Sometimes you read a book that you sink into so completely you don’t want it to finish, and when onward time means that you reach that final page, you want to hang it around your neck on a simple strap so you can wear it always against your heart.
So it is with Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums, a book that fills you with the true feelings of life, all the way from struggle to joy. It makes you want to live on the top of a mountain for a summer or hitchhike across the country or meditate in the woods or go to poetry readings in small downtown bars in San Francisco. The main character, Ray Smith, does all these things, living in the 1950s and roaming around in a way that feels easy to him in his twenty-something wild-riding years, whereas you are advancing through your early fifties and only just connecting with Jack Kerouac’s writing, only just beginning to deepen your hunger for the freedom of travel and adventure and meeting unexpected people with unexpected ideas about this huge and tender journey that is life.
You feel glad that you didn’t have these urges in your twenties. Then, you didn’t understanding yourself enough to know the choices you had, or what they would mean while and after you had them.
You feel you understand this more now, or at least you know enough to understand that you know nothing.
And even though the world is in a state where travel isn’t a thinkable option and strangers may back away from you, you can at least read books like The Dharma Bums and think and write and plan. And you can be free in your mind, closing your eyes to be amongst the pines on the top of a mountain to meditate beneath the cloud clusters and birdsong.
This is where freedom lies, your skin tingling in the crisp haze of everything and nothing.
This is where you fly.