly off the page coherently, but in a not entirely connected fashion.
Similarly, for writing Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe’s style of writing embodies the moment, it is written almost psychedelically, with poems beginning certain paragraphs, and journalism merging into magic realism. While Tom Wolfe could write a ‘journalistic’ piece on the acid-tests, he instead takes on the role of the outsider who is engulfed in the journey (although Tom Wolfe was never really there). The style of gonzo/new journalism that perpetuates his writing and Hunter S. Thomson’s is one that puts the reader there, bends the line between truth and reality and spits us back out, forever changed. The role of the writer is to create that emotional bond between those experiencing the story, and those who are sitting down to read it. When the writer becomes the person on the journey, their story becomes even more fresh, as the words stream off the page, burning holes in our sociological collective consciousness.
Jack Kerouac is not just an historical figure, but a model for being. Avoiding conformity means hitting pitfalls in life, some of which can be very mystifying and confusing. As Kerouac put it:
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.
It can be really confusing, and tiring to be putting yourself out there constantly. Jack Kerouac’s life was an intense one, and it involved a lot of confusion. That does not mean we should not try though. We never know what will succeed or fail until we try and push that limit. All I know is that life is too short to spend it being afraid of failing, or trying to stay in societies lines of safety. We could make it through life unscathed. I could be doing a degree in business, and work at some place analyzing people’s work. It would probably be a lot easier, but then again, it would also be a lot less satisfying. If you know that you put yourself out there, and experienced everything you could, even if it leaves you unreconciled, you have at least taken a larger step in life than most people ever will.
Never say a common place thing, and burn like fabulous roman candles exploding like spiders across the night sky.