2012-05-24 / Journalism Vérité

“You Don’t Need to Be a Beatnik to Dig It”

Journalism- Vérité
By Jared Feldschreiber

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…”

Allen Ginsberg’s epic poem Howl describes the harsh realities of living in a concrete urban world like New York City and the struggles of finding humanity within “the starry dynamo in the machinery of night.”

This poem, while written in 1956, remains timeless, touching on themes of “waking nightmares” that all of us confront – be it in East New York or someplace more posh. It deals with the harsh realities of urban life. We are all human under the sun, the poem suggests, and this “madness” applies to ignoring the beauty or “holiness” of the “mad ones” within this mechanized world.

Ginsberg’s poem is universal in theme, but is wholly the New York experience. The best education in high school, universities, and a successful professional career, can hardly prepare someone to the “madness” of seeing poverty within our city streets, or watching crazies talk to themselves in subway cars, worse yet, seeing domestic violence with our own eyes.

How often do we not help someone in need, even if the opportunity presents itself? It can range from not giving 50 cents to a war veteran on the subway, or not helping a blind person cross the street. We are skeptical because of our inherent mistrust. Our instinct is, first and foremost, to protect ourselves. Clearly, we don’t know these people from Adam, yet our first instinct to help is often sadly thwarted by our experience.

There is a popular photograph circulated online of a violinist performing at a subway stop. The picture implies that his music calms, and even heals the collective consciousness of daily commuters traveling to and from work. The photo suggests that music has helped cure the blues of the day-to-day “rat-race” realities of an otherwise stress-laden lives. Sure, we have all had those moments, but in reality, does giving an artist 50 cents spiritually change us at all?

I merely mean to point out that there is, as Ginsberg calls it, “an angel-headed hipster,” or romantic, within all of us once we confront the “madness” that surrounds us, each and every day.

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