Looking into my “hippy” past…

I’ve been curious about the 1960’s lately. I was “there” in a sense, but not really. I was 15 in 1967, the Summer of Love, and had no thought of running away from home where my dad and brother were. Why would I? I loved my family and was needed there. I loved my school, my church, my friend (yeah, I had one). I might act out — I did — but I wasn’t going anywhere. I was going to stay and fight it out. 

Drugs had begun to penetrate the middle class world in which I lived, but I’d promised my dad not to use them. I smoked some pot my senior year, but that was it. 

The other night, out of curiosity, I watched a documentary, Orange Sunshine. It was fascinating — mostly stuff I knew nothing about. I liked the anarchistic behavior of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, but I have always been very skeptical of synthetic trips to an exalted spiritual state. I never doubted the authenticity of an acid trip, but I also have always thought that real things require more commitment, challenge to that commitment, doubt… But maybe that’s just me. The Brotherhood was really all about turning on the whole world which meant they had to — and did — manufacture a ton of LSD. At one point they made enough to “turn on” 100,000,000 people.

That wasn’t all. They also made journeys to Afghanistan for hash — that part of the movie was especially fascinating. The film footage of the Kabul bazaar back then was amazing, exotic, provocative. I’d have gone if I’d had the chance.

I was fascinated by the way the Weather Underground set up Timothy Leary’s jailbreak. 

But from the film, I understood why so many people in my life have considered me to be, and called me, a hippy. Learning about “hippy values” from the film I understood. There’s nothing wrong with being a hippy — but I’m not.

I’m not a hundred percent sure where our values come from. Parents? Yeah, but also the books we read and the world around us. I think major influences on my values were my dad (and his precious Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam), Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, and the Sermon on the Mount. My dad was dying of MS right before my eyes, right there a huge argument for life’s brevity and unpredictability. All the while he was teaching me, “Drink! for you know not whence you came nor why: drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.” The entirety of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is essentially argument after argument for “Sha, na, na, na, na live for today.”

“Waste not your Hour, nor in the vain pursuit
Of This and That endeavor and dispute.
Better be jocund with the fruitful Grape
Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit.”

From Thoreau I got:

“Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth. Rise free from care before the dawn, and seek adventures. Let the noon find thee by other lakes, and the night overtake thee everywhere at home. There are no larger fields than these, no worthier games than may here be played. Grow wild according to thy nature, like these sedges and brakes, which will never become English bay…Enjoy the land, but own it not. Through want of enterprise and faith men are where they are, buying and selling, and spending their lives like serfs.” (Walden, chapter 10)

All pretty much boils down to, 

27  Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

28  If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?

29  And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.

30  For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.

31  But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.

32  Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

33  Sell what ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.

34  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Luke 12:27-40 (KJV)

These ideas spoke forcefully to me when I was a teenager. What was the point of acquiring a lot of things when you’re going to die, anyway? And life was (obviously) pretty short — what if I died in the middle of “selling my life like a serf”? I really did think those things. As an adult, I was lucky to spend every single day of my life doing something I loved until I didn’t love it any more. Then, by the grace of God, I was 62 and could get out of it with an income. 

Watching the hippy documentaries I understood. It seems LSD took some of my peers to some of the places I was looking for on my own. The “searcher” identity fit me as well as it fit them. The differences — which I’ve always known — are the peace thing and the community thing. I value peace, but I’m not peaceful. I’m also not a person who would want to live communally with a lot of other people. The way they lived, the ideals of perfection they seemed to hold, were at odds with my basic personality which is friendly — but solitary, and fierce.

Last night, pursuing my education into the world in which I reached adulthood, I watched the PBS program from The American Experience — “The Summer of Love.” I didn’t know how it all started, and it was interesting to learn. I did have accurate memories of how it ended.

A woman speaking from her experiences as a hippy on the Haight in 1967 said of the end of the hippies, “Acid deconstructs your world. You have to have the inner resources to rebuild it, and many of the kids who came up here that summer were too young or didn’t have anyway to rebuild themselves.” A lot of people were broken by those days, those experiences. Others remain there, remembering it as a halcyon moment in their lives when everything seemed possible and perfect. Others, like me, were never there. And others, more than we might have thought, moved along the conventional path of the military industrial establishment that the hippies (and I) reasonably questioned. 

I loved the film Orange Sunshine. I enjoyed seeing actual clips of The Brotherhood back in the day, seeing Laguna Beach in the sixties (it was one of my favorite destinations when I lived in Southern California), and listening to what the survivors of that time had to say. It was utterly fascinating — and the anarchist in me liked them. 

In case you’re interested in the film Orange Sunshine


27 thoughts on “Looking into my “hippy” past…

  1. I did take a lot of drugs … but I never considered them a “religious” or otherwise “exalted” experience. They WERE fun. Music was magical and just being outside and watching the stars was a glorious experience. In all those years, never had a bad trip. But i was always careful about where it used it and WHO I was with. I never did understand people who took these drugs and then did things like go grocery shopping. Why bother? Just go grocery shopping. The drugs were a kind of mini-vacation for weekends with the people you loved to be around.

    When Tom met Timothy Leary while he was working, he got to tell him that he had taken his plane to all kinds of great places and thank you for all the pleasure we got from it. I stopped using it when my body stopped reacting well. It was, in fact, my 39th birthday and I was living in Jerusalem. Halley’s Comet was in the sky and we went into the desert, theorizing that we’d get a better view of it … except we didn’t count on Bethlehem having streetlights that were on all night (Jerusalem’s went of at around 11pm) so we went back to my place and disicovered we could see it perfectly from the front porch. I wrote about it and it was the only article that actually got published in the Jerusalem Post. I wish I had a copy.

    But I wasn’t a hippy. I was to busy. I had a baby, a full time job, a house to care for, a husband, an awful lot of people hanging around the house (I think because I was one of the only two people (couples) who HAD a house to hang around. Everyone else lived in the dorms at school!). So you might say I was a weekend hippy. Brain had to be clear and functional before the start of work on Monday.

    And all of us — the whole gang — grew up to be hard-working and well-respected people who believed in the value of work and understood that drugs were fun, but no a lifestyle. I was one of the people who watched hippies on TV and wondered how they dealt with all that MUD and grunge.

    It was a very interesting time. People spent much too much time categorizing people into “groups.” If you took drugs, you were a hippy. Never mind if you also worked a 50 hour week, hauled groceries and tended your garden too and when the time came to not take drugs, you just stopped taking them. But here were some really great memories back there … tripping up on the Banias in the Golan and realizing for the first time that the problems in the middle east were never going to get solved and that someday, the Arabs would get their act together and push little tiny Israel into the sea, just like they said they would. That wasn’t a bad trip. It was a realization and a revelation that sometimes, what you most wish for isn’t going to happen and no amount of hoping, wishing, planning, and negotiating will ever make it work.

    • It’s true. It was a time of categorizing people into groups of “us” and “them” — not only on the side of the counter-culture but mainstream culture as well. I think we’re seeing the fruits of some of that now in the immense divide in our nation. What I have resented about it has been being identified as a hippy by others. From there cascade assumptions about me which are not true and have never been true. It’s led people — who might otherwise have become friends — to feeling as if I had betrayed them. Labels hurt everyone.

      Most of the “hippies” I know were much like you describe yourself. For many having a child changed their motives and choices, but not their inner beliefs.

      • My whole set of friends were “weekend” hippies. We had a lot of fun, but we went to work and we had plans to “be” someone and almost all of us got where we planned to go. I often wondered if there really WERE real hippies (I never met one!) or it was something that was made up to fill blank spots on a soft news day.

        • Watch the documentary. It answers your question. After the “Summer of Love” the hippies at the Haight buried “hippy” and settled down to whatever aspects of the counterculture worked for them. In California I knew several people who had been “real” hippies. One of them was my boss and then a close friend. Many were colleagues—teaching was an attractive profession for idealists if any stripe.

  2. I’m just a little older than you — I was married and living in Seattle at the height of hippiedom. Before the hippies came the “fringies,” who lived on the fringes of society and of the campus of the University of Washington. They were almost the forerunners of today’s homeless, though they were more like the hippies in their behaviors. I had an aunt who was an artist in Berkeley at the time — she took me to the Haight one time to see the artistic works — there was a lot of interesting stuff there, but nothing that appealed enough to draw me in to the lifestyle.

      • I discovered the Haight when I was there working on a project. It was 1990 and I was admiring the architecture … then I saw the intersecting sigh “Haight-Ashbury.” I was thinking how much those houses looked like a lot of New England. It turned out many of them were built by New England sea captains when they retired.

  3. I did my share of psychedelics and pot and such. Never got into opioids or speed so much.

    I really did have the occasional epiphany on LSD that made a difference in life. Never had a bad experience, never worried about flashbacks. Wished I could have flashbacks. Ecstasy was even better. It was a way to get beyond the pain of daily life.

    Tripping all by myself was a purely hedonistic thing, an autoerotic enhancer for a guy who couldn’t get much sex the social way. Lovers were far between in my early 20s.

    At least if I was disco dancing naked and solo thru the dorm, “He’s on acid!” explained it to everyone’s satisfaction. Probably the only time I ever succeeded in keeping the beat and dancing with any grace was when I was high on something.

    Today I doubt my physiology could handle it.

    • I think it would actually kill me. I didn’t like opioids back then and they still make me sick. It was mostly pot (“Please pass the donuts”) and LSD. But now with implanted heart valves and all the other stuff? It would be one way to go out of this world on a high, but those are good memories. I think I’ll keep them.

  4. That’s the first time I’ve really listened to that song. I played it three times, and I think I’m feeling a tad self-conscious. I suppose I don’t know enough about the hippies but I don’t get how the pursuit of self-knowledge and self-actualization breaks a person in the long run or harms one’s life. Were hippies just partying all the time, or was their thinking binary? Because I think it’s possible to challenge hegemony and try new ideas while also keeping a roof over one’s head. It feels like there’s a false dichotomy being assumed… Yes, live for today—so much can be done and felt in a day.

    • And that is actually what most of us did. There was a lot of categorization by the press and especially TV that I think didn’t bear much on any reality I knew about. A lot of mythology floating around.

    • I think it was a moment in time. The documentary made a good case for how that moment emerged. Most of us grew up in one of America’s most prosperous moments — and that right after the Depression and WW II our parents had experienced. We had affluence but also the Cold War. The documentary (“The Summer of Love”) makes a case that that combination of having every opportunity and fearing “the big one” helped create a mentality — for some — that questioned the affluence. I don’t know how much I buy that since the Cold War was all we knew, so what would be extraordinary about it? I don’t know. It WAS scary, but also very far away in spite of the bomb drills, air raid sirens and films showing us what had happened and what could happen.

      The documentary also made the point (and I can buy this one) that many of the people involved in the “Hippy Movement” were very young. Having spent half my life with people whose frontal lobes haven’t fully developed, it makes sense to me that many of them truly did think that if everyone “turned on,” they’d see THE TRUTH and the world would change.

      There was a lot of impatience, but now I understand that’s youth, too, along with the feeling that, “If adults COULD have fixed everything they would have. Obviously they’re incompetent.” 😀 I sure felt that way.

      I resist a lot of the generalizations about anything, but it’s been interesting to see the old film footage and to hear people who were there speak about their experiences. I’ve also been happy to get a little idea of why people have always called me a “hippy.” I never minded much but I’d rather be perceived and recognized for the individual that I am.

  5. In the late’70’s there was a very well thought-out (and popular) training movie called What You Are is Where You Were When. It discusses value formation, decade by decade, depending upon which decade included your year of birth. It traces the history of growth of the country, coupled with the major developments in each decade, and the effects of that on the values of the ensuing decades. For example, in the 1910’s, people were religious, church going, homebound, In the 1920’s there was the expansion of the country with the advent of train service. The 1930’s brought the Great Depression and the beginning of World War II. The 1940’s saw WWII. The 1950’s were easier, with a lot of wealth building in a period between wars. and so forth. Each of the decades had a profound effect on those following, and on the values of those who were in a value formation age. When I saw this, it was the late 1970’s (a LONG time ago in memory years) — it apparently has been expanded since then. It was fascinating to track values in this way, and it was an excellent diversity training film.

    • I did projects like that with my business communications students. Sociologists and psychologists still do those studies and I thought it would be a good way to help my students get along with the five generations that would be in the workplace when they graduated.

      I love that idea of a “value formation age.” I think that’s what I was trying to express in my blog post today. That explains a lot about how we are most comfortable — often — with our age peers.

      • The video was shown to a student services staff at USC, when I worked in the financial aid office, to help us work more comfortably with students who might be one to 3 or 4 decades younger. It was fascinating — I would love to see the updates, but it’s VERY expensive to rent, and would need to be used with a large group of viewers.

        • I just looked at the promo, expensive and honestly the guy’s delivery turned me off. But the chart on the wall behind him was compelling and I appreciated the case he made (in the promo) for TV changing the world. I think it’s comparable to the way smartphones have changed the world, a divide between us and “kids” as TV was maybe between us and those older than us.

          There’s a lot of stuff now, such as the whole LGBTQ etc. thing, that are not news to me but that seem to be VERY interesting to the young. We seem to have evolved from the hippy times into a world in which most things are politicized somehow and some axes continue to be sharpened for reasons I don’t understand at all and the same time, pot has been (somewhat here and there) legalized. The guy in the promo said we make progress and we go backward. That is true.

      • Agreed that the more we progress the more we seem to move backward. And definitely technology has to be featured in the 2000’s, or perhaps the 1990’s. I’d forgotten how off-putting the guy’s delivery, and simply remembered the concepts involved in the influencers of the decades. I think the concepts can probably be expanded outwards, and will continue to move in similar patterns, although perhaps in half-decades rather than full decades. Does the world really speed up as we age, or does it just seem that way?

        • It just seems like the world speeds up because technology builds on technology, so early discoveries (that were colossal, like electricity) are kind of buried in the myriad things and their refinements that could not have existed without them. And with easier communication, ideas are shared more easily. I don’t think humanity in general can ever kept pace with new inventions and discoveries. And, when you think about it, a decade is just an arbitrary but convenient tool for marking time. 🙂

  6. I have many epiphanies when my BG is really low. The latest – the purpose of life is to work so that we can produce/afford the things we need to live (ie. work and then you die) – was not pleasing. What about those people who are unable to work? Should we abandon them? Maybe an acid trip would have given me a different perspective. Or maybe not. I think the drugs might help to sooth social tensions? Sounds like a good way to dull people’s minds and dissent? Just asking the question. I didn’t live through that period.

    Martha, you’ve also written my future post about accumulating property as the main means of wealth creation and the morality of that. I might as well not write it now and save myself the aggravation. 🙂 I’m rambling. Sorry.

    • Well, back in the day, drugs were part of dissension largely because they were illegal and grownups didn’t approve. In Aldous Huxley’s book, Brave New World, they were used to keep people happy BUT he also wrote Doors of Perception which is a discussion of why LSD is/might be good. As far as I can tell, the jury is out on that one. In the US booze remains the drug of choice and I don’t know if I’ll ever write how I feel about that…

      I might have lived through the time, but I didn’t know that much about it. It’s been interesting “studying” it. I experimented with being a hippy for 3 months and I found it boring. Drugs (in my case weed) lead to a predictable experience. I guess that’s why they’re useful in medicine (duh…yay obvious). I think I prefer unpredictable experiences, although I could have lived without this fucking foot injury. 😦

      I think it’s one of the imperatives of the human species to work to acquire things. I think it’s in our DNA.

      • Having been a pretty regular LSD user, if YOU think you shouldn’t, you probably shouldn’t. Or maybe try a small amount and see how that goes. People seem to forget you didn’t have to take a big orange sunshine. That was too intense even for those of us who used it often. After a while, we settled into 1/4. It was just right. Got you high, let you down gently, and didn’t keep you up and tripping for a weekend and the first half of the following workweek.

        • I had no interest in psychedelics. I watched a lot of other people — including my brother — and there was nothing happening in front of me that made me want to try. And then, when they came down, and extolled the experience to me and told me I was “missing out” I still didn’t want to try it. And THEN when it was presented as something that, if you didn’t do it, you’d never understand, I didn’t argue. That was true. But I thought, “Yeah, if you’re not me, you’ll never understand.” The art that came out of it was pretty much all of a piece and that made me think, “Well this is this.” What others did was fine with me, but LSD still didn’t pique my interest. I spent several nights in my dorm room with a friend or another who was having a bad trip.

          The only really good thing I remember from friends/brother on acid was one night I’d gone to find my brother in downtown Colorado Springs and bring him home for dinner. Mom had made navy beans and ham. Kirk sat down at the table (we ate in the kitchen, just Kirk and me) and he said, softly so mom couldn’t hear, “Martha Ann, why is mom feeding us all these little skulls?” 😀

      • I am so anti-everything. Well, not really. I just know that neither drugs or alcohol are for me. I have enough trouble staying alive as it is.
        Yep, the drive to acquire things was probably a survival strategy in previous lives, and may well be again.

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