“I’m going back to the ways of my youth – gonna go back and be who I want to be.” – Jethro Tull
I think so often of the many things we got right way ‘back in the day’ – how so much of what our little band of hippies focused on turned out to be the right things (and of course there was much that was perilously wrong, as well – like all of life).
I see some movements afoot that seem to be a turn on the spiral of those same energies. For instance the “Slow Food” and “Localvore” movements, both of which I find exciting, remind me of how excited we were with food co-ops, becoming vegetarians and banding together to cook simply and well. My friend Liz turned me on to this great co-op in the city “Rainbow Grocery” which had big barrels of whole grains and all sorts of things that, believe it or not, seemed exotic back then – like – yogurt. Ya, it was a different time. Liz and David and Ellen and Tom and Doreen & I would band together and dream of a communal future. Living in Rogers Park we started by cooking for one another. So Tom would make enough bread for all 3 households and Doreen would make soup or pasta and Liz and David made homemade yogurt. It wasn’t just about the food (though I must say I still remember Tom’s bread!) but about homemade. And simple. And community. Sharing bread IS communion – we communed with one another and it was good.
The other day I was talking to my former partner/best friend Sue about the whole “Move your money” movement and how I was moving from Chase & Wells Fargo to a locally owned credit union. I said to her, offhandedly, “We should start a bank!” And the next time we talked Sue had really been thinking about that. Oh, we probably won’t actually start a bank (First Hippie Bank & Trust – has a ring to it, no?) but it reminded me of the huge “we can do it ourselves” movement back in the 60s which were really the early 70s. I remember reading about do-it-yourself funerals which sounded a bit TOO real for me. But that heady feeling of independence and pride and community – and hope and change. Yes, it was a very bright and hopeful time.
We got distracted by things bad (drugs, alcohol) and good (growing lives, careers and families) but I think that the current zeitgeist – at least some of it – is hearkening back to that time when The Whole Earth Catalog was born because we would need Tools for the revolution.
One of our main tools now is the Internet and it has enabled SO much community and the rapid spread of ideas. It’s where I live a lot and it’s very important to me. I’ve found out about Slow Food and Move Your Money and more bout Grameen Foundation and Kiva (had discovered them from books) and all sorts of things in this world I spend so much time in.
I’ve moved my money. Made some Kiva loans. Ditched my Tupperware and bought glass containers. Read the Zen Habits blog and remind self to slow down and to be mindful and, as Ram Dass said way back in the day “Be Here Now.”
And I go to drumming circles. Have a women’s circle I’ve been in for around a decade. Am a faux grandma-figure to two very dear little boys. Have a church that I love with a community that nourishes me.
I remember a party – a small one – Doreen & I went to at someone’s house – someone we didn’t know, but our friend Liz did. Some guy pulled out a guitar and started playing and singing and suddenly we were all singing. Probably slightly stoned or drunk, but not crazy – just a little mellowed out. That move from separate conversations amongst strangers to ‘we’re all singing the same song’ – that intimacy of community – unexpected warmth, unexpected connection – all these decades later I remember how the big grin spread on my face and as i looked around the circle of strangers, now a choir of rag-tag hippies, the smiles were spreading like the music. There was a lot of that energy then – “peace and love” weren’t just slogans, at least not in the circles in which i travelled.
Seems contradictory – ‘back to the land’/simple living/do it yourself/say no to ‘the Man’ — all that independence on the one hand.
and communes/Woodstock/little hippie bands like the one I traversed with my brother and our group of pals – all that connectedness on the other hand.
What they had in common, I think, is a sense of ‘being real’. Yes, part of our saying no to “the Man” probably related to lingering adolescence (which I must say I think my generation milked til we were 40….). But part of it was a real sense of “let me see who I can be and what I can do” – very fully present. Big difference between going to Jewel and buying some Dannon or even to Rainbow Grocery and buying the then exotic “Mountain High” or “Alta Dena” yogurt and making your own. Making your own is messy and work and not perfect – it’s LIFE!
And very different spending time and energy and money on heart-companions rather than out shopping trying to impress people. Or sitting alone in some bar or in front of the TV. It was real.
I’m seeing people hungering for that now. It’s interesting that then – and now – food is fairly central to movements for change. It’s VERY real and quite elemental, so that makes sense.
We were giddy with possibility. We also envisioned a revolution (and most of us thought it would likely not be a peaceful one) – that the old system would be forcibly overturned.
I am very hopeful now, in 2010, that the revolution i dreamed about is indeed afoot. When i don’t get totally discouraged by the extreme polarization in this country, I like to think of what we can collectively do if we focus on what’s real.
There was a very popular poster ‘back in the day’ of Vietnam that said “What if they gave a war and nobody came?”. I’m hoping that the change that is surely upon us will be like that. Like the TS Eliot line “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.”
I’m hoping that all of us can focus on what is good and just and true in our own lives. My parents very explicitly taught us to “make the world a better place for you having been here.” I think if each of us focused on that – in our own ways – and let our neighbors/friends/relatives/co-workers do the same in peace – regardless of how differing our opinions on what “good and just and true” means – if we focused on making the world better and living our own lives in integrity with our own values — i think the revolution would have come. And there’d be dancing (with a tip of the hat to Emma Goldman). At least my revolution would involve dancing. But you know? It’s okay with me if yours doesn’t.
So – if you’re a Boomer what’s your take – did we have it right “back in the day” and are you returning to any of your earlier values/ways of being?
And regardless of where you are generationally, what’s “the good life’ look like to you? (as a relevant aside I loved a super bowl ad Monster did a few years ago with little kids saying “when I grow up I want to be a corporate middle manager…” etc. — I mean, really!).
When I think of the polarization in this country I think of one of my favorite family members and her husband. Our politics and religious views could not possibly be more diametrically opposed. I can’t think of a political or religious issue on which we likely agree. And yet I love my niece an her husband very very much and I believe they love me. I also believe we all love God (our definitions thereof are different) and family and lots of other things – like good food and being health-conscious. When I think of “Them” – my political opponents I remember that “they” are my family and just want what I want – a good life with love and connections and please may we have some tasty Asian food too?
What if they gave a cultural war and nobody came?