The hippies were right about almost everything: Birkenstocks, health food stores, organic and sustainable farming, granola, yogurt, nuts (as a protein source), juicing, vegetarianism, veganism, animal rights, Earth Day, weed, homeopathy, massage, meditation, acupuncture, music as an agent of change, psychedelics, freedom of personal expression—“I’m doin’ my thing”—and as Joni Mitchell once wrote, setting our souls free.
Hippies were an organic response to a repressed society that found solace from the ravages of war in the mundanity of daily existence. Women were working (and I tend to think more women were working than not), but the ideal woman was still seen as the perfect homemaker—the star of the home economics class in high school. By the time rock ’n’ roll found its cultural supremacy, however, being the perfect homemaker was no longer the perfect choice. The iconic hippie chick with the long, blonde hair dancing with a tambourine became emblematic of the era, but the actual hippie chick was breast-feeding her children, and making sure that her family had whole-grain cereal and homemade bread—and then dancing with a tambourine, probably stoned on shrooms. Figuring out how to find to a way of life that would nurture the land as well as all who dwelled on it was a priority. And so was peace.
Yes, mistakes were made—too much acid, too many times—but I don’t want to apologize for those mistakes, although over the course of my life I have counseled many young people who suffered from the neglect of their hippie parents who were too busy doing their thing to give their children the attention they needed; too many drugged-filled days and nights with too many negative consequences. Free love wasn’t really free; some paid a high price for those sexual encounters that were seemingly without strings. And the hippies also searched for a higher love.
Recently I commented to a young woman that if it weren’t for George Harrison, she wouldn’t be taking a yoga class or meditating—she told me not to be ridiculous. I stubbornly held my ground, pointing out that without the Beatles’ interest in the Maharishi and Transcendental Meditation, meditating would have remained a seemingly arcane and exotic Eastern practice to Westerners. Of course, the Beatles weren’t hippies per se; they were rock star hippies. Nevertheless, they embraced the notion that love is truly all you need—and that was the free love that changed so many hearts and minds and actually served the greater good.
We have and still do benefit from the ethos of the hippies—it’s been the driving force behind almost all our positive endeavors and efforts to evolve. Mindfulness? Hippies. Astrology? Hippies. Artisanal goat cheese? Hippies. Communal gardens? Hippies. Mind/body connection? Hippies. So the next time you’re tempted to say, “Okay, boomer” as a way of expressing contempt for the failures of an earlier generation, remember to make a distinction between the excesses of the Me Generation—and all its Gordon Gekko cocaine capitalists—and the hippies. Ask yourself instead, “what’s so funny ‘bout love, peace, and understanding”?
If you’re wondering why this week is a departure from the regular format, the answer is simple: I’m tired of writing about COVID-19 and I need a break. I’ll go back to sky-watching and sharing my interpretation of how astral interactions can be seen through our current situation next week. But until then, I’m gonna watch Yesterday.