Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Dharma Bums

About 20 years after buying a paperback of Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums, I'm just reading it now. Maybe it would have changed my life if I had read it then. Maybe I wouldn't have understood a word. In my Penguin paperback edition circa 1987 , page 139 is my favorite page of all the pages... it reads:

When I’d go to the country store to buy bread and milk the old boys there sitting around bamboo poles and molasses barrels’d say, “What do you do in those woods?”

“Oh I just go in there to study.”
“Ain’t you kinda old to be a college student?”
“Well I just go in there sometimes and just sleep”

But I’d watch them rambling around the fields all day looking for something to do, so their wives would think they were real busy hardworking men, and they weren’t fooling me either. I knew they secretly wanted to go to sleep in the woods, or just sit and do nothing in the woods, like I wasn’t too ashamed to do. They never bothered me. How could I tell them that my knowing that the substance of my bones and their bones and the bones of dead men in the earth of rain at night is the common individual substance that is everlastingly tranquil and blissful? Whether they believed it or not makes no difference, too. One night in my rain cape I sat in a regular downpour and I had a little song to go with the pattering on my rubber hood: “Raindrops are ecstasy, raindrops are not different from ecstasy, neither is ecstasy different from raindrops, yea, ecstasy is raindrops, rain on, O cloud!” So what did I care what the old tobacco-chewing stickwhittlers at the crossroads store had to say about my mortal eccentricity, we all get to be gum in graves anyway. I even got a little drunk with one of the old men one time and we went driving around the country roads and I actually told him how I was sitting out in those woods meditating and he really rather understood and said he would like to try that if he had time, or if he could get up enough nerve, and had a little rueful envy in his voice. Everybody knows everything.

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