The Best Life Advice from Jack Kerouac


Today would have been legendary beat writer Jack Kerouac’s 90th birthday, had he not passed away at the age of 47 due to cirrhosis. The de facto leader and most famous member of the Beat movement, Kerouac’s writings and ideas influenced an entire generation, and his poetry, novels, and letters continue to inspire people all over the world today. Though he had his own failings, the man’s writing is rich with bits of advice, Buddhism-tinged musings, and pithy observations about the nature of the world, and whether they all be wise or not, we’ve collected some of these to share with you on his birthday. After all, we could all do a lot worse than to emulate the idealistic, passionate Jack Kerouac.

“One man practicing kindness in the wilderness is worth all the temples this world pulls.” — The Dharma Bums

“Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.”

“Forgive everyone for your own sins and be sure to tell them you love them which you do.”

“Ah, life is a gate, a way, a path to Paradise anyway, why not live for fun and joy and love or some sort of girl by a fireside, why not go to your desire and LAUGH…” — Big Sur

“No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength. Learning for instance, to eat when he’s hungry and sleep when he’s sleepy.” — Lonesome Traveller

“The only truth is music.”

“…we all must admit that everything is fine and there’s no need in the world to worry, and in fact we should realize what it would mean to us to UNDERSTAND that we’re not REALLY worried about ANYTHING.” — The Dharma Bums

“The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view.” — On the Road

“If you own a rug you own too much.”

“Better to sleep in an uncomfortable bed free, than sleep in a comfortable bed unfree.” — On the Road

“Happy. Just in my swim shorts, barefooted, wild-haired, in the red fire dark, singing, swigging wine, spitting, jumping, running — that’s the way to live. All alone and free in the soft sands of the beach by the sigh of the sea out there, with the Ma-Wink fallopian virgin warm stars reflecting on the outer channel fluid belly waters. And if your cans are redhot and you can’t hold them in your hands, just use good old railroad gloves, that’s all.” — The Dharma Bums

“Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.”

“All is well, practice kindness, heaven is nigh.” — Visions of Gerard

“So long and take it easy, because if you start taking things seriously, it is the end of you.” — Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings

“Sociability is just a big smile, and a big smile is nothing but teeth.” — The Dharma Bums

“Don’t use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry.”

“Love is all.”

“Life must be rich and full of loving — it’s no good otherwise, no good at all, for anyone.” — Selected Letters, 1940-1956

“The happiness consists in realizing that it is all a great strange dream.” — Lonesome Traveller

“The details are the life of it, I insist, say everything on your mind, don’t hold back, don’t analyze or anything as you go along, say it out.” — The Subterraneans

“Let the mind beware, that though the flesh be bugged, the circumstances of existence are pretty glorious.”

“Maybe that’s what life is… a wink of the eye and winking stars.” — Letter to Alan Harrington, 1949

“It’s all like a dream. Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don’t know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind is known that everything is alright forever and forever and forever. Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing.” — Letter to his first wife, Edie, 1957

“The beauty of things must be that they end.” — Tristessa

“The truth of the matter is, you die, all you do is die, and yet you live, yes you live, and that’s no Harvard lie.”

“This world is the movie of what everything is, it is one movie, made of the same stuff throughout, belonging to nobody…” — The Scripture of the Golden Eternity

“Don’t tell them too much about your soul. They’re waiting for just that.” — Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954

“You’ll be sorry some day. Why don’t you ever understand what I’m trying to tell you: it’s with your six sense that you’re fooled into believing not only that you have six senses, but that you contact an actual outside world with them. If it wasn’t for your eyes, you wouldn’t see me. If it wasn’t for your ears, you wouldn’t hear that airplane. If it wasn’t for your nose, you wouldn’t smell that midnight mint. If it wasn’t for your tongue taster, you wouldn’t taste the difference between A and B. If it wasn’t for your body, you wouldn’t feel Princess. There is no me, no airplane, no mind, no Princess, no nothing, you for krissakes do you want to go on being fooled every damn minute of your life?” — The Dharma Bums

“The road must eventually lead to the whole world.” — On the Road

And of course, from his “Belief & Technique For Modern Prose: List of Essentials,” written in a letter to Don Allen, 1958

1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy 2. Submissive to everything, open, listening 3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house 4. Be in love with yr life 5. Something that you feel will find its own form 6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind 7. Blow as deep as you want to blow 8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind 9. The unspeakable visions of the individual 10. No time for poetry but exactly what is 11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest 12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you 13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition 14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time 15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog 16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye 17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself 18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea 19. Accept loss forever 20. Believe in the holy contour of life 21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind 22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better 23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning 24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge 25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it 26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form 27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness 28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better 29. You’re a Genius all the time 30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven