Kerouac on Prayer"Did you know the prayer I use?"
"I sit down and say, and I run all my friends and relatives and enemies one by one in this, without any angers or gratitudes or anything, and I say like 'Japhy Ryder, equally empty, equally to be loved, equally a coming Buddha,' then I run on, say, to 'David O. Selznick, equally empty, equally to be loved, equally a coming Buddha' though I don't use names like David O. Selznick, just people I know because when I say the words 'equally a coming Buddha' I want to be thinking of their eyes, like you take Morley, his blue eyes behind those glasses, when you think 'equally a coming Buddha you think of those eyes and you really do suddenly see the true secret serenity and the thuth of his coming Buddhahood. Then you think of your enemy's eyes."
The Dharma Bums, pp. 68-69, Viking-Penguin, 1958, New York; © 1958 Jack Kerouac; renewed Stella Kerouac and Jan Kerouac, 1986
I stumbled on this as I indulge my current Kerouac obsession. Coincidentally, I am also preparing to lead a program on prayer for my church. Imagine praying for your enemies, that they are equally a divine manifestation of the coming Christ. Well, I'm pretty sure Jesus would be cool with that.
I'm a little over half-way through Dharma Bums and I keep thinking: Kerouac, during his time as a look-out on Desolation peak (recorded in Desolation Angels) really did succeed in following in Thoreau's footsteps . That cabin, marooned up on that peak, was even more separated from society than Thoreau's cabin — which was essentially in Emerson's back yard.
I also think how often Kerouac's prose lifts up and sings in Whitman's tradition. Whitman was also into Buddha, as many of the Transcendentalists were, so he would have been happy to walk with Jack. Yeah, Ti Jean walked the same open road Whitman walked.
I think of how I've sort of bought into the middle class dream that Ti Jean (Kerouac) rejected. I mean, good grief, I have a mortage and an eight to five job. Yet, I still strive to walk my own path. And confront the beast wherever possible and however necessary.
And, finally, I think how sad that Jack couldn't live the dream and follow Buddha to the end of the road. Drinking yourself to death is not the path of Buddha. But, look, that doesn't deny the truth of what he was saying or the truth of his hunger. The hunger for spirit, as they say, will either go for the true spirit, the Great Cosmic Spirit Kerouac and Ginsberg found in Buddha, and others find in Christ or in nature or in the stars; or that hunger will go for the false spirit which generally comes from a bottle. Some of the greatest spiritualists live on skid row.
We'll never hear their prayers, tho' they may be truer than the Sunday morning Amen corner. Thank heavens that traveler Jack Kerouac, Ti Jean, is still in print, so we can read his prayers.
You may have noticed my saying I would be leading a program on prayer at my church. I hope to post some notes from that presentation on this web-log. Yet another direction to go, and I can only guess how it will affect the banner ads.