Late Blooms From The Flower Children: The 60's Hippies Speak Out
(A reprint from December 2002)
Some time ago, a reader suggested we devote an issue to finding out what happened to our best and brightest from the sixties: our very own hippies. Who could deny that if it had been around forty years ago, Spirit of Change would certainly have found it’s niche at the center of the groovy scene? We put out the call for essays a year ago and received close to fifty submissions — too many to print them all here. From those we selected, the stories and remembrances not only fill in the colorful gaps for those of us who missed the excitement of a revolutionary decade, but also inspire us with the hope that the seeds of spiritual and social transformation which were planted then, lie dormant still. The rainbow magic of flower power has yet to spring forth! — Editor.
Flower Child Forever
by Peggy Kornegger
In the early 1950’s my parents used a photo of me for their annual Christmas card: I was about three or four years old, and I was standing in my mother’s garden, holding a small bunch of flowers. Years later in the late 1960’s, I joked that I was destined to be a flower child, even at that early age.
I was born in 1947. I grew up near a small Illinois town — safe, protected, completely unaware of the socioeconomic inequities that permeated the United States in the mid-twentieth century. By 1965, when I entered Kalamazoo College in Michigan, the beginnings of social unrest were beginning to appear, and my generation, raised on white bread and Eisenhower, was starting to awaken. The civil rights movement and the antiwar movement (Viet Nam) opened our eyes to injustices, both within this country and outside it. We knew we wanted to live in a world where peace, freedom, and equality for all were basic parts of life. Without a second thought, we stepped forward to speak out for those basics. We went to demonstrations and sit-ins; we organized student strikes and marches on Washington. We grew our hair long, and painted flowers on our bodies. Some of us became political activists, some of us flower children. Some of us were neither. Many were just trying to survive. Yet all of our generation, the baby boomers, were affected one way or another by the turbulent 60’s.
In 1967 I lived in Washington DC, Michigan, and France, but always I was dreaming of California as I stayed up all night to paint psychedelic posters and listen to “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (Beatles), “Blonde on Blonde” (Bob Dylan), and “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme” (Simon & Garfunkel). Scott MacKenzie’s song “If You’re Going to San Francisco” became my mantra; I wanted to be a flower child, and where else would I go but California? Finally, in the spring of 1968, I moved to San Diego to live with an eclectic group of friends in a small duplex on Ocean Beach; in the fall I transferred to San Diego State University. Did California live up to my expectations? Absolutely.
At San Diego State, I participated in student protests and alternative education projects like the Experimental College (no grades). The first Black, Chicano, and Women’s Studies classes were offered, and I was fortunate to be able to take some. I read A.S. Neill’s Summerhill, Malcolm X’sThe Autobiography of Malcolm X, Carlos Castaneda’s Teachings of Don Juan, and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, all of which had a great impact on me. I went to encounter groups, “be-ins,” peace marches and student rights rallies. I also attended poetry readings by Alan Ginsberg (Howl) and Lawrence Ferlinghetti (A Coney Island of the Mind) and concerts by folk singers such as Buffy St. Marie (“Now That the Buffalo’s Gone”) and Donovan (“Sunshine Superman”). The poets and musicians provided the orchestrations of our changes. Often the songs and the experiences themselves were indistinguishable (think: Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” or the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”).
I spent the summer of 1969 in San Francisco, the city of my dreams. It was a magical time and a magical place. The San Francisco Mime Troupe performed political theater in Golden Gate Park, and street artists of all kinds were everywhere. Beads, bell-bottoms, Indian fabric dresses. Rallies against the war. Woodstock summer — it was happening everywhere. It was a state of mind. And our minds were being blown open — if not by marijuana or LSD, then by the sheer power of the collective energy, the collective awakening. Joni Mitchell wrote about Woodstock: “Maybe it is the time of year/or maybe it is the time of man/I feel to be a cog in something turning?” It was so much bigger than any of us knew then, even those who wrote or sang about it with such eloquence.
I carried the spirit of the 60’s within me in the years to come. After I graduated from college, I lived in San Francisco for a couple of years, traveled through Europe for five months, and eventually moved to Massachusetts to attend graduate school in women’s studies. In the Boston area, I became deeply involved in the feminist movement in the 1970’s, living and working in women’s collectives and writing for various publications on anarchist feminism and women’s spirituality, among other things.
In the ideals of feminism, I found an alignment with my earlier 60’s beliefs. We were working together for an egalitarian, nonhierarchical society, based in freedom for people of all races, ages, sexes, and sexual orientations. Our personal lives were the revolution.
As the 80’s became the 90’s, I found myself embarking on a personal quest for the meaning of life. My interest in spiritual/metaphysical matters had always run like a thread through my life, but it was around 1990 that it became the major focus. I attended seminars at Interface, Omega, Rowe, and Kripalu and went on retreats with various teachers whose work I was drawn to. I swam with wild dolphins and humpback whales and discovered that animals were great teaching masters as well. Many pieces fell into place, and my life changed irrevocably. As the new millennium approached, I found that the wisdom I had gathered from so many sources was all interwoven. The poets, the mystics, the indigenous elders and the quantum physicists were all saying similar things: This is a time of tremendous change, foretold in many ancient traditions, and we are all here to move that change forward. We are here to awaken.
Awakening. Yes, that’s what it’s always been about. We are not here by chance. We chose to be on this planet at this time. Our emerging beliefs about society and the world in the 1960’s formed the groundwork for who we are today. There are flower children all over the planet still living toward an ideal that we began to articulate 30+ years ago. You can’t tell who we are by our beads or bell-bottoms anymore, but we didn’t all give up and accept the status quo, as the media has claimed. We are still around, moving each in his/her own way into the Age of Aquarius. And there are more and more people awakening, recognizing the significance of this time.
Current visionary writers such as Ken Carey and Steve Rother have published channeled material about the last half of the twentieth century. From Rother’s Re-membering: “This resurgence of light began during the time you have labeled the Baby Boom era….For the past fifty-three years you have been accumulating seeds [activation codes] in your biology that are now beginning to sprout.” From Carey’s The Third Millennium: “When several waves of arriving spirit beings converged in the late 1940’s, the influx of new consciousness into this Earth system encountered — thanks to the success of those who had come before — a new and unprecedented buoyancy of the human spirit…a window of opportunity. These are the Awakened Ones, appearing in every village, every marketplace, every university, every community and city on Earth…creating islands of the future wherever there are those who deliberately invoke the energies of the emerging consciousness and demonstrate willingness to live their lives in love…. They are united in a veritable continent of rising awareness.”
The magnitude of the transformation we are involved in is beyond our wildest 60’s dreams. Yet on some level we knew back then. We were moved by something within, by what are now being recognized as sacred codes of light and sound — energetic impulses connecting us to the cosmos in a gigantic geometric grid of creation. In 1969 Joni Mitchell wrote, “We are stardust, billion-year-old carbon.” At the 2001 Victoria Prophets Conference, astronaut Edgar Mitchell (no relation) spoke of realizing, as he hurtled through space from the moon to Earth, that every particle in the universe is connected to every other particle and that we are made of the same matter as the stars. Many indigenous peoples have said the same thing — that we came from the stars. Ancient and modern cosmology is coming together in an explosion of awareness about the nature of the universe and our place in it.
We may not have known all the ramifications in the 60’s, but we knew that “something” was “happening here.” Something huge. We believed in the possibility of Utopia, of heaven on Earth. Today, as we face the tumultuous changes occurring in this new millennium, we flower children are still holding to that belief. Wherever we are, we are remembering the days of peace, love and flower power, as we walk with conscious intent into a new age of enlightenment and universal harmony.
- Awakening to Zero Point: The Collective Initiation by Gregg Braden, Radio Bookstore Press, 1997.
- The Third Millennium: Living in the Posthistoric World by Ken Carey, HarperCollins, 1996.
- Re-member: A Handbook for Human Evolutionby Steve Rother & the Group, Lightworker Publications, 2000.
Peggy Kornegger is a Boston-area writer, editor and lightworker.
by Ken Pratt
When the sixties began I wasn’t even a teenager. When they ended my daughter was one year old. I lived through the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam war, the Cold war, the space race, the Civil Rights Movement, the counter culture and a rainbow of alternative life styles. Although I have many fond memories of most of those years I do not feel their impact here in the New Millennium with it’s “New World odor.” Indeed I mostly feel that we have gone backwards towards increased materialism and away from a spiritually energized culture. It seems that the social revolution of the sixties bottomed out leaving us with cell phones, PC’s and SUV’s.
For me the sixties began with the rather small concerns of a teenager: negotiating with my sister so I could watch my favorite TV shows (Sky King, Flash Gordon, Ed Sullivan, Red Skelton, Roy Rogers, etc.) getting Claudia M. to invite me to her “necking parties” with the thrill of spin the bottle, and that undefined American rite of passage in becoming a high school freshman. As I attempted to organize this article with so much happening in my little life and my big world, three indistinct but discernable phases popped into my head:
- being really young and insulated from the realities of the world.
- having those realities crash, shattering and remolding my world view.
- awakening to spirit.
Roots and Riches
I grew up rather poor in a very privileged suburb of Hingham, Massachusetts. On my first date Debby Z. picked me up in her Mercedes Benz! My grandfather helped me through this period of doubt in my self-esteem by sharing with me the riches of our family genealogy. Twelve generations ago my ancestors founded Weymouth, Massachusetts (1623). Those ancestors — free thinkers mostly — did not get along with the Pilgrims, a day’s walk East, nor with the Puritans, a day’s shallop sail North. Although they had English neighbors their stronger connections were with the First Peoples all around them: the Wampanoags, Narragansett, Pennacooks and Nipmucs. Now it may seem that I have drifted out of the 1960’s into the wrong century but there is a method to my madness, because in the 60’s and up to today I have felt a strong attunement with and connection to Native spirituality. My point in sharing my grandfather’s tale is that even though I grew up poor in material goods and without financial security I always felt a pride and comfort in my ancestors. I was OK because my ancestors were cool.
Alan Shepard, A Hero Ascending
One of my strongest and most life changing memories of the early sixties took place in gym class. We boys were supposed to be acquiring the necessary skills to participate in that great American adagio, baseball. But the gym teacher had us all sit down on the bleachers. We thought a lecture on S-E-X was coming up. However he pulled out a transistor radio, (a piece of modern technology for those days), out of his pocket and had us listen to Alan Shepard’s fifteen minute flight into space. Yuri Gargarin had jump started the space race a few weeks earlier but we Yankees were right on those Russkies butts. That event had a profound effect on me. I didn’t have to be a doctor or lawyer or a baseball star. I didn’t have to be the president of the United States (like my Mom wanted me to be). I could be an astronaut!! To this day many of my friends consider me to be a space cadet! And I am most definitely a die-hard Trekkie. That year, 1961, brought the world the Berlin Wall as well as the Bay of Pigs but I wasn’t concerned with politics; I was focused on the planets.
JFK, A Hero Descended
My second strongest memory of the early sixties was not so kind and did not inspire. I was sitting in Mr. Leonard’s English class on November 22, 1963 when his lecture on Henry Miller was interrupted by the principal’s voice on the public address speakers. Mr. Vickery said that the president was dead. Assassinated. His voice said that classes were dismissed. His words said that we should go home and be with our parents.
For days I was glued to the TV with my good friend Walter Cronkite. I watched the media fumbling to verify news about a “lone assassin,” Lee Harvey Oswald, a name caustically burned into our memories. I screamed at the TV as Jack Ruby’s three bullets usurped justice and cast a putrifying and indelible pale of violence over the great American dream. I wept with the nation when little JonJon, at his mother’s side, gave his dad a final salute. To this day I can hear the dirge of the funeral procession.
From Shattered Dreams to Hope Renewed
So in a few brief years I went from a hopeful, bright aspiring child to an angry, confused and radical young man. My promising seat at Camelot’s round table was co-opted by a demon nightmare. It was then that I discovered Beatniks and Buddhism. No longer did I blindly accept the American dream of freedom and justice for all. For years I had been a good Christian, a Baptist even. I actually “gave witness” in front of thousands (well maybe hundreds, but to an adolescent the audience seemed huge) at the Ruggles St. Baptist Church. But soon I began investigating the history of Christianity. The political and economic motives of the Crusades soon showed through the religious justifications. The final blow to my affair with Christianity landed hard when I learned of the history of the Christian fathers in the New World. Slavery, genocide, racism and debauchery were not part of Jesus’s vision. I still dearly love Jesus; His church does not work for me though.
At the same time that I was confronted with Christianity’s hypocracy and obtuse theology I discovered Buddhism and avidly pursued Zen meditation. Looking back on all that, now I realize that my meditation practice allowed me to deal with all the negativity in my world and transmuted it in some mysterious alchemical process into peace and unconditional love. Buddhism dealt with suffering and its relief. The dharma went beyond suffering and spoke of maximizing human potential. I practiced with groups in Cambridge and even made a few motorcycle trips to the Big Apple to study with Zen masters there. The basic lesson was just sit — pay attention to breathing, be aware of everything without judgment. The faith I once had in humanity returned powerfully renewed.
Vietnam—The Summer of Love and a Very Quiet War
I graduated high school in 1967 and had some hard choices to make. My dad wanted me to join the Navy and do my part to defend democracy like he did in WWII. Ever since there was a US navy there was a Pratt in it. Grandad was even an honorary officer on the USS Constitution! It broke my dad’s heart that I was against the Vietnam War and refused to be tracked into the Navy. The day I signed up for the draft a Congregational minister, a Catholic priest and a conservative Rabbi, all from local war resistance groups accompanied me and I filed conscientious objector and student of religion papers with my draft board. Things were getting complicated in my life! But I had a secret scheme which would circumvent the system and transcend the politics. I would stall, drag my feet and outsmart the beauracrats. Most of my friends had college deferments; a few went to Canada. I dropped out of a local state teachers college and lost that way out. So in a deep purple haze I came up with this hairbrained scheme. I would go to Nam when finally inducted. I would obey all the rules. Be quiet. Make no protests. Hide my ideas and intentions. Then after the US government shipped me (at no charge to myself!) to Southeast Asia I would simply go AWOL. Walk through the jungle to Thailand and seek sanctuary in a Buddhist temple, perhaps Angor Wat. In my 19 year old mind all that made perfect sense and was completely do-able! The one thing I did not figure into my calculations was falling in love.
‘67 was the summer of love. The hippies (a term I still can’t stand), the flower children (a term I much prefer) were peaking (in many ways) on the streets of San Francisco. The movement quickly spread to Boston and there were love-ins and be-ins on the Commons. We, the people, took over the common ground, set up crash pads, soup kitchens and out-maneuvered the Cambridge tactical force. There were bongos, barely tuned guitars, smoke-ins and that flower child hallmark, free love.
I was dressed as a Zen monk but with long hair and a goatee — way cool daddio — sitting beside my best buddy, Joey, whose guitar was quite in tune and creating psychedelic jazz ragas. It was then that I saw her: cute petite, exotic and the future mother of my daughters!
“Would you like to take a ride on my Yamaha?”
The way she smiled and the way she held on tightly as we took the curves of Storrow Drive changed my life. We were married within a year. Our daughter, Stephanie Francis, was our flower bearer, truly a flower child. I was now a householder and no longer considering the role of a hermit in his cave and so had more than philosophical reasons for not going to war. I volunteered for alternative service and was quickly involved with working with the “retarded” (a term acceptable in the 60’s) in the Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation. I was a mental health worker in an outdated, dehumanizing and depressing institution. This was to be my career for one quarter of a century. In those days the Civil rights movement had filtered down from MLK, Malcolm X and the Black Panthers through women’s rights all the way down to society’s hidden and all but forgotten, the institutionalized. It was my good fortune to be on the forefront of de-institutionalization and rapidly got involved in the creation of Mass law chapter 766 which eventually led to the federal People’s with Disabilities Act.
Somehow I found myself on the forefront of a radical wing of a hidden social revolution: decent human respect for an excluded 10% of the people. I found myself working with the teachers in my daughters’ elementary school (a few years after the sixties) in setting up classrooms for children who had been previously excluded from a free appropriate public education. When the first “group” homes were established I was there writing and implementing programs from toothbrushing to behavior modification. Soon I was active in the advocacy of rights for a large percentage of excluded people. While others were fighting for the rights of Vietnamese to simply live, and others were fighting for the rights of African Americans and women to fully participate in society, it was my karma to aid in the liberation of the most disenfranchised group in American society.
Red Power Joins the Rainbow
One of the last significant events of the 60’s did not seem so important at the time. It was one of those “human interest stories” the big news stations place at the end of their broadcasts. On November 20,1969 a small group of Native American freedom fighters made their mark on history by taking over the abandoned Alcatraz Island. Blacks, women and now indigenous people were asserting their rights. This non-violent and seminal demonstration showed the American public in a small yet powerful way that 500 years of genocide had not eliminated the Red race. These freedom fighters rose above the dehumanizing destitution of the reservations (concentration camps) they grew up on, reasserting their presence, power and persistence.
Not only were Natives across North America given a new hope and direction but even middle class America had to admit that indigenous peoples were still here, still strong and beautiful. A new interest in Indian spirituality, politics and culture was woven into the tapestry of the New Age. And even though there has been a sometimes contentious color to that fabric, many people, both native and non-native, have spiritually benefited from this Native renaissance which began with the takeover of Alcatraz. So today, even though we have the world’s largest (and many smaller) casinos run by Indians we also have a National Museum of Native American Art, history texts revised to include Native perspectives in a positive way, and also a new respect for and involvement with the Native culture of this land.
The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius
So what ever happened to the spirit of the sixties? That could be the subject of a whole book, of course. I’ve thought about it a lot especially for this article. At first I thought it was just a matter of too much ego, of stronger personalities leading weaker ones and dissipating the energy. And that may be true especially for some communes and rock bands. But my new take on this question is that such cultural revolutions come in waves. I think that what happened in the sixties was that the moon was full and the planets were aligned to maximize the effect of social change. The seeds were planted. They grew and flowered and created new seeds of change which are sprouting all around us now. It is my hope, optimist that I remain, that our small planet will be graced with many more waves of flower child love, peace and spirit.
Ken Pratt is a frequent contributor to Spirit of Change and the planet’s good vibrations. Ken can be contacted at email@example.com
Aged To Perfection
by Jude Ayer
I was born in 1947, and if I hadn’t dropped out for a while, I would have graduated from Worcester State in 1969, “the summer of love.” My parents were close to their European backgrounds of thrift, industriousness, and stability. They both served in WWII. I looked conventional, but I felt different. At the age of 12, I longed to run away to “Greenwich” Village and be a beatnik.
When I was a little girl I wanted my mother to give me a Toni® — a home permanent; when I was a big girl, I bleached and ironed my hair. My meticulous concern for my appearance was replaced with a studied carelessness, and then by actual disregard. I read John Fowles and Herman Hesse.
I still have my tickets to Woodstock because our car couldn’t get anywhere near the performance area. I only saw the acts when the movie came out. In May of ‘71 I participated in the massive demonstration in Washington that we hoped would end the war. This was preceded by months of preparation, mostly on the Holy Cross campus. My boyfriend gave me Herbert Marcuse’s book To The Finland Station, and we heard Marcuse speak at Holy Cross. My boyfriend espoused radical ideology;
I just followed my heart. We went to Washington in an old yellow school bus with a dozen other people. I got arrested, booked and fingerprinted, maced in jail, and bailed out by some liberal organization.
I returned to Worcester to graduate from college and hit the road thumbing to California with my boyfriend, only slightly spooked by the ending of Easy Rider. I still have the embroidered (by me) denim jacket I wore on that trip.
I saw the Occult become New Age Sciences. When my father asked me how an educated person like myself could believe in astrology, I replied that if an educated person like myself believed in astrology, then he should, too. I got a deck of tarot cards, which I still use to this day.
During the 80’s I was active in the Main South chapter of Mass Fair Share. I hosted a radio program on WCUW called “Voices of the Neighborhood,” in which I interviewed local activists.
You can still see me occasionally, at Lincoln Square in Worcester, protesting our country’s policies in the Middle East. I’ve also spent considerable hours this summer picking and weeding at a community supported agriculture project. If McGovern is speaking in the area, you’ll see me in the audience. My partner and I consider a morning spent helping to clean up a waterway or conservation site together to be a good time. I am an ethical vegetarian, which means I refrain from eating meat for humane reasons.
My parents' generation didn’t easily embrace new ideas; indeed, they fended them off as a source of contamination. They married young and married once. Marriages were for a lifetime, even without church pressure. In contrast, my partner and I have had many relationships before finding each other at that “old home” gathering place of aging flower children—the Unitarian church.
The Great American Plan
by Allen Swartz
In 1963, there was the Great American Plan, a plan for becoming a White, Church-Going, Married Parent With A Mortgage And A Job. So, I was sitting in marketing class at Harvard Business School the day that one of the administrators walked in and announced John F. Kennedy had been shot. A month or so later, when I told the dean that the course of study did not make sense, that it was out of touch with reality, he referred me to a psychiatrist. I flunked out of the business school and dropped out of the Plan. And into the ocean of the senses that was hippie life, for me anyway, flowers and colors and music, and you know…
About 1978, I decided to volunteer at the Roxbury Multi-Service Center. I was assigned to a case worker named Eduardo Maynard.
“So, what are we going to do?” I asked.
“Well, I don’t know,” said Eduardo. “Let’s walk around and talk to people.” We walked around and looked and listened and talked to people for two years. In 1980, we formed a group and established a program that lasted 15 years and spread around the country. It was like nothing I expected a program should be. Instead it was a program the neighborhoods actually needed.
Eduardo was one in a line of teachers who are teaching me that the Plan, if you want to call it that, rests, covered over in the situation before me, which I must pay attention to — in fact, pay homage to — until the scales fall off my eyes and I see. Instead of the rule of Think and Plan, that produces ideas like the Great American Plan and the Domino Theory, I try to follow the rule now of Look and Listen. It’s a rule that can get you into trouble: the senses not only communicate, they intoxicate. I witnessed some drownings in the ocean of the senses, but my life preserver was the ancient oath “Harm No One,” neither you nor myself.
For me, Look and Listen has produced a life that is lived “in the cracks” of the Establishment. Though my hair is shorter and my car is nicer, there is no child, no spouse, no house, no boss, no church, no Plan in my life. That can make me feel like I’m on the outside looking in, and sometimes I start thinking, “Well, gee whiz, maybe if I…” Then I notice I’m thinking, and I stop.
Allen Swartz is self-employed in the insurance business and studies how to Look and Listen in life.
Gone But Not For Good…
I began the 60’s at age 11, listening to Elvis and Johnny Be Good, and watching B&W TV. I got married at age 18 in 1967 and had 2 children before I was 20. I had a ball with my babies and enjoyed “growing up” with them. My garden was large and I tried to grow everything. Making things from scratch was my forte. I made homemade granola, yogurt, farmer’s cheese, breads, and kept a very healthy kitchen. Tamari, scallions and whole-wheat pasta was a favorite quick lunch. Stuffed grape leaves was a time-consuming but oh-so-satisfying meal. All the different ethnic foods were what I craved, for after growing up in middle class “white bread and hot dogs” America, anything with flavor and texture appealed to me.
I sewed my own dresses, and even made up my own patterns. I wore a sari, made a “wrap” dress from a couple scarves, tied scraps of fabric together into a bikini. (Of course I had a great figure in those days, too!). My short shorts were THE shortest you could get away with without showing your who-who! And braless was the only way to fly. Strands of beads and muumuus, flowers in my hair, and of course, that hair hung down my back and was straighter than straight. I even ironed it at times.
I belonged to a food co-op, and ordered organic foods, working for the co-op a few hours a week. This was held at the local Unitarian church, and my favorite job was “cutting the cheese.” I don’t know why, but it was very fulfilling to take a whole huge wheel of Jarlsburg Swiss and divide it into pre-ordered portions.
I was able to stay up late every night without being tired at all the next day. When we went to parties, they always went all night long — sometimes even all weekend long — and we all brought our kids with us, never leaving them with a sitter. The kids were tucked into sleeping bags in a bedroom and never minded not being home. They got to play with all the other kids and partied along with us.
Of course, we smoked pot: we grew it, we ate it in brownies, and we froze it to increase potency. I remember the first time I got high; I stood in front of the open refrigerator door for 20 minutes without knowing — or caring — what I was looking for. It was considered a real talent to roll a fattie that smoked without tearing or burning up one side.
Hollywood Sees The Light
An Interview with Filmmaker and Producer Stephen Simon
by Courtney Walsh
Visionary film producer Stephen Simon is spearheading an expanding awareness of Spiritual Cinema as a film genre which can potentially transform humanity with its themes of hope and spreading light in the darkness.
Courtney Walsh: You mentioned that you saw the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey in the late 60’s when you were 22. Do you think America is ready for a comeback — updated of course — of flower power, peace, love, and the ideals that prevailed in the 60’s and 70’s?
Stephen Simon: Whether it is ready or not, it is back. Whether it is ready or not, we’re back. Yes, America is ready for it and I have thought a lot about this. I was born in ‘46, in the very first year of the baby boom and I was thirteen years old when the 60’s started. I went from ages 13 to 23 during that era and all of us during that period went through an extraordinary metamorphosis. We recognized our power. We recognized what we could do as a generation and at the end of all of that we saw something really horrible happen right in front of our eyes. All of our leaders, all of our idols were shot and killed: JFK, RFK, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King…and it disheartened the generation.
We also got to a point where we realized: 1.) Our leaders were being killed and 2.) We needed to add a practical component to the idealism. I have always looked at the 60’s as being the adolescence of the spiritual movement in the world. That is when we became aware of who we were. It is when we became aware of what our power was but didn’t really know how to utilize it. That’s when California consciousness really kicked in.
This really all began at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur in the 50’s and early 60’s. That’s where New Thought in the U.S. really took root. I think that what happened at the end of the 60’s are all the things I just told you and I think then we went away for a while to grow up, to mature and to figure out a different way to do this. And if you look around now at spirituality in every form — in movies, in books, in music, in creativity, in art, in healing, even in health practices — you see a fascinating experience today which is the phenomenon that there are no leaders who can be killed and really destroy the momentum of the spiritual movement. There are hundreds, if not thousands of people who are contributing in various ways but there aren’t three or four or five people whom if something awful happened to them you would say “this is going to end.”
Well, that’s what happened in the 60’s and it is not going to happen again. I think we learned a really valuable lesson, which is this: it’s about all of us, it’s about every individual, it’s not just about major leaders. That time served its purpose by starting three major movements: Civil Rights, Women’s Rights and the protest against the war in Vietnam. But then we came to the understanding that it wasn’t just about demonstrating or holding signs with pithy slogans to get our voices heard. That was all-important and a very big turning point. But it wasn’t enough to leave it at that. We have had to make internal shifts, which is what we have been doing for the last 20 or 30 years.
The generation that we have brought into the world has been very much exposed to those ideals. If you look at the offspring of people from the 60’s a lot of those people were raised with the sense of it’s OK to be different, it’s OK to not go along with one particular belief system. I have always said that while the mantra of the 60’s was “Question Authority,” today it is “Question Reality.”
Courtney Walsh: The union of mysticism and movies is such a great concept. What started you on this path?
Stephen Simon: These are the movies that have always interested me. 2001 A Space Odyssey, when that was released in ‘68 just changed my perspective on filmmaking and it changed my perspective on my way of seeing both myself and on life in general. That is when I knew I wanted to be in the film industry. I was 22 years old and it was released in the Cinerama•dome in L.A. and it just blew me away. Not only did I want to be in the movie business, I wanted to make those kinds of movies. Among others, 2001 and It’s a Wonderful Life were always two of my favorite movies. Those were the movies that fascinated me. The first movie I produced wasSomewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, a now classic love story in this particular genre. After that, What Dreams May Come was something that I had a passion for because I had read the galleys of the book by Richard Matheson (who also wrote Somewhere in Time). When we were in pre-production for that he gave me the galleys for What Dreams May Come and while it took me three years to get Somewhere in Time made, it took me 20 years to get WDMC made.
Through these years I have seen these movies — Ghost, Heaven Can Wait, Field of Dreams, Sixth Sense, — you know, on and on and on, and I became aware that this was a genre of movies called Spiritual Cinema that has never been recognized as a real genre before. The mainstream media hasn’t recognized it as such, the Hollywood studios haven’t either, even though these movies have been there forever but no one has looked at them as their own individual genre. It has really become the consuming passion of my life to put Spiritual Cinema into the national dialogue.
Courtney Walsh: Again, it seems like a natural union because I think that for me, anyway, as a kid whenever the lights went down and the music started up it was a magical moment. And it is truly mystical. It really transports you to another place.
Stephen Simon: Movies are the most extraordinary communications medium ever devised. They are the modern version of shamans sitting around a campfire passing down the stories of the culture to enraptured listeners sitting under the star-filled sky at night. This is the 21st century version of that. Whether we do movies that inspire people that show us who we can be as human beings when we operate at our very best or that show us a way out of the darkness when we are operating maybe not at our very best. That is the thing that people find the most inspiring.
Courtney Walsh: In your new book’s title, you mention the Force (The Force Is With You, Hampton Roads, 2002). Are we to interpret that you are a Star Wars fan?
Stephen Simon: Well, it is certainly one of the films in the book and it certainly has one of the great rallying cries of this entire area. “The Force is with you!” You couldn’t have a more spiritual statement. What is the Force? The Force is everything around us, things that we can’t name, things we really can’t see but we know are there and at the end of Star Wars when Luke is in that starfighter trying to drop a bomb into this little tiny hole and he knows he can’t do it, he hears Obi Wan Kenobi say: “Let go of everything Luke, close your eyes; trust the Force.” How much more spiritual can you be? That is really about trusting in the belief that everything around us binds and connects us and it becomes a question of having faith and believing in something that we can’t touch or perceive with our five senses and we can’t prove it but we know in our hearts that it’s true. I just found that to be the most elegant and the most beautiful title that you could possibly come up with, those five powerful words.
Courtney Walsh: What are your personal favorite top three mystical movies?
Stephen Simon: 2001, It’s A Wonderful Life, Sleepless in Seattle — it says something really beautiful about having not just one soul mate. I believe in that idea totally. People put unrealistic expectations on themselves to feel that there is just one person for them in the world. What if you find the absolute perfect person and you are totally happy for the rest of your life and then something happens to that person? Does that mean that you are doomed to not finding somebody else with whom you can share a different kind of happiness but certainly with the same intensity? Tom Hanks was in another movie, Castaway which is exactly the same story, exactly the same issue and I have found that to be very inspiring and uplifting.
I have always loved that movie and it has always encouraged me. And that’s one of the reasons we started the website http://www.mysticalmovies.com to create a community where people could come to share these thoughts and feelings about these films. The response has been overwhelming.
Courtney Walsh: Are you working on any film projects in the near future?
Stephen Simon: Yes, in fact I’ll be filming a story that I’ve always wanted to do and Christopher Reeve will be directing. Provided the financing is in place, we hope to begin shooting in Vermont by the summer of 2003.
Courtney Walsh is a freelance screenwriter, burgeoning novelist, and spiritual seeker who has loved the movies ever since she could first walk and talk. Stephen is hosting a Nov. 15th Mystical Movie Salon at Boston’s John Hancock Conference Center. For more info visit http://www.mysticalmovies.com
The Revolution Of The Heart
by Robert M. Alter
“We were young. We were arrogant. We were ridiculous. There were excesses. We were brash. We were foolish. We had factional fights. But we were right.” — Abbie Hoffman
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi
When I was in college in the sixties, I and half the rest of my generation thought that the huge change we wanted to see in the world — the ending of injustice and war and the dawning of equality, peace, and freedom for all human beings — would come about by our actively protesting against what we called “the Establishment.” We debated and demonstrated and mobilized and marched right up the steps of the Pentagon. I sat on those steps that night and passed cigarettes, apples, canteens, blankets and joints around. We hoped for — even expected — an imminent social and political revolution in our society, a revolution that was going to supplant the old order based on greed and privileged power with a new order based on love.
It didn’t happen. At least not the way we thought it would happen. Turns out it’s a different kind of revolution — a slow, long, painstaking internal revolution in each one of us — a change in human consciousness, a revolution of the human heart. It’s going on today all around us and within us. You say you want a revolution? We’ve got one. We’re living in the middle of it. The sixties didn’t die; they just deepened.
The revolution that is happening in the world in our day is political, moral, psychological, and spiritual all at the same time. Actually, there’s no difference between political, moral, psychological, and spiritual. They’re all one, and it’s all one process: the individual and collective human heart opening to love.
Since the sixties, I have come to believe that true revolutionary change — and by “revolutionary change” I mean change in the way human beings feel about themselves and others, change in the way human beings are treated on this Earth, and change in the way the resources of this Earth are distributed and used to serve human beings — is going to happen only when the hearts of human beings have changed. As the human heart continues to free itself of fear and all the mutant forms of fear including intolerance, arrogance, greed, hatred, cruelty, and violence, this kind of radical change will continue to happen.
True and lasting change happens first in the individual’s heart, then naturally from heart to heart because love is, by nature, expansive. True and lasting and revolutionary change will happen as more and more hearts express their love. All the work that needs to be done for the people of this world — the providing of food, shelter, clothing, health care, comfort, and respect, the vast amount of selfless service that will be needed to uplift humanity into an era of peace and goodwill and well-being — will be done by people whose love for themselves and each other has been awakened. Then we’ll all be serving each other gladly, with love.
The part of me that was deeply and forever transformed by the sixties — my consciousness, so changed that it never changed back — that part of me is still here, alive and well, still sitting through the night on the steps of the Pentagon, still conscience-bound to solve all the problems of the world. I want to solve the problems of poverty and pollution, and the problems of violence toward women and sexual abuse of children, and the problems of Columbine High School, Enron, militarism, terrorism, and all other forms of human wrong. And I think we can do it too, probably not in our time, but in due course of time because the solution to it all isn’t complicated: The solution to all the problems in the world is in purifying our own hearts, each one of us getting our own soul right, and then inspiring and helping others to do the same. That’s the revolution of the heart, and the heart of what was happening in the sixties.
Adapted from his recent book How Long Till My Soul Gets It Right? 100 Doorways on the Journey to Happiness (HarperCollins, 2001).
Confessions Of A Phony
by Angela Matgolis
In the 1960’s I was more of a wannabee hippie. I wore beads. I had endlessly long straight hair. I opposed the war. I went on marches and sit-ins. I tied scarves straight across my forehead and tried, unsuccessfully, to smoke pot. I never really inhaled. I have never really inhaled anything, except air. I actually had a chance to talk to MacNamara about the war, sitting around a coffee table, with a few other anti-Vietnam activists. He was very attentive, kind and understanding but I didn’t really know what I was talking about. Maybe he didn’t either. I was searching for something, but I think deep down what I wanted was simple answers to questions I didn’t know how to ask.
During this time I acted in an off off Broadway production of “Our Town” and a couple of lines from the play kept sounding in my head. Emily asks the Stage Manager if anyone ever realized life while they live it, every minute, and he says: “No. (Pause) The saints and the poets, maybe they do some.” It seemed pretty distant for me to be a poet or a saint, but the lines wouldn’t go away. The poets and the saints. I had to learn to ask some questions. I had to learn.
I learned to meditate. It brought up questions that seemed important. I started going to classes at Practical Philosophy in New York. I asked more questions. I started to read a lot more. Literature and theater became more important teachers than they had been in college. Teaching in high school became a more powerful source of my personal education.
Now, thirty-five years later, I look more conventional. I’ve raised four children in a suburb of Boston; I even drive a Buick and am married to an insurance salesman (all no-no’s to a true hippie) but I think I’m more of a hippie than I was. I’m not young, if that’s one of the essential definitions, but in some ways I reject conventional society much more than I did, if that is a more important part of the definition. I’m on a spiritual search. I love to read Thoreau and Emerson, clearly 19th century hippies. Since I’m retired and my kids have thrown themselves out of the nest I can devote my time to study, walking in nature, volunteering, working on a living portrait of Mary Moody Emerson (Ralph’s mentor aunt), writing, meditating or doing centering prayer. I’ve come to believe our Transcendentalists should be the guides for old hippies.
Imagine if we could live by words like these: “To the poet, to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine.” — Emerson. Or:“When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence, that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of the reality.” — Thoreau, from Walden.
So what I want to do is to claim the true revolution against materialistic society by going back to the uncompleted revolution of the Transcendentalists, a more mental and spiritual revolution than even the Founding Fathers seemed to want. There is a Thoreau Society and an Emerson Society, both located in Concord, MA. As the youth of the 60’s, now in or approaching our 60’s, we have age and wisdom and the sages of Concord on our side. I feel I’ve finally become a true hippie.
Angela Margolis is a retired drama teacher who was raised in North Dakota, came East for college and never left.
Finding My Way
by Anne S. Nuss
In 1969 I dropped out of college. At school, I had heard Alan Watts and Timothy Leary talk to us about turning on and dropping out. It was hard to figure out exactly what they meant, staying there at Vassar. Smoking grass helped. But I was searching — for something that would feel like real happiness, that would feel like real meaning. Smoking grass helped.
Anyway, it had been the “Summer of Love” in Boston and my search continued here. I lived in group houses, worked on Charles Street and frequented the coffee houses there, extended my nights at Mondo’s in the Haymarket with taxi drivers and other night prowlers. There were meetings and earnest efforts towards “organizing.” But after one night in a wine-soaked sleeping bag in D.C., I started to wonder if all those handsome S.D.S. guys with bullhorns were really worth it. Smoking grass helped.
Reading helped too, and after the White Goddess and Siddhartha, already disenchanted with all “established” religion, I went through a flower-power meditation initiation ceremony in jeans in Cambridge. The experience of mediation was a “natural high” and, surprise! — sometimes just as good as grass. I guess that’s how my spiritual search really began.
Slowly, I became less hip. I developed a desire for a career, then a family. Smoking grass didn’t help. But meditation did. I finally realized that I needed to be part of a group to further my spiritual journey. It seems miraculous now, how I found a group who were pursuing a spiritual search in a respectable but counter-culture way. At the time, it was just as simple as turning the corner. They didn’t look too weird or wear unusual clothes. They were my friends. They were smart and tried to meditate regularly. They loved a variety of spiritual sources and they found meaning and power in Plato, the Bible, Lao-Tzu. It was thrilling, after so long, to hear about the spiritual truths common to all traditions and to work with others on practicing this wisdom in day-to-day life.
I’ve stayed here with the Philosophy School almost twenty-five years now. Turning on and dropping out kept me guessing and searching for happiness and meaning ‘til “The Real Thing” came along. I’m an empty-nester and I live in a suburb. But I keep coming back, me and a lot of other aging hippies to a place of solace, satisfaction and spiritual renewal. We’ve got people here who were never hippies, were too young or too old or just weren’t interested in the first place. What we do have in common is the idea of working together for ourselves and for others. I love having a life with this as the goal. I love having family and friends who share it! It’s so much more than I thought I was searching for. But turning on and dropping out kept me guessing and searching for happiness and meaning until I knew I had found my way.
by Craig Trauner
Dedicated to the men who fought and died during the Vietnam War
Traumatized at an early age
As he throws his fits of rage
Still lives his life
In a bamboo cage
A thousand yard stare
That can see beyond
He still can smell
The morning napalm
Send me a grid
You’ll get new men any day
As another cherry
Gets blown away
The Dinks are
In the trees
They poison the grass
Yet another war
Gets fought half-ass
Where was Patton
To invade the north
And march and meet
Them at their source
Another marriage ends in divorce
Those boys sit and say
Why did it have
To end that way
What a waste!
New Threads And Old
by Angela Craig
Throughout the 60’s decade, I followed my young husband around to four different colleges while he got his advanced degrees and his first teaching jobs. At Brandeis he studied with Abe Maslow, the father of Humanistic Psychology, and so we were exposed, early on, to the human potential movement. For us, the 60’s were a time of freely exploring our emotions, thoughts, relationships and identities, as well as drugs, sex and rock and roll.
Influencing our lives were the mind-expanding drugs. The first samples of LSD coming out of the Harvard studies with Leary and Alpert were introduced to us. LSD, used in a clinical, rather than recreational setting, helped to wake me up to other realities. After Richard Alpert returned from India as Ram Das, he became my foremost spiritual teacher.
The women’s movement was just getting started. Feeling the stirrings of dissatisfaction with having no other identity than being someone’s wife and mother, I started my career. Another faculty wife and I opened a Nursery School, just so we could have a school for own young children. I must admit the War did not hugely touch our lives. No one we knew was going to Viet Nam. In my immediate peer group we were more involved with being responsible parents and, at the same time, (you may find this a contradiction) experimenting with open marriages, sampling marijuana and mushrooms and dancing to the revolutionary new music. The Doors lit my fire, while The Beatles spoke to my soul. Since Woodstock would be happening only four hours away, we hired a babysitter and left for what would be the biggest concert of all times. Having not a clue what to expect, we parked our car miles from the front gate and walked down the sweltering road with only our day packs. We met some friends on the road who were leaving after the first day. “You don’t want to go,” they told us. “There are long lines for the bathroom and there’s hardly anything to eat.” I have, ever after, regretted that very wrong decision to leave. I did finally make it to Woodstock, but not until the 30th reunion.
How did the 60’s influence the rest of my life? I went on to start and live in a Newton commune in the 70's. I “dropped out” to go traveling to foreign lands. I continued to study and evolve on my psycho-spiritual journey. Always searching for the ideal, I married and divorced a total of three times. Materialism was not as important as working for social causes like child abuse prevention. And finally, I seriously pursued the study of Yoga and eventually became a Kripalu Yoga teacher. I now am Director of the Beacon Light Yoga Center. The threads of earlier hippie days can still be found…
Growing Up Hippie And Becoming An Adult
by Sandy Raynor
I hate to be dismissed as a hippie from the sixties, a term casually used for a group of young people who eagerly lived differently from their parents and society at large. This wordhippie suggests something frivolous, someone who only concerned themselves with pleasure while breaking away from the expectations of their parents. Freethinking and free from having to work for a living, hippies were thought to be flower children, endowed by their middleclass background. That was far from the truth as I experienced it back then. I took on an alternate lifestyle that was as demanding and challenging as any college course or career.
I didn’t know I was part of a movement, let alone recognize I was a member of a group that made history. I didn’t graduate from high school to tell myself, “Now you can run off and be cool, become a beatnik.” Far from anything resembling the term, I barely thought of myself at all. Instead I was more worried about being pretty enough or interesting enough to make friends, being accepted and belonging. I had been rejected during my years in high school with most kids there, never invited to anything social or resembling a date with the opposite sex. No one seemed to like anything I said or did, especially my parents. I was so glad to finally escape and go find what the bigger world had to offer, leaving small town life in Connecticut at eighteen.
Within three years time, I not only found myself married and expecting my first child, but living in a region of New England that was strange and wondrous. Back in 1967, we wandered up to Vermont’s northeast corner to a region that was just below the Canadian border, dropping in on a woman who was a friend of a friend. It didn’t matter to her we were strangers, or more like wandering nomads than blossoming newlyweds. She welcomed us into her ramshackle farmhouse that had seen better days: sloping floorboards, weathered clapboards so gray and brittle they looked more like bones in a graveyard than made of wood. Not another house within view for miles, this place was the most remote thing I had ever seen, even though I had come from country life myself.
We were supposed to stay for a week, then move on to Maine. My husband had just dropped out of art school before starting his second year, but we had no plans of what to replace it with. The woman who had opened up her home to us was also an artist, working at a gallery in New York City since graduating from art school, coming up to her new summer home in Vermont as a change from city life. She told us of buying the place because it was as cheap as buying a second-hand car. She’d set up her easel outdoors not far from the house, painting plant life and small details of the landscape all summer long. Friends from the city showing up with shaggy hair and paint-stained clothes would spend a week with her doing the same thing. I had never seen people my age quite like that, content and satisfied with themselves, occupying hours on end by themselves.
We began to draw each other in the evenings before the sun went down and the mosquitoes came out, using each other as models. I had never been given formal training in art, but since it looked so interesting I had to try. My husband gave me pointers on the side as we whispered in the dark under the eaves of the attic bedroom, holding my drawings up to the kerosene lamp to point out a mistake made earlier in the evening. This was bliss for me: a life of surprising events and unusual people in a location that felt wild and backward while taking my breath away with its beauty, alongside a man who claimed me for his own.
When summer came to an end, we were asked if we would stay on as caretakers for the winter. She was worried that a local would burn the place down. There had been a rash of fires the year before, all places owned by summer people, all burning when vacant during the winter. We didn’t hesitate a moment in saying yes, both of us felt so attracted to this northern region, this place which time forgot.
That winter almost killed us. We were totally unprepared for days and weeks of below zero weather, snow drifts climbing up to the first floor windows, no money coming in because local people wouldn’t hire a man who wore his hair long and had skin color darker than most, learning to heat by woodstoves in a house that had no insulation and losing the water because the pipes froze up solid. By Christmas, I was several months pregnant, alternating between morning sickness and tears, scared we would freeze to death during the night as we slept. To have survived that experience and be willing to stay in the area making it our home for many years to come says a great deal of how the lifestyle matched some inner calling of ours. Perhaps it had something to do with reading Thoreau’s On Walden Pond or hearing of Helen and Scott Nearing, an older couple championing self-sufficiency, or as Bob Dylan had sung to us, “the times they are a changing.” What began as a week became seven years of living off the land on back dirt roads in the hills of Vermont, a life that would label me a hippie from neighbors as well as society at large.
Today, in my mid-fifties, I’ve returned to the northeast portion of Vermont, living as a divorced woman for the past eleven years. Even though I no longer own a house and land, I’ve managed to find rentals that allow me the comfort of vegetable gardens, a cat and an art studio. These are the things I value today: simplicity, living as close to the natural cycles as possible, being creative. I made a conscious decision to live as frugal as possible before leaving my husband of twenty-four years, valuing my freedom a lot more than material consumption. In this respect I’m living very close to the same income that I subsisted on in my twenties. I don’t believe in credit cards, health insurance or pension plans. My work is the mainstay of life so I have no plans to retire or go somewhere exotic when reaching mid sixties. My cup seems to be overflowing to keep me from feeling any thirst for years and years to come.