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7/4/2019 Jack Kerouac on Kindness, the Self Illusion, and the “Golden Eternity” - Brain Pickings - Pocket

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Jack Kerouac on Kindness, the Self Illusion, and


the “Golden Eternity”
“Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in
heaven now.”
Brain Pickings | Maria Popova

Portrait of Jack Kerouac by John Cohen

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7/4/2019 Jack Kerouac on Kindness, the Self Illusion, and the “Golden Eternity” - Brain Pickings - Pocket

In the mid-1950s, literary iconoclast and beat icon Jack Kerouac (March 12, 1922–
October 21, 1969) became intensely interested in Buddhism, which began permeating his
writing. It was the golden age of Eastern ideas drawing Western minds, from legendary
composer John
John Cage
Cage to pioneering philosopher Alan
Alan Watts
Watts credited with popularizing
Watts,
Zen thinking in mainstream Western society. Watts, in fact, at one point criticized
Kerouac’s writing as being “always a shade too self-conscious, too subjective, and too
strident to have the flavor of Zen.” But when stripped of his literary self-consciousness, as
he was in his private letters, Kerouac had a special way of articulating the most beautiful
and eternal concepts of Zen Buddhism with equal parts expansive awareness and
crystalline precision.

Kerouac sent one such letter to his first wife, Edie Kerouac Parker, in late January of 1957,
a decade a ter their marriage had been annulled. Found in TheThe Portable
Portable Jack
Jack Kerouac
Kerouac
(public library)
library — an altogether terrific treasure trove of his stories, poems, letters, and
public library
essays on Buddhism — the missive is nothing short of exquisite.

Kerouac writes:

I have lots of things to teach you now, in case we ever meet,


concerning the message that was transmitted to me under a pine
tree in North Carolina on a cold winter moonlit night. It said that
Nothing Ever Happened, so don’t worry. It’s all like a dream.
Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don’t know it because of our
thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind is known that
everything is alright forever and forever and forever. Close your eyes,
let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds,
listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will
remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky
way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is
all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect.

Echoing Watts’s philosophy


philosophy on on death
death Kerouac considers the
death, the illusion
illusion of
of the
the solid
solid “sel
“sel ”” as
he contemplates the
the life
life and
and death
death of
of mountains
mountains
mountains:

We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to
do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many
selves everywhere: Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which
passes into everything is one thing. It’s a dream already ended.
There’s nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about. I know
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7/4/2019 Jack Kerouac on Kindness, the Self Illusion, and the “Golden Eternity” - Brain Pickings - Pocket

this from staring at mountains months on end. They never show any
expression, they are like empty space. Do you think the emptiness of
space will ever crumble away? Mountains will crumble, but the
emptiness of space, which is the one universal essence of mind, the
vast awakenerhood, empty and awake, will never crumble away
because it was never born.

He ends the letter with one of his free-flowing, uninhibited poems:

The world you see is just a movie in your mind.


Rocks dont see it.
Bless and sit down.
Forgive and forget.
Practice kindness all day to everybody
and you will realize you’re already
in heaven now.
That’s the story.
That’s the message.
Nobody understands it,
nobody listens, they’re
all running around like chickens with heads cut
off. I will try to teach it but it will
be in vain, s’why I’ll
end up in a shack
praying and being
cool and singing
by my woodstove
making pancakes.

More than half a century a ter Kerouac penned that beautiful letter, director Sergi Castella
and filmmaker Hector Ferreño transformed the writer’s words into a magnificent
cinematic adaptation
adaptation for Dosnoventa
Dosnoventa Bikes
Bikes with a haunting, Johnny-Cashlike voiceover
Bikes,
by James Phillips and beautifully curated music by Pink Floyd and Cash himself. As an
intense lover of both bikes and literature, it makes my heart sing in multiple octaves.

The
The Portable
Portable Jack
Jack Kerouac
Kerouac offers a richer glimpse into one of modern history’s most
extraordinary minds. Complement it with Kerouac’s beat
beat tour
tour of
of NYC’s
NYC’s nightlife
nightlife and his
30
30 beliefs
beliefs and
and techniques
techniques for
for prose
prose and life.
and life
life

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If Brain Pickings brings you any joy, please consider supporting with a small donation
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donation.

This post originally appeared on Brain Pickings and was published March 12, 2014. This article is
republished here with permission.

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