On the Road
Wisdom and Knowledge Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
I wondered how he could live with her like this. He had more books than I’ve ever seen in all my life - two libraries, two rooms loaded from floor to ceiling around all four walls, and such books as the Apocryphal Something-or-Other in ten volumes. He played Verdi operas and pantomimed them in his pajamas with a great rip down the back. He didn’t give a damn about anything. He is a great scholar who goes reeling down the New York waterfront with original seventeenth-century musical manuscripts under his arm, shouting. He crawls like a big spider through the streets. His excitement blew out of his eyes in stabs of fiendish light. He rolled his neck in spastic ecstasy. He lisped, he writhed, he flopped, he moaned, he howled, he fell back in despair. He could hardly get a word out, he was so excited with life. (II.4.15)
Dean is fascinated by Rollo Greb because they share the same thirst for knowledge.
It would take all night to tell about Old Bull Lee; let’s just say now, he was a teacher, and it may be said that he had every right to teach because he spent all his time learning; and the things he learned were what he considered to be and called «the facts of life,» which he learned not only out of necessity but because he wanted to [...] He did all these things merely for the experience. Now the final study was the drug habit. He was now in New Orleans, slipping along the streets with shady characters and haunting connection bars. (II.6.33).
Bull Lee, the most prominent drug user of Sal’s friends, is also the guru, suggesting a connection in Sal’s mind between drugs and wisdom.
He also experimented in boiling codeine cough syrup down to a black mash - that didn’t work too well. He spent long hours with Shakespeare - the "Immortal Bard," he called him - on his lap. In New Orleans he had begun to spend long hours with the Mayan Codices on his lap, and, although he went on talking, the book lay open all the time. I said once, "What’s going to happen to us when we die?" and he said, "When you die you’re just dead, that’s all." He had a set of chains in his room that he said he used with his psychoanalyst; they were experimenting with narcoanalysis and found that Old Bull had seven separate personalities, each growing worse and worse on the way down, till finally he was a raving idiot and had to be restrained with chains. The top personality was an English lord, the bottom the idiot. Halfway he was an old Negro who stood in line, waiting with everyone else, and said, "Some’s bastards, some’s ain’t, that’s the score." (II.6.34)
Bull Lee’s wisdom is not only of the world around him, but also of himself. This makes him different from the other "intellectuals" Sal has encountered.