The Holy Goof
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February 28, 2021
I was an admirer of Neal Cassady when I was young. He was one of those countercultural figures that influenced the DNA of our culture, rightly or wrongly, in ways that most people are not aware of. He was a central figure in the Beat Generation, along with Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac. The latter wrote On the Road, which featured Neal under the name of Dean Moriarty.
He also played a role with the Merry Pranksters, driving around in the “Furthur” bus, which was chronicled in Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, a book that is said to have launched the hippie movement. Cassady, who never formally published anything—leaving behind only a half-written manuscript and a bunch of letters—was a key figure with both the beats and hippies.
His knife’s edge culture game was super tight, influencing the shape of both movements. His letters influenced Kerouac’s writing style, who assessed Cassady’s style with the following: ...in a rush of mad ecstasy, without self-consciousness or mental hesitation. He also drove the fucking bus that helped launched the hippies.
I really liked him. He seemed to have this in-the-moment versatility that had a magical quality. I recall reading or hearing a story about Cassady, which I cannot seem to find now, so I might be retelling it wrong: he was driving the Furthur bus, and got pulled over by a police officer. His driver's license had expired, so he would have gotten into trouble if he handed it over to the officer.
In a moment of genius, he let out a nasty sneeze onto his license, then happily complied with the officer's request and handed his license over, with his snot all over it. The officer changed his mind, told Cassady to carry on and drive responsibly. I was impressed with the goofy “genius” of this move (a goof means making a mistake by the way, and the Roman’s called the daemon “the genius”); he made the right mistake, in the right way, at the right moment.
The dude was plugged in, and he navigated his life from one genius move to the next genius move, and these genius moves helped spark two major countercultural movements, whose main truths are now embedded in our culture writ large. In one biography of Cassady he was referred to as a “holy goof,” and there can indeed be something holy about being goofy.
Camille found some old photos of herself when she was young, and she said to me: I was so goofy when I was a kid, and she said this in a way that conveyed: I want to return to that goofiness in all areas of my life. I totally get what she means. Working in normie 9-to-5 land does not encourage goofiness, especially the holy kind. That kind of goofiness is actually an existential threat to the entire system.
I like this mental model from Paul Skallas (Lindyman) called “Consistency Space,” this is the 9 to 5 space, where you work not to get a payout, but to signal consistency for its own sake to your employers so you will not get fired. As Paul describes:
So, your real job is to be consistent at work. To be reliable. You’re in a domain called the Consistency Space. A domain where messing up could cost you your nice life. It’s not about scoring goals as much as not letting goals into the net. This simple idea influences your life, and the lives of others. It is the single most influential idea around you.
Being consistent is good of course, in certain contexts, and being good enough at Consistency Space might be good as well, given the life situation one might be in, but getting too good in Consistency Space will morph one into a “dead player.” This is a player who can only follow scripts, who is cut-off from their genius, and who would not have the imagination to sneeze on their expired driver's license to avoid getting arrested. In essence, they forgot how to be goofy in a holy way, or said differently: in a way that is in support of wholeness.
Persona wise, I totally try to “pass” myself as a super serious handsome Stoic in the spectacle, but when my laptop is closed, and Camille and I are chilling, it is basically goofy time. We are such goofs together, we are really in our own world of goofiness. It does feel boyish and girlish, but that is okay. It is fucking sad that the faux adulting of all these Consistency Spaces deadens this goofiness.
I want to caution against going full Cassady though, as I do not think that is the right move. He died in a sad way, before his 42nd birthday. Someone found him in a coma near railroad tracks in Mexico, on a cold and rainy day, after he left a wedding party and decided to walk to the next town. He died shortly after. A year before he died he apparently told a young admirer the following: twenty years of fast living — there's just not much left, and my kids are all screwed up. Don't do what I have done.
One can be too goofy, and perhaps Cassady was not whole enough. Being tapped into the genius/daemon demands something more than just listening. Sure, you can spark countercultural revolutions, but you can also die after being found near a railroad track in Mexico wearing only a t-shirt and jeans.
I am optimistic though, as usual, and I sense we can have the best of both the goofiness Cassady had, along with the response-able capacities that a Consistency Space encourages. We do need new men and women who can bring forth a new world. I will write about men here, because I am one, and my provisional answer for how this new man can contain both these characteristics is a simple one: we need men who are whole enough to come with virtue.
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