Hindsight and the Genius of Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac, the free thinker who founded the beat generation
Jack Kerouac, tuning the radio, was the free thinker who founded the beat generation.

Jack Kerouac was the co-founder of the beat generation.

I just wanted to be a beatnik.

He took a few drugs.

I was big into cough syrup and aspirin.

Jack had a hallucination or two.

I had a bad dream or two.

Jack saw strange things running amuck in his mind.

I saw the Milky Way once.

Jack Kerouac was on the road.

I had a bicycle.

He was a visionary, a philosopher, a free thinker who had a perpetual thirst for the unknown in life.

His life was an adventure.

Mine was an adventure only when I read Jack Kerouac.

He questioned life.

He questioned his existence.

I questioned the reason it didn’t rain.

Jack Kerouac, writing wild and free
Jack Kerouac, writing wild and free

He had passion and ecstasy.

I didn’t.

Mother said it was probably dirty.

I quoted Jack Kerouac vociferously.

I had no idea what he was talking about.

But looking back at the words he has written, and I have come to understand his genius, even if he might have been hallucinating when he wrote it:

  • One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.
  • I’m going to marry my novels and have little short stories for children.
  • I like too many things and get confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another til I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion. 
  • Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.
  • The only truth is music.
  • There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.
  • Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.
  • My fault, my failure, is not the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.
  • A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world.
  • Happiness consists in realizing it is all a great strange dream.
  • Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.
  • Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk – real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious.
  • Don’t use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry.
  • I don’t know, I don’t care, and it doesn’t make any difference.
  • I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless emptiness.
  • I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was – I was far faraway from home, haunted and tired of travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost.
  • And the story of love is a long sad tale ending in graves.
  • It all ends in tears anyway.

And when it was all said and done, he spoke for all of us who hoped to walk the streets of no regret and never quite find them, not the ones free of regret anyway.

He wrote: “What’s in store for me in the direction I didn’t take?”

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