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Jack Kerouac
an except from near the end of chapter 10

 

As the fire stopped roaring and just got to be red coals, but big ones six feet long, the nght interposed its icy crystal feel more and more but with the smell of smoking logs it was as delicious as chocolate pudding. For a while I went on a little walk by myself, out by the shallow iced creek, and sat meditating against a stump of dirt and the huge mountain walls on both sides of our valley were silent masses. "To old to do this more than a minute. As I came back our orange fire casting its glow on the big rock and Japhy kneeling and peering up at the sky, and all of it ten thousand feet above the gnashing world, was a picture of peace and good sense. There was another aspect of Japhy that amazed me: his tremendous and tender sense of charity. He was always giving things, always practicing what the Buddhist call the Paramita of Dana, the perfection of charity.

Now when I came back and say down by the fire he said "Well Smith it's about time you owned a set of juju beads you can have these," and he handed me the brown wood beads run together over a strong string with the string black and shiny, coming out at the large bead at the end in a pretty loop.

"Aw you can't give me something like this, these things come from Japan don't they?"

"I've got another set of black ones. Smith that prayer you gave me tonight is worth that set of juju beads, but you can have it anyway." A few minutes later he cleaned out the rest of the chocolate pudding but made sure that I got most of it. Then when he laid boughs over the rock of our clearing and the poncho over that he made sure his sleeping bag was further away from the fire than mine so I would be sure to be warm. He was always practicing charity. In fact he taught me, and a week later I was giving him nice new undershirts I'd discovered in the Goodwill store. He'd turn right around and make me a gift of a plastic container to keep food in. For a joke I'd give him a gift of a huge flower from Alvah's yard. Solemnly a day later he'd bring me a little bouquet of flowers picked in the street plots of Berkeley. "And you can keep the sneakers too," he said. "I've got another pair older than those but just as good."

"Aw I can't be taking all of your things."

"Smith you don't realize it's a privilege to practice giving presents to others." The way he did it was charming; there was nothing glittery and Christmasy about it, but almost sad, and sometimes his gifts were old beat-up things but they had the charm of usefulness and sadness of his giving.

We rolled into our sleeping bags , it was freezing cold now, about eleven o'clock, and talked a while more before one of us just didn't answer from the pillow and pretty soon we were asleep. While he snored I woke up and just lay flat back with my eyes to the stars and thanked God I'd come on this mountain climb. My legs felt better, my whole body felt strong. The crack of the dying logs was like Japhy making little comments on my happiness. I looked at him, his head buried way under inside his duck-down bag. His little huddled form was the only thing I could see in the darkness that was so packed and concentrated with eager desire to be good. I thought, "What a strange thing is man... like in the Bible it says, Who knoweth the spirit of man that looketh upward? This poor kid ten years younger than I am is making me look like a fool for forgetting al the ideals and joys I knew before, in my recent years of drinking and disappointment, what does he care if he hasn't got any money: he doesn't need any money, all he needs is his rucksack with those little plastic bags of dried food and a good pair of shoes and off he goes and enjoys the privileges of a millionaire in surroundings like this. And what gouty millionaire could get up this rock anyhow? It took us all day to climb." And I promised myself that I would begin a new life. "All over the West, and the mountains in the East, and the desert, I'll tramp with the rucksack and make it the pure way ." I went to sleep after burying my nose under the sleeping bag and woke up around dawn shivering out in steams. I rolled over to the other ribs and slept more: my dreams were pure cold dreams like ice water, happy dreams, no nightmares.

 

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