Shelves: our-books , fiction-general Go is generally regarded as the first novel of the Beat Generation, written between and , and first published in , nearly sixty years ago. I first read it when I was 20, fifty years ago, and rereading it after all that time is a rather strange experience. They are the people who came home from the war, whom I used to meet in bars around Durban, those boozy old men. In I used to Go is generally regarded as the first novel of the Beat Generation, written between and , and first published in , nearly sixty years ago. In I used to go for lunch at the Grosvenor Hotel in Soldiers Way across the road from Durban station and sip my solitary beer and eat my 15c curry for lunch, and hear them talking about Smiler Small, who used to frequent the bar in Malvern, and I used to look at all the World War II memorabilia decorating the bar. It never occurred to me that those people, who frequented bars like that, were the Beat Generation, and yet they were.
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Religious or atheist? Kierkegaard or Sartre? We know after Holmes came home from World War II that he confessed that upon entering his chapel he found he could no longer pray. Holmes had reached the metaphysical-psychological state that Kierkegaard called Dread.
But to trace this deep seated feeling of dread, for Kierkegaard, a human being has to be dragged through several phases of the human condition. Kierkegaard tells us that people go will through three stages of life and that each stage ultimately takes one to the dread of metaphysical Angst. In order, the three stages of life are the aesthetic stage i.
After the aesthetic stage we move to the ethical stage and then finally the religious stage. With regard to the Beats in general and Holmes in particular, we can focus on the Aesthetic Stage of life. The aesthete, which is the stage we all start in, is a stage of compete sensual gratification. It is the bohemian life of sex—in all of its many faceted ways. The lover Don Juan in the hero of this stage. The problem as Kierkegaard sees it is that it leads to a meaningless dead-end and only two possibilities for escape.
What are the two possibilities left for escape? Then one is confronted one of the two ways out—but there is one final episode to be faced. That is, these three stages give rise to Dread. What does Kierkegaard mean by Dread? Thus we are led to a personal choice for escaping the Aesthetic Stage. As earlier defined above, dread is a condition of attraction and repulsion.
To say that truth is the passionate appropriation of an objective uncertainty, Kierkegaard means that the human condition is confronted with a chaotic and confusing world—one that has joy and goodness, but also evil and painful experiences. And these lie outside our personal subjectivity, even so, one must appropriate them for him or herself in their own lives. We must take ownership in our personal lives.
Kierkegaard is the first existentialist to draw the famous distinction between authentic and inauthentic life.
The authentic life is characterized by embracing the existential categories. This means that one has to recognize their freedom to one choose and to take responsibility for their choices. The Beats made the free choice to live life that was expressed in their creativity.
To choose the authentic life, is to realize that the human has to embrace two subjectivity and not be turned into an object. The Beats used art to express their subjectivity and their refusal to be determined by the status quo of American life. These categories cannot be seen apart from the fact that one makes their choices with three passion. The Beat lifestyle was lived on the precipice of risk.
Note the stance on sex, drugs, literary style and the courage to fight and win the battle against censorship. When Kierkegaard speaks of five discontinuity he emphasizes that the human being is not a fixed object, he or she is a be-coming, a temporal being who is always confronted with desires.
The Beats lived a life of continual on-going, taking on new experiences as they confronted their obstacles. For the Beats, there is no final answer to how one is to live their lives.
Beatness is a quest for spirituality. The final category is seven solitude. The authentic life is lived in solitude, knowing their passionate, risky choices are made by the free, responsible subject. This solitude, for the Beats, is not alienation, it is the recognition that in our solitude is an authentic freedom to embrace our deeper self and passionately appropriate our world in the solitude of each person.
The similarities between the existential categories and the Beats helps one understand the nature of their existentialism. The first being that the authentic life is one that embraces the existential categories.
This aligns the Beat generation with the genuine lifestyle as distinct from the inauthentic life that opposed to the Beats emerging after World War II and the Cold War.
Sharin N. Elkholy University of Kentucky Press , Ibid p.
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