I am reading through On the Road by Jack Kerouac as one of my non-theological works to help me see the world as more than philosophical treatises. I must confess I am also reading it because Bob Dylan writes about how it influenced his life in his autobiography Chronicles. I have enjoyed reading it, it makes me want to live more, not be afraid to take adventure, and taste the grit of America’s oldest highways. I thought I would give the two quotes that stood out to me today, I guess they connected with something deeper in my soul.
“I took up a conversation with a gorgeous country girl wearing a low-cut cotton blouse that displayed the beautiful sun-tan on her breast tops. She was dull. She spoke of evenings in the country making popcorn on the porch. Once this would have gladdened my heart but because her heart was not glad when she said it I knew there was nothing in it but the idea of what one should do.” –Sal
I know people who live this way, out of duty as opposed to gladdness. When I first met Emily, my wife, I experienced the exact opposite of what Sal sees in his country girl. Emily, not only beautiful, found the greatest excitement and joy in the simplest things of life. She would make popcorn, but not out of duty, out of sheer gladdness and child-like happiness. She made life for me light hearted and help to see that the most unlikely things could offer the most wonderful beauty. She continues to do this for me today. She is my Girl From the North Country.
Dean and Sal, while in Detroit’s Skid Row found that, “The people who were in that all-night move were the end. Beat negres who’d come up from Alabama to work in car factories on a rumor; old white bums; young longhaired hipsters who’d reached the end of the road and were drinking wine; whores, ordinary couples, and housewives with nothing to do, nowhere to go, nobody to believe in.”
This is of course the church, found in a ghetto movie theatre in downtown. Well they aren’t the church yet, but they want to be, they want to find something, someone “to believe in” is that the beginning and end of all of us?
I hope those housewives find some meaning in their lives beyond mere duty. In fact I hope they reject duty, and move to find gladdness, joy and belief.