a brief excerpt from David Burner's Making Peace with the Sixties (Princeton University Press, 1996)
In Snyder's writings or the sixties, nature, sex, the unconscious-- basic materials for much of the counterculture-- take, the place of the exacting personal encounters with the outer and inner world that he had once sought in Zen discipline. Ecology, and the tribal community the need
|Kerouac's characters foreshadow the restlessness of the cultural rebels of the sixties, a restlessness that they, like him, expressed and gratified with the very considerable and unabashed aid of modern technology. Snyder foreshadowed and then articulated their conviction that nature and her relation with the human community had been maimed.|
Snyder represented a cultural movement that distrusted modern technology, practiced simple crafts, and thought to return to fundamental impulses of the body and compositions of nature. Its partisans exalted the folk traditions of peoples such as the Vietnamese and American Indians whose primary communities seemed to be under siege by Western imperialism with its technological and scientific apparatus.
People of the United States have never quite come to terms with their continental land as an Irishman knows his plot or a Guatemalan Indian tier village. The friendship of Kerouac and Snyder brought together ways quite divergent and yet complementary in their apprehension of the land. In The Dharma Bums Kerouac melded the motor and the continent, as Carl Sandburg had anchored his boundlessly energetic Chicago in the boundless prairie. Kerouac embraced the land hurriedly as he sped from place to place. He could perceive detail and nuance: "The trail had a kind of immortal look to it, in the early afternoon now,, the way the side of the grassy hill seemed to be clouded with ancient gold dust and the bugs flipped over rocks and the wind sighed in shimmering dances over the hot rocks." But ultimately that trail, that hill, that dust, will be lost in the immensity of a continent that offers an infinity of rocks and hills and color tones, glimpsed in passing. Snyder, nomad though he has been, has demanded fixity, and close knowledge of a particular place whether won by the Zen discipline of the individual perceiver or carefully received and tended from generation to Generation. Kerouac's characters foreshadow the restlessness of the cultural rebels of the sixties, a restlessness that they, like him, expressed and gratified with the very considerable and unabashed aid of modern technology. Snyder foreshadowed and then articulated their conviction that nature and her relation with the human community had been maimed.