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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Be Ever So Humble-and Feel the Power!

Submissive to everything, open, listening.
This, the second of Kerouac's techniques for Modern Prose writing, seems on the face of it a little confusing. Kerouac submissive? Hardly. He was a rebel, stood up for what he believed and did his own thing, never (hardly ever) kowtowing to anyone's authority. He sure as hell wasn't passive, and you could never say he yielded to any authority. Docile? Not Kerouac. Subservient? Never!
Of course I think there could be some argument that all the above might not actually be correct. But, not being any kind of expert or authority on Kerouac, I can't get into that discussion-at least not right now. So, let's just think about our general kind of impression of the guy, the one we get from On the Road, The Dharma Bums, and so on. Submissive is not a word most of us would use to describe the Kerouac we encounter there.
What about as a writing technique (we will get to the open and listening bits soon)? Could we say that he was submissive when it came to writing? I think we can-definitely. I think what Kerouac means by be submissive to everything is to give in to it all. Be humble in the face of all we do and experience; don't put ourselves 'above' others or situations. I guess, in a sense he is saying something like, 'don't judge' a situation or person or event or whatever. Just dig it. That's what he's saying. Do you dig?
Could he also be saying that, as writers, we should be submissive, that we should yield, to our ideas, intuitions? To the muse? (whatever our particular muse might be) He is saying, don't judge those ideas, intuitions whatever; go with it. Don't analyse or rationalise your way out of obedience to those things by a 'superior' kind of attitude that comes with a tendency to not want to submit or 'give in'.
Humility in our approach to our writing, to the ideas, the intuition or the guidance of our muse, that's what he's talking about I think. Surrender to the flow of our lives, to whatever happens is his message. Of course, we Kerouac freaks know he was the great surrenderer (in this context at least) don't we? You only have to dig On the Road, or even better for me The Dharma Bums. Yes?
And here we get to the be open and listen part of the advice. Open to firstly the flow of ideas, intuitions, to the muse. Yes. Then it's also about being open to other people, to the stuff going on around us. Also within us I guess. Open to the messages of our heart, our 'soul' you might say. Open also to the people we meet and what they have to say. Of course we also have to keep our minds open, but not so open that our brains fall out (where did that silly idea come from? Must have heard it somewhere).
Part of being open, of course is to listen. With our ears, of course. But, again, with our hearts, minds, souls. Our bodies even. And we have to listen to our hearts, to our minds, to our souls, and to our bodies. Probably good to listen to other people too while we're at it! Here he means, I mean really listen. Dig?
It really is all about being submissive to everything isn't it? All good and true writers must be. Never means that we have to become Uriah Heap (the Dickens character, not the very groovy '70s band) and wring our hands, grovel, or 'yes sir' anyone. In fact, a true submission to what our lives offer us is really nothing less or more than an acceptance-of the flow of our lives. And, when you think about it, that really is quite a powerful position to be in. It puts us in the here and the now of the flow of life. And that means that we are exactly where we should be if we are going to be the true witnesses to life that as writers we are aiming to be. Well, at least that's what I'm aiming for anyway. Among other things.

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