The library on Page Street of the Haight-Ashbury district is stashed with works written by or covering great authors and bands of that area. Inside, one can locate single sections dedicated to the Grateful Dead and Jack Kerouac. The Beat Generation and the 60’s hippie movement was revered in this neighborhood. In addition, Volkswagen vans and old heads still linger, fifty years later.
I admire the leaders of that counter-culture era, and there’s one man who bridged the two movements: Ken Kesey. As I sifted through the biography section–inclusive of compiled Jack Kerouac letters–I landed on Ken Kesey’s biography. I immediately disregarded the other enticing book options and settled down on a leather, reading chair to assimilate an insightful man.
Ken Kesey was a rebel and a joker, trekking and laughing through life the way he desired: whether it was on a school bus or a tractor. Nevertheless, he yearned to be known and heard, which propelled him to journey down to Hollywood in his early twenties and not long after, write his magnum opus: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
I recall reading this book–required reading–in middle school, and for once, I actually relished what I read–assigned books were typically humdrum. I had no familiarity with the author, but the plot and prose captivated me. With that, to this day it remains one of my favorite books.
Over the past few months, I’ve crossed podcasts or contemporary books and articles comprised of regurgitated material, primarily the attempted, underlying message. It’s natural because of the internet, but for some reason, it was discouraging to me. Whether because the message wasn’t originally articulated or rather, because there was no new insight gained. Nevertheless, a quote from Ken Kesey offered solace to my concern of not only my own work but everyone else’s as well: “I think that the artist should feel obligated to force whatever he can upon his audience and be the authority because if he doesn’t, some advertising man will. Ronald McDonald will be out there telling people what to think. The cynic who says, Oh, none of this counts anymore, is wrong. I can remember when I thought that too. But the older you get, the more you see people in the past who have thoughts that last. Things you think you’re saying for the first time ever, have been said better before by Shakespeare, though they may need saying again. As Faulkner says, there are the old verities. Revenge is about the same as it always was.”
All in all, we’re all copying or imitating to some extent. The truth is everlasting and must be relayed through generations. It may just require a different vehicle to be heard.