Pertaining to On the Road, These Were the Nights, and a culture of longing.
Whenever I read a book, I instinctively (thank you grad school) search for the overarching, all encompassing purpose of the book. Because every book has some some message. It always can teach you something, reveal something, lead to something you wouldn’t have previously known. That is the beauty of literature; the reason I never get tired of picking up a novel or rereading a favorite.
About a week ago, I finished Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. I loved it and truly believe everyone should read it. (But maybe not the scroll; that was a bit intimidating.) And it’s been on my mind ever since. Every time I listen to the song “Runaways” by The Killers (which my sisters would probably argue is far too often) I think of Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac jumping in a beaten down car and hitting the road. I see them driving about, searching for something, hell bent on discovering whatever it is they are missing. And they have no qualms on wasting as much gas and causing whatever heartbreak necessary on their quest.
Last night, I finished rereading There Were the Nights by Cory Copeland. I read the book when it first was released early this spring and felt as if parts of it were written for me. (If you haven’t read it yet, shame on you, so find yourself a copy!) I won’t give anything away, but I will say that the character of Gideon Monroe is one of the most complicated characters I’ve read. I don’t really know what to do with him. I read page after page, and I just want to hug him and whisk him away from the various problems that are thrown at him, and then maybe punch him in the face. I feel his longing, his desire for something different, something better. I understand it.
The song that popped into my head while reading Gideon’s story was “White Blank Page” by Mumford & Sons. No idea why really, but I listened to it on repeat last night until I could sing along.
And can you lie next to her
and confess your love, your love?
As well as your folly
And can you kneel before this king
and say “I’m clean”, “I’m Clean”?
But tell me now where was my fault,
in loving you with my whole heart?
Her white blank page
and a swelling rage, rage
You did not think when you sent me to the brink, to the brink
You desired my attention, but denied my affections, my affections
There is so much suffering, frustration, and distress in that song. It echoes what I see in Gideon. It even echoes what I sometimes feel myself.
We are such a sad, run down, depressed, beat generation of people. Looking at Kerouac, Cassady, and Gideon, I see a culture that hasn’t really changed all that much. We’re still confused, still searching, still dissatisfied. We long for something, but we don’t know where to find it. We seek it out in anything we can find, whether it’s by running away or drugs or sex or writing or religion. We throw ourselves into something and ask it to heal us. We need something so desperately, so we’ll try just about anything until we find it.
And some people never find it. They never feel as if their soul is full and their heart is happy. They spend their entire life wondering what they’ve missed, what passed them by.
It would be easy to say that God is the missing link, that little piece, the one thing everyone has passed by. He is the only one who can truly heal us after all. But nothing about God, spirituality, and our walk with Christ is easy or simple. And I’ll admit that sometimes, despite my faith in God, I feel restless, at loose ends, adrift in the sea that is this messy world. I have God, His Spirit residing within me, but I still seek pleasure and satisfaction in everything else. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel like faith is enough.
I need to trust Him. Some days, I don’t want to. I want to be in control. I want to determine my destiny. I want to forget my beliefs and just live in the moment, however I choose and without restrictions. I want to be free.
I look for that freedom, that escape in school, in traveling, in writing, in relationships. I look at those things and I want them to make me happier. I want them to make me feel like a whole person, to give me purpose and meaning.
But I may have it backwards. I should be looking to God to make those experiences better, more satisfying. I should be asking God to take the things that make me smile and use them as He will. He should be the one I go to first, not as a last resort. All the other stuff, the relationships, education, and writing, those are something extra. A kind of gift.
My life shouldn’t be a tug of war, a struggle with God. He isn’t here to make my life more difficult, less adventurous, or absolutely distressing. He doesn’t exist to ruin my life. He exists to give it direction, to make my life fulfilling and rewarding. My purpose is in Him, my meaning is what He gives me. I need to learn to stop fighting Him, to give up control and let Him fill the emptiness.
Thank you for reading! Feel free to let me know what you think. And maybe follow me on Twitter?