Kesey and his group, the Merry Pranksters , referred to themselves as being "on the  bus" in the 1960's. What does this mean and is the concept different today?  Who would be "on or off the bus"?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, being "on the bus" refers to the idea of being able to move freely around the country and advocate their ideas for social change and advocate a "disruption of the system." Being "on the bus" was a state of mind, a condition in which individuals who were "on the bus" lived what they believed and sought to transform what is into what can be.  Kesey recognized this in the creation of his first bus, "Furthur:"

"When people ask what my best work is, it's the bus," Kesey said in 2000. "Those books made it possible for the bus to become.

"I thought you ought to be living your art, rather than stepping back and describing it," he said. The bus is "a metaphor that's instantly comprehensible. Every kid understands it."

"Living your art" is a critical aspect of being "on the bus."  It is about being what you love and forgoing all else.  It is a love for the moment, and an absolute sense of reverence for the transformational possibilities of being in the world.  

This concept of being "on the bus" still exists today, albeit in a different form.  The reality is that the physical exploration that Kesey's bus represented is not as evident today.  Part of this reason might be technology.  There is little need to go and explore the world when the digital age brings so much of it to us.  Individuals who would be "on the bus" today might use social media platforms to get out their message.  "Furthur" is seen in Twitter, facebook, instagram and other technological social networking mediums.  In this regard, "the bus" has been replaced with digital technology in "140 characters or less."

It is difficult to find a modern example of someone who is "on the bus" in today's setting.  If we were to look at people who might embody Kesey's ideas, perhaps the poor parish priest, who sets themselves amongst the destitute, moving from place to place seeking to change lives might be one example. Kesey might have be challenged with the institutional religious reference.  Yet, in looking at what Kesey tried to do in the 1960s with being "on the bus" and how this is transformed with the presence of technology, he might appreciate the spirit of the poor parish priest as one who is "on the bus" today.

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

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