Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

August 10, 2012


Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

The Beat Generation exploded on the American culture in the late 1950s.  I was there.  I was not part of that culture, but a conscious observer.

I visited several of the locations for this movement in and around Ft. Worth and Dallas.  I found the same environment in each one.   The one I would visit most often was The Black Coffin.  This was one of the typical  coffee houses where the beatniks would gather.  It was a place that lacked good lighting.  There was a somber spirit everywhere among those present.  You could order coffee and perhaps some pastry, and sometimes even a sandwich.

There was some music being played in the background.  Often it was live musicians playing their own renditions or compositions, and the most used instrument would be a bongo drum.  For my ears, there was a need for some substance.  I felt the same way about those who would recite poetry–especially if it was their own.  These poets and writers were really the symbols of the Beat Generation.  In fact, the Beat Generation was the term given to describe the writers of that day who rejected mainstream values.

The writings and lifestyle of the beatniks reflected a philosophy that ran contrary to what motivated earlier Americans to strive to make a good life for themselves and their families.  The beatniks looked at life and saw no hope or future.  They just gave up on life.  For them, there was no right or wrong.  They looked for inconsistencies in society as a reason to be negative.  It was this attitude that was expressed in their poetry and the bongo music.

They did not protest publicly.  It was as if they dropped out of life.  Life seem to have no purpose.  They felt it was foolish to prepare for the future when there was no hope.

They simply gathered in places like The Black Coffin and retreated from the world. They were open to live without respect for any morals or mores.  At their young age they felt life was a cruel trick, and they expressed their cynicism and disillusionment.  I felt they often  wallowed in self-pity.

The Beatniks acted at times like zombies.  I could sit at a table and never be spoken to or approached.  They cared nothing about interaction, friendship, or enjoying life.  It seemed they had reached a place in their living where they lost all courage to live in the real world.  For some to whom I expressed that thought, they did not even care to have a discussion.

It was a good study in the culture and I realized that if God had not gotten hold of my life, I could have agreed with them.

What produces such a philosophy as the beatniks?  How can some view life as an empty shell and  lose their sense of direction and purpose in life?  I am certainly not capable of answering my own question, but I can speculate.  Many see the future uncertain and ask why they should try to live with hope.  Some perhaps have been influenced to accept this philosophy because of the hypocrisy of the older generation.  Adults don’t practice what they preach and the younger generation sees that the walk doesn’t match the talk.  One other possibility could be the emptiness of material things.  The younger generation has been exposed to so much materialism and yet they find themselves empty.  Material things do not bring satisfaction.

Too late for us to address the Beat Generation, although I tried.  But there could be a Beatnik spirit among many people today.  Many of us can offer a word of hope and direction.  It is grounded in Christian faith.  I know by experience that the Christ of the gospels can be so relevant in a life that there is hope, excitement, joy, and a future that I do not want to miss a single day of life!

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  (Psalm 37:4)


Note:  The Beat Generation revolutionize into the Hippie Generation.  We will talk about that tomorrow!



  1. Good stuff–the Beatniks may be aging, but their philosophy still remains. You’re right-Christ gives meaning and hope.

    Comment by jjr — August 10, 2012 @ 5:00 am | Reply

  2. Isn’t it a shame that there are so many out there that give up hope in life and won’t have hope of eternal life which offers so much.

    Comment by doriswhite — August 18, 2012 @ 2:11 pm | Reply

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