On The Road To Transcendence


Jay Michaelson critiques the new film adaptation of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, hesitating at its "tendency to secularize sensuality—precisely to reduce it to hedonism," and thus missing the deeply spiritual impulse behind many of the Beats:

With the sensual spirituality (or spiritual paganism, if you like) secularized into mere “kicks,” the moral balance of On the Road lurches to one side. In the book, there’s a productive tension between the evanescent, yet incandescent, mysticism of pure human experience on the one hand, and the deep ethical consequences of human relationship on the other. This is a crucial and recurring religious polarity, between the immediacy of spirit and the temporality of ethics, between the circle and the line, the Now and what’s next. But take out the spirituality of one side, and what’s left is an almost puritanical judgment on the other.