“I insist on your freedom.” ~ Jack Kerouac
It seems like everyone’s moving lately. I keep hearing of people packing up, moving to new apartments or houses, or even new cities and countries. I’m moving too (apartments) in a few days.
Moving can be chaotic and unsettling. We are literally uprooting and un-grounding, as we take steps toward sweeping out the old and dropping the stuff of our lives down into another location.
I love being on the move a lot more than I care to admit—the delicious newness of it all, the promises a new environment contains, the sharp call to awaken and be fully present in each moment—but the act of being in flight, so to speak, can also shake me and leave confused, unfocused and uncertain.
Which is when I like to turn to the Beats, as I often do, for inspiration about those parts of being unmoored that I love.
After all, the only constant in life is that everything is always changing, as the saying goes. Why not love the wild temporariness of it all, so acutely felt in times of transition?
The Beat Generation’s most notorious members evoke a world of rebellion, freedom and creative abandon and also rootlessness. Their America was one of freebirds, and Jack Kerouac must be the most emblematic of them all.
Kerouac travelled around America several times, and out of this came On the Road, one of the most iconic road trip stories of all time. He had no fixed place: he stayed with his aunt, and crashed with friends (and strangers and new lovers) throughout his journeys.
For me, Kerouac gets more interesting with each read—Dharma Bums and Desolation Angels are two of my favorites. I love him for always reminding me that to travel is the broadest of terms (we live and we die and in between we travel), and that there are almost limitless ways we can travel when our destination is truth.
Here are some of my favourite J.K. quotes about travel, just about any way you want to interpret this delightful and open-ended word:
>> “All of life is a foreign country.”
>> “There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”
>> “I was surprised, as always, be how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.”
>> “Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”
>> “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
>> “What’s in store for me in the direction I don’t take?”
>> “I’m writing this book because we’re all going to die.”
>> “The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view.”
>> “Happiness consists in realizing it is all a great strange dream.”
>> “It always makes me proud to love the world somehow- hate’s so easy compared.”
>> “I hope it is true that a man can die and yet not only live in others but give them life, and not only life, but that great consciousness of life.”
>> “One man practicing kindness in the wilderness is worth all the temples this world pulls.”
>> “When you’ve understood this scripture, throw it away. If you can’t understand this scripture, throw it away. I insist on your freedom.”
>> “Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk—real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious.”
>> “Better to sleep in an uncomfortable bed free, than sleep in a comfortable bed unfree.”
>> “The beauty of things must be that they end.”
>> “My witness is the empty sky.”
>> “Accept loss forever.”
And my favourite:
“Don’t use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry.”
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard