“You Can’t Stop the Beat”

The Beat Generation is known to be a part of post World War II history, particulary during the 1940s and 50s when the economy was booming again. Yeah, this sounds like a history lesson, but isn’t it true that there’s a lot to be learned from history? Isn’t it true that if we don’t learn from our past, particularly our past misakes, that we’re doomed to repeat it?
My English class just started reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (I know, great timing, right? With the movie just coming out and all?), which got us talking about the Beat Generation and how it influenced literature and the ideals of the people of the time. Both Gatsby and Lorraine Hansberry’s famous play A Raisin in the Sun (which we had just finished reading) are considered to be a part of the Beat Generation. But who cares, right? The Beat Generation was how many years ago and has no relevance to today’s society!
WRONG! The Beat Generation has a huge relevance to today’s society. Primarily, the Beat Generation was widely controversial; people wanted their works to be banned because they didn’t paint the “happy picture” that everyone wanted to read about. The Beat Generation told the plain truth, even when it was ugly. Today we have books like that, for example YA literature like Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher or even Huckleberry Finn (I know that that book is not exactly new, but still) by Mark Twain. People don’t like those books because they discuss very real aspects of life that people do not want to have to face. How is this any more different than the beat literature written in post-war America?
We see censorship trying to creep steadily into our lives in the forms of bills such as CISPA and SOPA. I’m not here to discuss the politics of censorship or have a debate about it or even say my feelings about it, but I want to point out the way in which it is the same as years ago and how it has the potential to progress in our lifetimes and in the future. A friend of mine gave me an interesting point of view on the Hunger Games; really, it is taking a stab at the media and censorship of today and trying to show us what could happen if we let it get out of hand. I found that interesting. I had never thought of it that way before.
Regardless, we all can learn something very valuable from the beat generation. One of the main characteristics of the beat generation was that it did not question WHY we live life but HOW we live life. They asked HOW do people deal with their lives. And this is why they explored topics such as substance abuse because they viewed it as a way that someone chose to live their life- to cope with life- the HOW of life. What we should take away from the beat generation is that focus- the focus on the how instead of the why. Many a man spends his time trying to figure out why the human race is here. Obviously, every man has his own why that he’ll come into in time, but you can’t find your why until you take care of the how. Make it your purpose to live the best life you can. Take opportunities in stride. Learn from experiences. Love and serve others. If you live by the how, you will find the why.
In the words of Jean Valjean, “You will learn truth is given by God to us all in our time, in our turn,” (In My Life, Les Misérables).
-Enjouée

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