On a Throne Made of Vanishing Ink

by Allen Ginsberg

image His iconic poetry stamped the beat generation and helped open the door to the psychedelic sixties. This immortal paen to beauty suggests that the late, great bard may have been even better at prose.

Makes very little difference what happens, the next ten years, because the main thing in the universe isn’t at all affected by these little shifts of anthills, musics, nations, marriages. The main thing’s nameless, so I’ll call it beauty—the King and Lord of the Cosmos, a perfect being who sits on a throne made of vanishing ink. It has a face so radiant that once you’ve seen it, or guessed at it, you know that this creature has always been here and will be around as long as it wants, and won’t be touched by men’s atomic claws or the scary dust of the Apocalypse.

Beauty is so perfect that it doesn’t depend on anything happening in this world that we see with our feet and brains. We’ve all seen beauty face to face, one time or other-and said “oh, my god, of course, so that’s what it’s all about, no wonder I was born and had all those secret weird feelings!” Maybe it was a moment of instantaneous perfect stillness in some cowpatch in the Catskills when the trees suddenly came alive like a Van Gogh painting or a Wordsworth poem. Or a minute listening to, say, Wagner on the phonograph when the music sounded as if it was getting nightmarishly sexy and alive awful, like an elephant calling far away in the moonlight.

At that moment you either kill your soul and go out and make money, or you pick up on the fact for good that there’s something ALIVE behind the universe that nobody, but nobody, has ever had the guts to meet. Or said much about it if they did, except in strange art or mathematic forms. Meeting the invisible elephant and looking in his eye means the end of you, and the eternal return of the old God that everyone at once knows and that never dies.

Beauty is beauty, that’s all there is to it. If you are interested in you, then you’re stuck with you and you’re stuck with your death. But if you get interested in beauty, then you’ve latched on to something mysterious inside your soul that grows and grows like a secret insane thought, and takes over completely when you die, and you’re IT.

A shuddery situation—it’s hard to let go your selfhood and have a good time with beauty—we’re brought up to scheme and battle to make it here and now with gold, lovers, power, clothes, and face that anyone from our mother to the next door neighbor cop can see and respect. But in the long run we’re all going to have to give up and drop dead and enter beauty—in fact beauty is what kills us, beauty is the great murderer. Get used to it early and it’ll save us all from a life of phony nightmare.

Life is a nightmare for most people, who want something else, not what life offers freely. People want a lesser fake of beauty, something transient and faulty, a hot-dog that’s doomed to disappear in the blink of an eye—any old grandmother will tell you.

This is a lot of nutty raving, but it needs to be said, if people want to hassle about the fate of the next 10 years. What’ll happen is that we’ll all grow older, get nearer to death, bear children, write poems, buy cars, see Paris or Moscow, mow the lawn, goof under trees in springtime.

And some of us will realize that our fate is old age, sickness and death, as the oriental sages say.

Now it’s weird enough to be in this human form so temporarily, without huge gangs of people, whole societies, trying to pretend that their temporary bread and breasts are the be-all and end-all of the soul’s fate, and enforcing this ridiculous opinion with big rules of thought and conduct, bureaucracies to control the soul, FBI’s, television, wars, politics, boring religions.

So what’ll we do in the next ten years? Blow up the universe? Probably not. But let’s blow up America—a false America’s been getting in the way of realization of beauty—let’s all get high on the soul.

WRITTEN: Nov. 4, 1959

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