I’m reading “The Dharma Bums” by Jack Kerouac, in which the narrator hoboes across the United States in the ‘50s, wrestling with his own proto-Buddhist tendencies. Kerouac, binge-drinking alcoholic that he was, certainly had his attachments. But every once in a while he shows flashes of “getting it,” at least from what I can tell, my own flashes of “getting it” being few and far between as well. (And as they say, as soon as you think you’ve got it, you don’t.)
I liked this passage - complete with unconventional punctuation - in which he hits on the essential oneness of things, and the ways that all of the past snowballs down to us, becoming our reality in the present.
“It seemed that I had seen the ancient afternoon of that trail, from meadow rocks and lupine posies, to sudden revisits with the roaring stream with its splashed snag bridges and undersea greennesses, there was something inexpressibly broken in my heart as though I’d lived before and walked this trail, under similar circumstances with a fellow Bodhisattva, but maybe on a more important journey, I felt like lying down on the side of the trail and remembering it all. The woods do that to you, they always look familiar, long lost, like the face of a long-dead relative, like an old dream, like a piece of forgotten song drifting across the water, most of all like golden eternities of past childhood or past manhood and all the living and the dying and the heartbreak that went on a million years ago and the clouds as they pass overhead seem to testify (by their own lonesome familiarity) to this feeling. Ecstasy, even, I felt, with flashes of sudden remembrance, and feeling sweaty and drowsy I felt like sleeping and dreaming in the grass.”
(Photo: Mercer Street, NoHo, Sept. 2007)