My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them

a continually conscious mask

Inhibition comes only with awareness

Why? I do not know anymore really what I thought then. Push. Analyze. Hold it. My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them. I am not to inhibit them, but inhibition only comes with awareness. I drift toward submission to them, where I should break (the strength) weakness, which; can be done by mere decision and action in accordance, by “responsibility.” My objection to this is that I fear the substitution of a mask for the passion, a continually conscious mask, and a continual division of personality, the building of a new armor.

by Allen Ginsberg (June 3, 1926 – April 5, 1997)
from The book of Martyrdom and Artifice: First Journals and Poems, Columbia College
image – exfordy

Hello Ginsberg, Hello Introspection

This passage, commonly attributed to Jack Kerouac, is actually from Allen Ginsberg’s early journals. “The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice: First Journals and Poems” also contains some poignant early poetry.

I remember some people of my parents generation having an intense dislike for Ginsberg. He was nothing if not controversial, though, after reading him, I’m guessing he was more interested in confronting what he saw as harmful conformity than making noise for the sake of noise. Whatever is said of his politics and personal views, he had a firm dedication to confronting and examining personal and cultural norms. He had to reject “the mask,” the “armor.”

I have to admire the way Ginsberg digs in and looks, even when uncomfortable.

Enter the beat Generation

Earlier in the passage quoted above, Ginsberg wrote, “I cannot easily describe my feelings because they were too far over the border of beatness.”


In the 1950’s, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac and others lead a movement to reject mainstream values. They were tired or “beat” of the status quo. Beatniks dropped out and tuned in to their inner hip selves. They explored Eastern spirituality (“Beat” Buddhism, as opposed to “square” Buddhism,) and experimented with drugs and sexuality. Eventually, the “hip” edge of beatnik’s nerdy cool gave way to the 60’s “hippies.”

Where is the border of your beatness? Is there a passionate “Howl” under your mask?

Journaling can help with that.

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