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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Be a Dumbsaint: It's the groovy writer's way

Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind

Kerouac uses wors like crazy, dumb and saint an awful lot. I’m not sure I always like his usage or agree with it. But, hey, it’s not for me to say is it? His work is his work and I’m only the reader. But as advice for writers? Well, I think there is much here to reflect upon, or to be honest, to just dig!

I think Kerouac is using the word crazy to mean extremely enthusiastic or unrestrained. Or perhaps bewildered, bemused and or wandering. Not sure he means to tell us to be insane or mad—at least not in the mental illness context of the words anyway. Mind you, having said that, I feel obliged to point out that there is quite a lot of evidence for mental illness amongst his characters. That, however, is not the topic under discussion here.

I think any writer wanting to get to the truth, to the essence of their experiences has to be a little crazy in that positive, free, unrestrained and cruisy kind of way that Mr Kerouac talks about. There are a couple of other synonyms for crazy that my trusty Oxford Dictionary has thrown up. It can mean ‘full of cracks or flaws’, and ‘made up of irregular pieces’. I think they are kind of self-explanatory don’t you think? Good for a writer to think on for a bit though.

It’s kind of groovy that he has combined dumb and saint into one word. I think it should be in the dictionary: dumbsaint.

Dumb has many many meanings in the dictionary and a whole pile of synonyms in the Thesaurus. I’m not going to go on about all of them, so you can relax! For me, Kerouac is using dumb to mean empty headed, in that nice way of a cultivated emptiness which is required when one want to be open to receive new experiences, knowledge or whatever. Foolish too, in the sense of being the Fool about to step on the road, take the leap, get to the fork in the road and take it. You know? It’s the beginning of a journey that’s worthwhile (in this case the writer’s journey.

He might even be thinking of dumb as in silent or quiet. A prerequisite if true learning is to take place, and if one is going to be fully open and ready to dig what’s happening.

Now we get to saint. A nice word even if you don’t go in for all this analytical stuff. A saint is a very holy person (holy can mean a lot of things on its own: look it up), a virtuous person, respectful. A mystic who approaches life reverently. Otherworldly too, in the sense that they are or strive to be, in this world but not of this world (I really dig that idea, how about you?). That doesn’t mean unworldly (which Roget’s stegosaurus tells me is also a synonym for saintly): that would suggest a bad case of negative naivety or something. It’s more about a holy innocence. You dig?

So, I don’t know about you, but I would really like to be a dumbsaint. Innocent, other-worldly, the Fool embarking on a wonderful journey and open to the insights, knowledge and experience that go to make up not only our life journey, but all that we wish to write about, to to say in our writing.. Quiet too. Too often too many writers (just like the rest of the human race) like to talk too much, make too much noise. And if they aren’t making the noise, they are swamped in it from outside.

Oh, forgot the mind bit. Hey, us dumbsaint writerly types aren’t into that mind trip, you dig? We just groove with vibe of the incoming. Amen!

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