The 1993 documentary film “Road Scholar” featuring Romanian American poet Andrei Codrescu explores the great American paradox that “the most materialistic country in the world is also the most spiritual.” In this road trip film, Codrescu encounters both the consumerist materialism and the pervasive spiritualism of American culture as he drives along the highways and backroads of the nation. Beginning with his musings on the majestic Statue of Liberty, the American “cover girl of democracy” and iconic “queen of kitsch” holding high her torch of idealism, Codrescu brings his wry and quirky perspectives to all manner of kitschy culture and spiritual seeking in the final decade of the twentieth century.
Codrescu’s journey through a sometimes hilarious, sometimes alarming patchwork of commodity, banal spirituality, and profound insight into the everyday lives of the American dream brings him at last to an optimistic, almost celebratory perspective on his adopted country. After crossing the continent, he addresses a gathering of immigrants being sworn in as new American citizens by reminding them of their place in the great unfolding of the national tale. “Every generation of new immigrants,” he tells the new citizens, “remakes America in the shape of what they imagine it to be.”
It seems from Codrescu’s sojourn that the America new generations imagine will always be caught up in the dreamy swirls of materialist consumption and spiritual seeking. We are destined to be, if Codrescu’s experience holds true, a dizzying collection of spiritually minded consumers living our imaginary American dream.
[Daily post 046 of 260 in my year-long challenge.] ♨