A Jesuit Editorial, Jack Kerouac and the Lowell Connection

 Father Matt Malone, S. J. 

The editor-in-chief of the highly-regarded Jesuit magazine “America” – Matt Malone, S. J.  – has deep ties to Lowell, Massachusetts. For a few years he was an aide to Congressman Marty Meehan. His Lowell experience made a lasting imprression as we can see by the editorial in the current edition “Of Many Things.” As he leads the “Who is my Neighbor” theme of the edition, the articulate and erudite Matt Malone calls on images of Lowell and of the iconic writer Jack Kerouac to advance his ideas.

Only God knows whether Kerouac found what he was looking for. Still, there is something we can learn from his idiosyncratic, wayward search. One question—a thread woven throughout the fabric of Kerouac’s narrative—is the one put to Jesus in the Gospel of Luke: “Who is my neighbor?” In the parable Jesus tells in response, the central character is a Samaritan, an outsider, the product of mixed races, mixed marriages and mixed customs. He might as well be from Lowell, one of America’s first great melting pots. What Jesus points out is that the Samaritan, the unlikely, seemingly dissimilar stranger, is also our neighbor, as much as, if not more than, any one of our kith and kin. In other words, there are no foreigners on the road to holiness. That is a radical notion of neighborliness.

In the context of globalization, the question “who is my neighbor” is even more urgent, if not more complex. As they did 150 years ago, goods and people still move from south to north, only now the migration is a hemispheric phenomenon. The huddled masses still come in search of a better life; only now they are more likely to come from the new world than the old. Kerouac believed that if you want to know where someone is headed, then you need to know where he or she is coming from.

Read the full editorial here:  http://americamagazine.org/issue/many-things-3

Also in this issue author James T. Keane writes about Jack Kerouac in “Beat Attitude: Jack Kerouac’s unexpected life” aided as he attributes by Paul Marion. This essay owes much to the assistance of Paul Marion, executive director for community and cultural affairs at UMass-Lowell.

Read the Keane article here: http://americamagazine.org/issue/beat-attitude  The article is accompanied by a slide show of Lowell: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151191215522882.449216.33145282881&type=1

America is a magazine well worth your time and attention. The full issue can be found here: http://americamagazine.org/