Timelessness On The Road
Sixty-six years ago today, on September 5, 1957, Jack Kerouac unleashed "On the Road" into the world, tearing through the fabric of mainstream America like the vintage cars his characters drove. A seminal work of the Beat Generation, this novel captures the relentless search for freedom, for the "it" that's just beyond reach. "Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life," Kerouac wrote.
Today, in 2023, as we barrel down the digital highway in the throes of a never-ending information age, it's worth asking: Where is the road taking us? Our lives move incredibly fast, faster than any Cadillac could ever go. We are perpetually 'on the road,' but often without the sense of adventure, the face-to-face human connections, or the spiritual quests that Kerouac's narrative celebrated, we perpetuate this era of emphasis on speed and efficiency, faced with the ironic condition of feeling more rushed yet less alive.
In this narrative frame, The Present timepiece emerges as a powerful metaphor. A one-of-a-kind artisan clock, it pivots from the frenzied tick-tock, aligning itself with the seasons' ebb and flow instead. The Present reminds us to shift our perspective, inviting us to experience the "real-time" rooted in nature's cycles, much like the characters in "On the Road" sought real experiences. "Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road," Kerouac noted. The Present asks you to apply that forward-looking lens to the present moment.
We live in a society where time is currency, and we're perpetually bankrupt, always running to catch up. When Dean Moriarty, the hero of "On the Road," exclaims, "Sal, we gotta go and never stop going 'till we get there," he echoes the unceasing churn of modern life. But where is "there"? Perhaps Kerouac and The Present converge on this point: "There" isn't a destination but a state of being, an ongoing dance with the present moment.
What is "it"? For Kerouac, "it" was the sublime experience that fills the soul when you let go and just be. "They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me because the only people for me are the mad ones," Kerouac said. Likewise, The Present isn't just a clock; it's an experience. It offers not the illusion of control over time but an invitation to dance with it, to be one of the "mad ones" who don't just watch the hours but genuinely live them.
As we celebrate the anniversary of "On the Road," it’s fitting to celebrate what The Present brings into our lives. Both implore us to live more deeply, freely, and perhaps, just a bit more madly. "The road is life," Kerouac told us. The Present adds a corollary: And life is time—time well lived, in harmony with the natural world, each moment a new adventure on the road to "it."