Simon Wincester in his book about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, A Crack in the Center of the World, recounts how the arts and literary scene and the soul of San Francisco didn't revive until the 50's Beats scene came along.
Wincester says that revival efforts did not "bubble up naturally through the cracks in the wrecked pavement" but were organized in a top-down manner by the Chamber and others. Thus, there was "a kind of artifice about it", and "boosterism" to the whole affair.
"Artists generally prefer to work at their pace, with their own instincts, gathering themselves into groups and movements and schools at their own behest. Though there are exceptions, [footnotes to Depression era national projects where artists might have starved; whereas with the SF quake they could simply move away] artists do not care much to create at the whim of officialdom. - Simon Winchester, A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake
So I'm tripping through Google (aka web surfing) and books and stuff and can't help noticing the wild & historic connections of Bohemian influences, plus mysticism, LSD, art & philosophy & spontaneity linking Henri Murger - the original Bohemian - to Jack Keroauc to Timothy Leary to Steve Jobs to personal computers to today's DIY Web 2.0 hipsters (aka those digital utopians, according to "cultural critic" Andrew Keen).
On someone else's blog (hint above), I wrote that where blogs are "truly helpful is to explore a hypotheses, in other words throw out the experiment's premise, and use the blog to chart the progress and process. Blogs aren't as good for totally final results because they unfold over a length of time - but are wonderful in allowing one to share the process of an experiment in the making, and participate in the discovery itself."
I'm itching to explore and not know where it'll take me. Maybe the bohemian Beats as a touchstone and then we'll groove into the sixties and somehow end up here in 2006.
The Beats were about living life to the hilt, and joy, and deep reverence, and experimentation. They're often mistaked for nihilists rather than mystics, anarchists rather than freedom-lovers. They definitely did not want to become like the Zombies (as Kerouac named them in his first novel) who blithely followed the bleak soul-stifling conventions of the early Cold War era.
There are many reasons that Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Synder, Whalen and the crew were called Beat. Here's how Jack himself looks at it: "Yet it was as a Catholic, it was not at the insistence of these`niks' and certainly not with their approval either, that I went one afternoon to the church of my childhood (one of them ), Ste. Jeanne d'Arc in Lowell Mass., and suddenly with tears in my eyes and had a vision of what I must have really meant with 'Beat' anyhow when I heard the holy silence in the church...the vision of the word Beat as being to mean beatific..."
Adj. 1. beatific - experiencing or bestowing celestial joy; "beatific peace"
"All I want is as far as life-plans are concerned from here on out, is compassionate, contented solitude - Bhikkuhood is so hard to make in the West - it would have to be some American streamlined Bhikkuhood, because so far all I've done is attract attention," Kerouac wrote in a letter to poet friend Allen Ginsberg.
Wistfully, that's August 1955 months before Howl put them all on the map, and before On the Road (1957) made Kerouac a literary celebrity and poster boy for a generation. Not all rebels are so mainstream successful, yet...
What strikes me is Kerouac's font of his creativity. And that's something I'd like to dig into further. (He valued solitude, meditation, personal experience & spontaneity.) Here a few nuggets I'm floating:
Office memo's from Viking dated as early as 10/22/53 from Helen K. Taylor, a Viking senior editor said: "The writing is a torrential force that comes directly out of the material, instead of being applied to it. It is almost as if the author did not seem to exist as an outside agency of creation." - "Forty Years of On the Road 1957-1997", Dharma Beat, Issue 9
Starting with the assumption that "words come from the holy ghost" Kerouac reminds readers that "Mozart and Blake often felt they weren't pushing their own pens, 'twas the `Muse' singing and pushing." - Interview with "bell hooks | Buddha Belly", Shambala Sun, May 1998"Meditation is when you sit down, let's say that, and don't do anything. Poetry is when you get up and do something. Somewhere we've developed the misconception that poetry is self-expression, and that meditation is going inward. Actually, poetry has nothing to do with self-expression, it is the way to be free, finally, of self-expression, to go much deeper than that. And meditation is not a form of thought or reflection, it is a looking at or an awareness of what is there, equally inside and outside, and then it doesn't make sense anymore to mention inside or outside." - Norman Fischer, Beneath a Single Moon: Buddhism in Contemporary American Poetry (via Whiskeyriver)
- Spontaneity & Freedom
- Opening the Doors of Perception
- Beatific Joy
- Personal Witness
- Art & Creativity
Bonus: I'm gathering with some friends (limiting to small group, say, 8-10) for a three-day nature-silence-imbued retreat with creative-priming poem sketches and photography thrown in over Easter weekend at Hidden Villa Wilderness Preserve in Los Altos hills of California. Email if interested. (Reserve your own space early: 650-949-8648 or email hostel -at- hiddenvilla dot org. Lodging from $22 for non-HI members in dorm quarters. Private cabins also available: $37 single, $54 double).