As a matter of inspiration and perspective …
I wonder if I’d recognize any of them nowadays. Probably wouldn’t even know their names (not just the women who have married).
The answer when the kids ask about drugs is, Why bother, when you can meditate instead. They have the openness we needed; they need the stability we battled.
Besides, the person who introduced you to drugs might have become a Wall Street broker. Think about it.
No one would ever be able to replicate Haight-Ashbury or Woodstock. As the Chinese saying goes, a river never runs backward. The conditions kept changing, even before the genie was out of the bottle. Not that your wishes would be granted quite as you expected, anyway. Besides, there’s only one first time for anything. If we were like Moses, on a flight to freedom, the sea was closing behind us. We were even getting older.
A few years ago, I read an interview in which one of my heroes confessed that the path he had taken could no longer be followed. Even the land where he lives is now priced out of his reach, were he to start over. Put another way, there are no longer cheap tracts in New Hampshire where you could build a yurt – even if the zoning laws allowed it. The ashrams have closed or been converted into institutes. The Forest Service no longer mans the lookouts with summer help, but flies over once a day. San Francisco rents are out of sight for all but high-powered professionals. And you can forget about hitchhiking.
Yes, all the rules have changed. No one could repeat this experience. Even the parts they wanted. The trailblazers saw everything close up behind them.
The tide has long been running against counterculture values, against environmental and labor protections, against real wages. Just what kind of revolution were we waging, anyway? Political, economic, racial, religious, fine arts, sexual, extended families, group households, environmental? This was always a matter of transition, like Bob Dylan, in motion. In the photos, the girls are not as alluring as I remember; the boys not as self-assured. What happened to all that Shakti energy, all the same?
Here we were, trying to dance through it, around it, over it. The smoldering embers, as if left by a bomb. Sometimes we were, literally, bombed out of our heads. Out of our minds. Even out of our senses.
In the news reports, I object to the usage of “tragic” referring to an accident. I prefer the sense of defying the gods, challenging the cosmos, and being willing to pay with your own life. Tragedy, then, can rise to heroic aspects, and benefit humanity as well as cause catastrophe. Prometheus, giving mankind fire, as an example. In that light, the hippie experience remains tragic. Even noble.
We might, of course, indulge in the game of What If. Suppose there had been no Flower Power outbreak? What would America be like as a result? From this perspective, the historic developments appear inevitable. Too much had been repressed too long. So the question would then turn, What conditions made the hippie movement inevitable? For instance, what if America never went to war in Indochina? What if the Pill had not become readily available? What if television had kept to the road of high culture and education, rather than commercialism? (Or not appeared at all.) What if rock ‘n’ roll withered away, without any revival by The Beatles? What if the workplace had produced something other than spiritually deadening assembly lines and hierarchies of gray-flannel-suit managers?
On a personal level, I can turn the questions, too. Suppose, for example, I had accepted the loan to go on to law school? Or hooked up with the chemist right after college? In either case, I never would have undertaken a spiritual journey that included dwelling in an ashram or practicing within the historic peace churches of Christianity. Suppose I had been offered work in a major city, rather than the lower-tier locales where I’ve served? There would have been no nude swimming in mountain lakes, for certain. Suppose, instead of copy editing positions, I had been assigned as a columnist or fine arts critic for the newspaper, two long neglected dreams? Energy and insights that have gone into my poetry and fiction would have been diverted. Which is to say, if I am a retired hippie, there are good reasons.
If I could do it all over again ? Back before the punk, grunge, or preppie rebound (among other styles) obfuscated these sources?
Zen Buddhists would argue such speculation is pointless. And some Christians would add that the events have ultimately been in God’s hand, at least at those points where we’ve been faithful.
Decades after I moved on, I drove back by the hippie farm. Expected to see the house had fallen in or been razed. Instead saw it had been renovated and enlarged, though the barn and chicken house were gone, replaced by a large swimming pool. As for the ashram? The final trip was painful enough.
When I look back on my own journey, I see the questions and their answers magnified in the particularities of the ashram and its aftermath.
No wonder our children and grandchildren yearn for some stability.
Yes, you could say it began in the civil rights and student power organizations, and broke down in the feminist, gay rights, and prison rights movements. At the heart of it was an assault on limitations of all sorts, led, I believe, by the hippie chick. A whole array of hippie chicks, carrying the banner, sensing the flow, turning the new way. And just when, exactly, did illicit drugs come into general usage? And from what sources? Her mother never used saffron oil. Her father never ate yogurt. She took off hitchhiking, looking for home, a community, or at least a network. Like a spider walking a web. Or moonlight on a dream catcher. It’s hard to be methodical, and she’s silent.
She, who could affirm our masculinity. Our dreams. Our soul.
We’ve heard far more from the war front, trying to make sense of the soldiers’ experience. There’s never been the embrace of the hippie voice through novels or film, unlike the intensity of the Vietnam survivor poets, their hands bloody in their wounds. It’s always in the background, that war. How little from the other MIA front – say, Canada. The self-immolated Buddhists monks – the flames outside Robert McNamara’s window. (Some ‘Nam vets, the poets especially, writing their own pain, trying to make sense of the era from their experience – Don’t blame me, Bro; we were both taken for a ride.)
Maybe this hopscotch set needs to be arrayed more in a circle, with an alternate path down the center, that is, like a Peace Emblem itself. Spreading, circling, overlapping, moving apart, returning.
To ask when the hippie movement began, confronting the Old Boy Network (Freemasons) and Ku Klux Klan, in effect arising in the Southern states, yet later largely absent there. How much of the hippie movement was rooted in the earlier leftist political action, especially the civil rights campaigns. Listen to Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie as godfathers, the young Joan Baez as its angel, the established exploration of Delta blues. Turning antiwar. Vegetarian. Eventually, the protests, behind them, the Black Panthers or the inward struggles, uncovering violence within. The unrestrained, untamed egos – self-centered agendas – trip up any revolution. The dictate to Question Authority undermines leadership, too. “After the Revolution,” with its Peace and Love, we produced a Bill Clinton. Looking for a piece, rather than peace. Protests are much easier than sitting through interminable committee sessions or governmental deliberations, much less running for office and then staying faithful. Dealing with difficult choices. Politics coming down to collecting the garbage and installing a traffic light. “Tuning out, turning on, and dropping out” going nowhere but down, in the end. All of those possibilities and hopes. It’s quite another thing to face up to your own limitations.
Even so, we left a large hole.
After all, in the end we discovered that there was really no such thing as a free ride—not for long. But somehow, nobody seems to want to admit that, not so openly. (Just ask ex-hippies if they still pick up hitchhikers and watch the evasive answer!) We were accosted by pirates. The dangerous hitchhikers … expecting, demanding, rather than upholding their half of the unstated obligation.
I’ve wondered why the Society of Friends (Quakers) didn’t attract more members from the fragmentation of the hippie movement, the way it had in the collapse of the English revolution. Think what could happen, had everyone at Woodstock turned Quaker, the number of Friends in America suddenly five times as large! Instead, we had the false Quaker in the White House, the antithesis of Friends’ testimony. Why do I think of Charles Manson being linked to peace-and-love hippies?
In the end, there was no end. Just a slow fading. Bikers? Tattoos and piercings. Today it’s Rush Limbaugh’s chattering diatribes against all the counterculture values. Today, yoga is mostly women. Look at natural and organic foods as well. The farmers’ markets.
I give the date for the end of the hippie movement as December 8, 1980, the day John Lennon was murdered. On a more personal note, my participation ended on May 18 that year, the day the sky fell after Mount St. Helens erupted. But maybe that was already a postscript.
Still, there is value in looking for meaning in the experience, rather than meaningless experiences.
“I know what Peter and Paul say … but what canst thou say?” George Fox challenged his Bible-quoting scoffers. We knew what Peter, Paul, and Mary sang … how biblical! So much that was purely New Testament, at least in contrast to the repeated hollow answers from college courses or the military-drilled responses.
Back then, there were bullets everywhere, maybe even more than now.
It was hopeless.
You ran for the hills, if you could.
Hippie! The kids yell out at the guy in the ponytail. Even if he’s a biker with a POW-MIA patch on his shoulder.
One of my readjustments now that I’ve retired involves my diet, and that means a return to homemade granola and yogurt.
While this is not one of my wife’s recipes, not that she follows one closely, it gives a good idea of what’s involved. Just remember you can improvise a great deal, depending on what’s at hand and your tastes.
I find it’s a wonderful thing to have on hand for early morning, afternoon, or even late-night snacking.
i’ve always had trouble finding honeyless granola (#veganproblems, amirite?), so a long time ago i started making my own. the recipe below is my usual, but there are infinite combinations of fruits, nuts and whatever elses. the chia seeds are a new addition to mine, as i just started messing with them. like any good granola, this one has a million ingredients and there’s about a 1:1 oat to good stuff ratio.
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Here’s a great example of how an entire world can come into focus when you’re being attentive to a single detail. It’s a great example, too, of a small step toward social responsibility rather than paralyzing despair. And I won’t feel so bad immediately recycling that large Uline catalog that arrives in the meetinghouse mail and never get used.
It started simply enough. We were thinking of alternatives for our seed packing procedure. Right now, my Fellow Man uses recycled office paper, folded into a simple envelope, to hold our seeds. Folding the paper is time consuming, and the envelopes can only hold so many large seeds. Perhaps an upgrade would be in order. So we browsed the large Uline catalog that we get in the mail every so often. We found, among the staggering assortment of boxes, envelopes, bags and other useful equipment, at least three distinct possibilities. They were reasonably priced, too.
I flipped through the remainder of the catalog and went looking for the ordering information.
On one of the back five-hundred-and-something pages, I found a letter from the Uline president. Aside from a nice paragraph about the new family dog, she expressed her sadness and anger about the Boston marathon terrorist attacks, and then went…
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When Chicken Farmer I Still Love You went active a year ago, I envisioned a blog where I could present several book-length explorations of some very essential “down-to-earth” topics that play out in unseen ways throughout our lives.
If you participated in the Talking Money category’s discussions, you’ve seen how much each of us is affected by conflicting values, feelings, thoughts, and expectations, often with only the slightest conscious awareness, and how differently each of us reacts to the daily challenges of money, possessions, wealth, time, and labor. And that’s before we try to apply them with our spouses, children or parents, or in the workplace, marketplace, political realms, religious communities, and so on.
I hope you’ve found that series to be both enlightening and liberating. Since these are issues that continue throughout the varied stages of our lives, I invite you to revisit the series as you can and to invite others to join in the dialogue.
Then, through the autumn, our focus shifted to the New England Spirit series, which investigated some of the reasons the gaudy fall foliage is so commonly identified with my corner of the United States – or perhaps, too, why New England so much wraps itself in that brief outburst of the prism before monochromatic winter sets in. Again, far more is at work than meets the eye.
If you followed both sets of inquiry, you may have noticed my fondness for David Hackett Fischer’s groundbreaking Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America for its insights into the distinctly regional characteristics and ongoing differences found in the United States. New England certainly differs from the other places I’ve lived along the Atlantic Seaboard, the Midwest, or the Pacific Northwest. His subject is admittedly purely historical, but both he and others have noticed that subsequent waves of immigrants adapt themselves to the existing (and often seemingly ethereal) personality of each city and region they resettle, even while infusing a place with new colors. For all of the demographic changes over the centuries, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore retain their distinct natures, and no one would ever confuse Los Angeles for San Francisco – the latter, a haven for eccentricity from its founding.
San Francisco, let me add, makes its own appearance in the next series that’s set to appear here: Hippie Revolution. Yes, just as we discovered when we started looking at money, we have a lot of buried assumptions, emotions, and even injuries that need to be examined and brought to the light if we’re going to be able to be liberated from their festering jangle. (Liberated as individuals and as a nation.) Or, when it comes to the hippie years, we need to deflate the stereotypes to see the wide range of encounters that actually occurred. For a number of reasons, America is in a state of denial when it comes to discussing the era, and that’s put a damper on shaping public policy honestly. Since mind-altering drugs, especially, remain illegal, few people feel free to discuss their experiences – even if they’re still toking on weekends. And that’s just for starters. Yes, much of the excess is embarrassing, even if it felt ecstatic at the time. But the upheaval did change the direction of the nation forever, pro and con. As I argue in an essay titled “Baby Boomers, Booming Busters,” a generational shift was already under way from the childhood years of those who would later move into Flower Power – and much of the tectonic breaks were instigated by Madison Avenue as well as small-minded educators. Having grown up in the melting pot of General Motors, General Electric, and General Mills, it’s astonishing to look back and see how far we’ve come. (Baby!)
But that’s another reason for the hippie series.
Please stay tuned! (The trouble’s not in your set … )
Or, more fitting for a blog invoking a Chicken Farmer, get ready to turn the compost once all that snow we’re getting finally melts. We’ll need a wheelbarrow or two as we plant the garden.
In addition to the hippie peace emblem, we can consider two ancient symbols.
Why is the olive branch a symbol of peace in the West, and what has the dove got to do with it? The answers take us far into the past, before the Bible, then bring us back to the modern age with Picasso.
Pablo Picasso, Dove, 1949, Succession Picasso/DACS 2010
Because it is one of the most easily tamed birds, the white dove has been a symbol of peace, innocence and love since Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, and it was the bird associated with Aphrodite / Venus, the Goddess of Love, in Ancient Greece and Rome.
As for olives, they are such an important crop for countries around the Mediterranean Sea that the branch of the olive tree has been a highly positive symbol in their cultures since ancient times.
According to mythology, the city of Athens was named after the goddess Athena because it was her who gave…
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