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The Dharma Bums

Book Summary


Ah, the Beat generation, a period of Americas history when people were truly free. The air was filled with aromas of patchouli, candles, incense and vintage clothes. People of all types and colors flirted with ideas of world peace and the intellects of the time buried their noses in novels and many different types of poetry. Jack Kerouac was one of the main writers and speakers of poetry, as most of us know. He new how to speak and write with a rhythm all his own.
Jack Kerouacs book The Dharma Bums, which had a lot to do with Zen Buddhism, gave me a great sense peace. I am a person who likes to be very in touch with the nature around me and that is mainly what Zen Buddhism is about. Japhy, one of the main characters in this book intrigued me very much. He had a very open mind and also liked to take chances. He always gave much more than he ever received. Ray, another main character who was Japhys friend said something like, this world would be better off if there were more people like Japhy around, and I also think this is true. Japhy was the type of person who was intellectual but also adventurous, having grown up in a log cabin in the mountains of Oregon. He often went camping and tromping through the woods and often times he would strip down naked, carelessly. I guess by being naked, he felt more in tune with his surroundings, which I can fully understand because it is only society that forces the idea of wearing clothes upon us. If it were up to me, it would be perfectly fine if clothes were not necessary. In my mind, we are animals, as much as many people seem to deny this, and any other animal does not wear clothing. When Kerouac was describing the scene on Mt. Matter horn, as Ray and Japhy hiked there way to the top, it made me want to be there with them, jumping on boulders, zigzagging there way through small meadows, tall trees, and the fading sunset glow on their backs. I could picture myself as one of them, watching birds fly to their nests as I made my way around the rocks and dew-wet grass.
I am very fond of how Kerouac uses his rhythmic way of writing while describing scenery. It was like I could feel the dim candlelights, smog, and sunsets. I could smell the food Japhy cooked as they camped in the boulder crevasse. I could feel the harsh, cold wind of the mountain breaking through the rocks and hitting my face. I could smell their breath as they spoke of Buddhism and drank large amounts of wine. I greatly appreciate this talent in any writer. This talent of evoking the senses also brings everything right back to Buddhism. For, many teachings of Buddha state that everything on this earth only appear real because our senses tell us so. A table only appears hard because we can feel with our hand that it is so. A light only appears to be bright because our eyes tell us so.
All in all, I really enjoyed reading this book and I feel that I have missed out on a lot by never having read a Kerouac book before. I know that many of his books are not exactly like this one but I really enjoy his knack for using so much detail. I also like many phrases that are in this book. One of my favorites was something like, Id rather sleep in an uncomfortable bed and be free, than sleep in a comfortable bed and not be free. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about being open minded.