02 October 2007

Tighten up that seat belt

This morning, David Brooks, one of my favorite NYTimes op-ed contributors, published a sad but true piece depicting what I believe to be a painful observation of our generation’s loss of idealism.

This stark epiphany stems from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road 50th anniversary (last month) and the ensuing lack of appreciation today compared to half a century ago.


Quite frankly, we have become jaded. Driven by instant gratification and our obsession for seamless execution, we have deviated far from “the Road.” The hackneyed cliché “it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey” could not be more wrong. Instead of enjoying this road of “youthful and reckless energy,” we have opted for the gloomy superhighways, saturated with boring societal speed limits – a paradigm for cultural mediocrity. And I, like many others, am responsible for this mediocrity.

Our friend Matt just returned from a much-anticipated trip around the country. 50 years after Kerouac’s exploits, I’d be happy to see how his experience compares. Regardless, I have to praise him for saying “fuck it” and taking the initiative to hit the road on a solo mission. It seems that we’ve lost our ability to think spontaneously and act on impulse. What was once seen as a bad ass idea is now often times considered an act of reclusive behavior.

So at the risk of contradicting this noble platform, I would urge us to un-tighten our perceptions of the unknown and get the hell out every once in a while.… And if that’s beyond the realms of reality, then just go see “Into the Wild” and live vicariously, even for just the weekend.


Pete said...

Deep, but welcomed. I fear that our generation has been brutally robbed of any sense of adventure or accomplishment. All the mountains have been climbed, the records have been set, and the world has been discovered. The most hardship a typical twenties American encounters is the odd flat tire, which most probably don't even know how to change. Rather than anything meaningful, we are consumed with TMZ, American Idol, and Hannah fucking Montana's new album. I'm depressed now.

The Becca said...

You can also READ Into the Wild. I did, in 11th grade (Thanks Mr. Feiner). Reading a book is an accomplishment, albeit small.

Matt said...

Thanks for the shout-out. It was indeed a tight trip.

Pepper said...

I was thinking about this the other day when I saw an ad for Ken Burns' new documentary. It isn't that the Iraq war hasn't made significant demands on some of our generation, because it certainly has...but our generation has not seen an analagous call to duty--one where the fitness of the cause is virtually irrefutable and the consequences of ignoring it disastrous. Present day example excluded for several reasons, I wonder how our generation would fare.

Matthew said...

We can also learn to (try to) let go of what we consume, what consumes us...

Our sense of a nation, of a generation, can be recovered if we work together on systems of global oppression, like human trafficking, "free" trade, and right here in our own backyard, homelessness.

Debt from education seems to make a lot of this (unprofitable in our market structure) work impossible for many, but not all.

Good news: there are now more non governmental organizations than ever to work on these issues.

PS> Dharma Bums is the fucking bomb.

Jordan said...

Why travel when you can just pull off at the closest rest stop that will have all the food and gifts you could ask for? Why take the road less traveled when the alternative is so damn easy?

Is actually finding out about the world (and in turn, yourself) that scary?

Orville said...

Sorry if I'm the grumpy old man putting fingers in everyone's Kool Aid today but On the Road, in my most personal of personal opinions, blows as novel. The prose is trite, self-indulgent, and redundant. Yes, I understand part of the point of the Beat movement was self-indulgent, snappy prose but I always understood the self-indulgent glibness was to be doled out in equal doses with profundity/excitement/general readability.

I have always heard that On the Road was unique for its originality but it seems, to me at least, an obvious outgrowth of Steinback's works revolving around families cast adrift in desperation in the American plains and the American West. It's Kerouac's absence of want for anything other than general masturbatory, teenage chronicling that undermines his writing. Even Allen Ginsberg, who didn't know what the hell he wanted out of life, decided to want something--heroin, gay sex, whatever--and chased it until his desire subsided. (http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15308).

On the Road will be archived as having merit as a window into a specific point in our collective cultural past, just as Dickens' novels are, and will continue to suck as much as Dickens' novels suck to everyone that isn't a dead Victorian.

For my money, 1984, nearly 60 years after publication, depicts the difficulties and joys of our generation better than any novel of its time. No, I'm not talking about Big Brother or the imaginary totalitarian state everyone wants to think we live in, I'm talking about how lives spent working in cubicles and tied together by machines and an ever-shrinking English vocabularly is slowly, effectively crushing the American soul. That the greatest joy we have some days is getting naked and blue-balled in the woods on a Saturday afternoon or holding someone's hand in a crowd without anyone around us seeing. Our crowds get larger and louder and more unanimous (and angry) about whatever the 10 minutes hate is, our work days get longer and more compartmentalized, but our adventures are the days or hours that we make for ourselves when we say fuck it, all these people suck. Let's get the hell out of here for a while. And then we can come back to work and actually enjoy it.

Maybe I'm just cynical, or didn't sleep last night (not fuckingatall), or both, but I think it's harder to man-up and do the 9-5 everyday without becoming a boring clown, than it is to say hell with it all, let's just cruise around and talk about how we feel, and how good it is to be people who can feel how we feel.

Pete said...

Holy Bananas!! Orville's pissed... That was one of the tightest comments I've ever read.

The Becca said...

Get 'em Orville! Give these commie hippies hell!