That was how the first several installments of The Rucksack Letters initially began, much to the confusion of the emailed recipients. I was inspired to write my journey by the writings and legacy of Jack Kerouac, and in many ways I started writing these letters as an unauthorized sequel to his body of work. Not that I felt that my writing was all that similar to his, other than the fact that I tend to ramble on and use a lot of hyphens, nor did I feel that his body of work really necessitated a sequel. But I did feel his beaten spirit generations after it left his body and hoped to address some of the sentiments that were still reverberating through my generation.
Jack was known as the ‘King of the Beats’, leading the Beat Movement heralded by such auteurs and poets as Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and Gregory Corso. Though in many respects the term ‘beat’ described how tired and ‘down and out’ these souls felt amid the rise out of Depression, there was also a sense of being upbeat that transcended the gloom they saw washing over society. In his book The Dharma Bums where these sullen men find meaning in a life of wandering and searching for Truth, the characters Ray Smith and Japhy Ryder discuss the Rucksack Revolution.
“…see the whole thing is a world of rucksack wanderers, Dharma Bums refusing to subscribe to the general demand that they consume production and therefore have to work for the privilege of consuming, all that crap they didn’t really want anyway such as refrigerators, TV sets, cars, at least new fancy cars, certain hair oils and deodorants and general junk you finally always see a week later in the garbage anyway, all of them imprisoned in a system of work, produce, consume, work, produce, consume, I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution thousands or even millions of young Americans wandering around with rucksacks, going up to mountains to pray, making children laugh and old men glad, making young girls happy and old girls happier, all of ‘em Zen Lunatics who go about writing poems that happen to appear in their heads for no reason and also being kind and also by strange unexpected acts keep giving visions of eternal freedom to everybody and to all living creatures…”
When I first read this, I had just been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and felt that the traits inherent in my ‘disease’ lent greatly to the attributes which would be needed for such an endeavor. Though many have assumed that this passage was prophetic of the hippie movement, I still sensed a need for it to happen decades after the hippies hit their strongest stride. For especially after the ‘me generation’ of the eighties, I saw my generation mired in a glut of materialism that was distracting us from the greater enjoyment and appreciation of life. Now faced with the catastrophic possibilities inherent in global warming and the need for less consumption of waste, I felt that this passage may have been just the prophecy my generation was looking for.
Coinciding with my newfound diagnosis, I was also at a crossroads in my spirituality. Having long since turned my back on the Fundamentalist Evangelical Movement that proposed to have exclusive rights to Truth, I noticed a rising tide of a less self-centered form of spirituality and a growing consciousness that proclaimed the idea that ‘We Are All One.” It was with that knowledge that I set off on my own ‘rucksack revolution’, realizing that on some level that though thousands or millions may not actually take the physical journey, they could be able to take it through me. If I could only step out in faith and answer the call I seemed to be given, the rest of the world would be doing it with me.
Hence I planned my adventure. Contacting several assorted intentional communities across the country to solicit an invitation to visit, and setting up an email list of friends and family which would grow as I met new people along the way, I set forth to see the country, examine my soul, and to write the world.
I equate this journey of mine in large part to the Fool’s Journey of the Tarot’s Major Arcana. This is not just because I’m self-deprecating or because I claim to be a fortune teller or mystic, but because of the mythological journey the Fool makes through the series of portraits in his quest to gain the world. The first card, The Fool, is numbered zero and pictures a hapless, young man stepping off of a cliff with nothing but a bindle stick to carry his provisions. The second card of The Magician would seem to display the contents of his bindle to reveal the four suits of Swords, Cups, Coins, and Wands, symbolizing the four elements of Air, Water, Earth, and Fire. The message that is given as the young man begins his journey is that everything he will need, he already has, as evidenced on the twenty-first and final card of The World, where the four elements are again symbolized in the corners of the portrait.
As I traveled through twenty-six states from Florida to California, I took part in my own Fool’s Journey, or Hero’s Journey depending on your degree of optimism. And the impending growth of consciousness continued to reveal itself to me through people that I met and books that opened themselves up to me. Moreover, I have seen this consciousness grow in the world around me.
From the allegorical prophecy of the Celestines to filmmakers questioning what the Bleep we really know, our society is opening up the Secret that there is something greater at work here than the material forms which surround us, and it is by our opening ourselves up to letting our Purpose drive our lives that we will truly see a Revolution.
My rucksack journey ended in Los Angeles, but the revolution continues. My own experience was just one step along the way, but boy, what a step it was. Order your copy of The Rucksack Letters in paperback or on Kindle.