From “The Town and The City,” by Jack Kerouac.

English: Brooklyn bridge at night, New York ci...

pp. 471-472

And when Peter came back in the mornings, the old man asked him what had happened all night in the cafeteria.  Nothing had happened, people just came in to eat doughnuts and drink coffee in the dead of night, and left, all in the middle of life.  And then father and son looked at each other, and talked about the past, all the things in the million-shadowed blazing past, and about what they would like to do, what they might have done, what they should do now.  Father and son were also two men in the world, sitting idle for a moment together, recognizing in sad-voiced commentary that the destiny of men is to come up to rivers, and cross them one way or another, this man’s way and that man’s way and any other possible way, and get over them or turn back in defeat and sarcasm.  At these times they experienced moments of contentment talking to each other.  This was the last life they would ever know each other in, and yet they wished they could live a hundred lives and do a thousand things and know each other forever in a million new ways, they wished this in the midst of their last life.
These things began to work their change on young Peter who saw in an ancient vision spaded up from his being, what life must be about, at last.  He saw that it was love and work and true hope.  He saw that all the love in the world, which was sweet and fine, was not love at all without its work, and that work could not exist without the kindness of hope.  He gazed at his father’s impending death, into eyes that would soon be blind and dead.  He understood these things when he helped the feeble old man out of bed in the mornings and supported him on wandering feet that used to stride and clack along on Saturday nights in Galloway, he saw these things when his father roused himself from fevered reveries to eat, wash himself, and settle his things around his chair to resume another day.
He saw that all the struggles of life were incessant, laborious, painful, that nothing was done quickly, without labor, that it had to undergo a thousand fondlings, revisings, moldings, addings, removings, graftings, tearings, correctings, smoothings, rebuildings, reconsiderings, nailings, tackings, chippings, hammerings, hoistings, connectings – all the poor fumbling uncertain incompletions of human endeavor. They went on forever and were forever incomplete, far from perfect, refined, or smooth, full of terrible memories of failure and fears of failure, yet in the way of things, somehow noble, complete, and shining in the end.  This he could sense even from the old house they lived in, with its solidly built walls and floors that held together like rock:  some man, possibly an angry pessimistic man, had built the house long ago, but the house stood, and his anger and pessimism and irritable laborious sweats were forgotten;  the house stood, and other men lived in it and were sheltered well int it.
Peter and his father, by just looking painfully at one another, seemed to understand that to question the uncertainties and pains of life and work was to question life itself.  They did that every day, yet they did not hate life, they loved it. They saw that life was like a kind of work, a poor miserable disconnected fragment of something better, far greater, just a fragmentary isolated frightened sweating over a moment in the dripping faucet-time of the world, a tattered impurity leading from moment to moment towards the great pure forge-fires of workaday life and loving human comprehension.  

One thought on “From “The Town and The City,” by Jack Kerouac.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s