Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Fri 6 Apr 07 00:47
Welcome, Tom! I very much appreciate your candor. In a way it was pathetic that it had to be the youngsters to wake up the elders who were screwing up so pathetically in Vietnam or with some blind allegiance to a notion of progress where anything that science and technology could do was somehow sacrosanct. As for the music being the big thing, I totally concur. However, forty years later and classic rock blasting those same songs our way, I think that these works of literature offer an insightful level of interior perspective and nuance of the time that those rock mantras and driving back beats, taken out of their period context, simply don't provide. This said, I think the Dionysian impulse of the Sixties generation was fed much more vibrantly from that great pulsing rock music of '67 to '72 than from anything else. >> The books were good but the music was the big thing. I loved the music so much. Ever since then I have been disappointed. I thought there would always be great new music, but that was the peak. Yeah, man, it was the peak! (Unless you were into Abba and Disco, that is).
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Fri 6 Apr 07 01:09
>> Tom: The problem is that if everyone is a hippie it isn't an in group or cool any more. There was lots of talk about pseudo hippies and real hippies. It seems like silly pretentious teen age stuff looking back on it. Sentence one: You've hit the nail on the head of how a counterculture ever-so-frequently becomes absorbed by the mainstream. Think of the recent explosion of tattooing. It used to be such a defiant, anti-social statement. Now it has become so mainstream that I predict you will soon find corporate-sponsored tattoo parlors in every all-American mall. Sentence two: Actually, I think the idea of what I would call the plastic hippie compared to the hard-core hippie has some merit. I think there absolutely were psuedo-hippies that pulled out the appropriate attire from their closet and showed up only on weekends to rock out at a concert. To equate such an individual to someone who has given up family ties and dropped out to join a commune or hip spiritual movement is not objectively fair. I do, however, agree that there was/is a hipper-than-thou elitism of certain hippies that was annoying. There absolutely was a gradation of immersion into the countercultural scene. In my bio, I call myself an intermittent Deadhead. There was a period in the Seventies and early Eighties when the band came out of "retirement" when I was very immersed. Frankly, I don't think the "Touch of Grey" period can hold a candle to any of The Dead albums from the '70s (except for "Shakedown Street"). I do think your point that the hippies were mostly just kids, is an accurate one. However, these were kids who, with their imploring, challenging ways, were assuming quite a moral yoke to bear.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Fri 6 Apr 07 01:20
-> Robyn: what significant aspects of the hippie movement were the -> outsiders able to perceive clearly that the insiders couldn't >> Tom: One more big one. They saw that we were a bunch of kids from middle class families wondering around the country pretending we were homeless vagabonds with no parents who were beyond caring about money, but that the truth was if things got bad we could always cut our hair and go home to suburbia and our parents would give us a place to stay. Great point here, Tom! Go to the index in The Hippie Narrative and look up Emmett Grogan. Then find the quote, I think it's in the chapter on Norman Mailer's "The Armies of the Night," and read the passage where he compares the voluntaristic hippies with the poor American ethnic groups of the time. "The Movement," to change the system, may have a had common ground, but Grogan nails the differences, too.
Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Fri 6 Apr 07 02:18
Some questions and/or thoughts... * It sounds like MacFarlane's book moves towards beginning to strike a balance between the hippie and beat contributions but I'm wondering if in the journey of your research, you found more or less direct links in what sometimes seems to many to be percieved as a near solid beat-hippie totem? * It's fascinating you work with Hesse in your book, and I suppose that in and of itself demonstrates you don't subscribe to the hippie spiritual and cultural notions as being a completely postwar New England and West Coast invention, yet that is often how the movement is documented. I'm beginning to think that naybe what is percieved as global by much of the hippie/beat perspective is often the relatively superficial application of 60s American symbols to local pre-existing cultural threads. So it leads to wonder if the hippie movement in fact didn't do the same with the beats, taking some of their symbols, but in fact placing them on top of diverse urgent threads looking for outlet, that at times had much less to do with the beats, than what some might expect? As well I'm mentioning this, because in understanding techno, grunge, punk's or whatever subsequent subculture or microscene it is efficient to jump to the hippie/beat point of reference, but I'm far from convinced that it is accurate.
Hippie or Beat? You decide! (timpflane) Fri 6 Apr 07 03:08
I have read 'Cuckoo's Nest', 'Fear and Loathing' (last year!), 'Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test'. All three great books. I tried to read 'Stranger in a Strange Land' but I found it stodgy too. I love Kerouac's 'On the Road', one of my favorites! It lead to me reading a lot of his books, some on the shelf behind me right now, I even own a recording of Jack reading,I think he's a class author. As for 'Steal this book' I think that was a Yippie, not a hippie book! Yippies are still online!) Jerry Gracia and Robert Hunter are both good friends of mine, if you know what I mean, perhaps I'm more a beat than a hippie! Alan Ginsburg is highly intelligent, I've read some of his prose & letters to his father, he's a great writer. The same goes for William Burroughs who's writing is so intelligent sometimes its hard to follow. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_S._Burroughs I'm not saying I agree with all the opinions of the above authors. As for films, remember of course 'Woodstock' but that really points out some of the holes in the movement also the Isle of Wight Festival film. I'd add 'Smoke' for a more recent film, but that probably a beat film! Finally I'd say I've known lot of 'hippies' and all the real ones denied strongly they were hippies! Also I'd say there has been far more written about hippie literature than was actually written! Peace & Love
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 6 Apr 07 05:46
#48: yikes! #49: oh, that's so awful. I'm sorry. Did you ever confront them?
Cupido, Ergo Denego (robertflink) Fri 6 Apr 07 05:51
>I do, however, agree that there was/is a hipper-than-thou elitism of certain hippies that was annoying.< >Finally I'd say I've known lot of 'hippies' and all the real ones denied strongly they were hippies!< This "yearning for authenticity" pops up in many places, not the least of which is in religion. Aside from pointing to "those who aint" were there some features by which authentic hippies were identified? BTW, I read some of the Beat stuff but missed the hippie movement. Keroac was much appreciated. "On the Road" seemed somewhat like a chronicle of some of the backwoods (Upper Peninsula of Michigan)yahoos I knew in my youth let loose on the national scene (with more exotic intoxicants, of course). I frankly don't recall much of a feeling of being oppressed by the middle class or "the system". (Come to think of it, there wasn't much of either in the backwoods aka as "the land of the jackpine savages")
Tom Carr (tomcarr) Fri 6 Apr 07 08:01
-> were there some features by which authentic -> hippies were identified? I think any label limits you. If you take that label seriously you are grasping at some artificial identity rather than delving into the mystery of who you are. So I think that labeling oneself or others as "authentic hippies" is not very useful. We are all struggling to be authentic human beings and we all frequently fail and fall into phoniness.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Fri 6 Apr 07 08:06
Hi Darrel. Thanks for joining the discussion. >>I'm wondering if in the journey of your research, you found more or less direct links in what sometimes seems to many to be percieved as a near solid beat-hippie totem? There are undeniable direct links between the Beats and the hippies, but one thing I point out in The Hippie Narrative is that the Beat movement was primarily one of artists--jazz musicians, painter, poets and novelists. Much of the Beat philosophy vectored through what became a much, much larger sociological phenomenon of the hippie counterculture. While I don't think one can understand the hippie phenomenon without appreciating the Beat movement, the Fifties in the US were not the late '60s. Ginsberg, a chameleon between the two movements in many ways, also recognized a passing of the torch to the next generation, so to speak. Two key differences between the eras were the explosion of Psychedelia in 1965-'67 fueled by millions of doses of then legal LSD in California, and the reaction to the Vietnam war. In many ways the punk, slacker, grunge, Goth, post-hippie phenomena that Robyn mentioned, are more similar to the Beat personality-- rebellious, neo-Bohemian, but without the hopeful and idealistic we-can-change-the-world collectivist spirit that came to exemplify the hippies.
Tom Carr (tomcarr) Fri 6 Apr 07 08:12
I have had time to read some of the book now. It is bringing back memories. One of the things that strikes me is how many books lots of us read back then. There was no internet, no cable TV. In most places there were just 3 network TV stations and that was it. Lots of us didn't work that much. We had time to read and we did. One thing very different from today is that there were books that most people in my social circle read. I would read everything Vonnegut wrote and then have a whole circle of friends who had also read the same books and we would talk about them. Most of my friends had read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Siddartha and Stranger in a Strange Land and lots of the other books mentioned. There was a common body of literature that we were all familiar with. I don't have that experience today. There are many thousands of books and my circle of friends are all reading different stuff and I rarely find more than one person who has recently read any of the same books I have.
Robyn Touchstone (r-touchstone) Fri 6 Apr 07 08:25
Amplifying Tom's initial remark in #44: the revelation of psychedelics opened up for many a spiritual dimension hitherto unavailable, a sense of oneness with one's underlying nature, with each other, & with the cosmos as a whole. The spiritual quest of the hippies I would deem the most significant contribution of that particular counterculture, & it was reflected in the literary canon (hence Scott's inclusion of Siddhartha & Stranger, his discussion of the Love Family cult, & his quotation of Tom Robbins on the true nature of the Sixties revolution), & also reflected in the music (Beatles "All You Need Is Love," their pilgrimage to India & the Maharishi; Incredible String Band, Joni "We are stardust, we are golden," etc.). Turning on led many to see through the limited & hypocritical constructs of mainstream culture, and Timothy Leary was a spokeman for those people. But others like Allen Ginsberg and Leary's colleague Richard Alpert (a.k.a. Baba Ram Das), in my estimation, experienced a further revelation to their souls by psychedelics (psychedelic<psyche Grk. "soul" + Delos "island of Apollo, god of oracular revelations"). (The Dionysian indulgence in mind-altering substances led them to an Apollonian temple, as it were!) For me one of the beautiful fruitions of 60s lysergic acid use was manifested in Ram Das' book Be Here Now, especially the "Cookbook for a Spiritual Life" section.
God hates faqs (hex) Fri 6 Apr 07 08:25
That's true Tom, a very good point. It seems the media explosion has separated us in some ways, rather than brought us together. Scott, I'm joining in, but I don't have a lot to say because I haven't read your book. You and I are about the same age, but I didn't do the road trip. Instead, I moved to SF in the late 70s. I saw what had become of the Haight, and how speed and heroin had destroyed the neighborhood. I like what you're saying here. I'm going to get your book on Amazon.
God hates faqs (hex) Fri 6 Apr 07 08:27
slip--I was responding to #60. I concur with #61. LSD certainly was a sacrament for some in the movement. And how is it that "Childhood's End" always comes up when people are tripping? That was a great book, too.
Tom Carr (tomcarr) Fri 6 Apr 07 08:30
Several slips ahead of this post: The first chapter I read was "Siddhartha, The Spiritual Quest". That spiritual quest was probably the most important thing that came out of that time period for me. I agree with something you said earlier though: It was not important to all of us. I don't know if it was 10% or 50% of us who were drawn to the spiritual quest and eastern spirituality, but it was not all of us. You used Hunter Thompson as an example of a cultural icon who was not. I agree with that and think he is an excellent example. Hesse was very important to my circle of seekers, but even more important was Alan Watts, who you didn't mention. Watts drank himself to death just like Kerouac and lots of other great writers. Watts was not a great role model of the spiritual life but he was so gifted in communicating eastern spiritual ideas in a way that was easy to understand. He had more to do with transplanting eastern spirituality than any other writer I can think of, and he was more widely read.
Tom Carr (tomcarr) Fri 6 Apr 07 08:37
This is a great discussion that seems to be happening in real time. I would love to continue but unfortunately I have to leave, but will be back in about 3 hours.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Fri 6 Apr 07 08:44
>>>* It's fascinating you work with Hesse in your book, and I suppose that in and of itself demonstrates you don't subscribe to the hippie spiritual and cultural notions as being a completely postwar New England and West Coast invention, yet that is often how the movement is documented. I agree with Tom Robbins that, more than the political manifestations of the era, the change of the Sixties was fundamentally the result of a spiritual explosion. I think there are still a great many people earnestly trying to wrap their minds around the cultural implications of what happened in the late '60s. I have spent years mulling this. "How the movement is documented" is usually simplistic or dismissive. "The Movement" as the counterculture was called, was actually a convergence of many, many movements: Black Panther to Hell's Angels to Hare Krishna to Jesus freaks to Charlie Manson's cult to Deadhead, etc. In The Hippie Narrative I don't argue for "a Hippie Literary Movement, because unlike the Beat Literary Movement, this countercultural canon, unlike that of the Beat writers, was not comprised of even a loosely unified group of artists identifying themselves as "hippies." However, looking back, there is a common countercultural thread to these disparate works from that era. >> I'm beginning to think that naybe what is percieved as global by much of the hippie/beat perspective is often the relatively superficial application of 60s American symbols to local pre-existing cultural threads. While the focal points of the hippie explosion was foremost on the West Coast and, not insignificantly, in New England, too, I think Divine Right's Trip shows how the hippie phenomenon found its way into Appalachia (The Farm commune in Tennessee). Also, let us not forget how heavily psychedelia played out in London and Amsterdam, too. I think that in Europe, the hippie phenomenon was more neo-Marxist than in the U.S., but the vibrant rock of the period was reverberating back and forth across the Atlantic. The Beach Boys' innovative "Pet Sounds" album inspired The Beatles' mind-blowing Sgt. Pepper's album, for example. There were certainly superficial aspects of the hippie phenomenon as you suggest, but, in many ways, the wide-ranging Dionysian reactions of this counterculture had culturally substantive impacts on the whole of the advanced Western societies. It's time we start to better appreciate these permutations, both negative and positive.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Fri 6 Apr 07 09:08
>> Hippie or Beat, You Decide (timplflane) LOL. Nah, I think I'll throw that back in your lap and let you decide. >> I'd say I've known lot of 'hippies' and all the real ones denied strongly they were hippies! This reminds me of 1971 when I was 15 o 16. My cousin and her new husband came to visit. She was six years older than me and drove up in a highly unorthodox Saab. Her hair was to the middle of her back and parted down the middle. Her white husband had a huge Afro and from the smell, I knew they'd been smoking something. In our conversation, I must have used the pejorative "H" word. In between dissecting the lyrics to Neil Young's "Don't Let It Bring You Down," she went into the "what's a hippie, anyway?" rap. In my mind, I thought to myself that I couldn't say for sure, but if there was such a thing as a hippie, then she and her husband surely fit the bill. Ten years later when we traded for a VW Bus, I had no problem thinking of myself as a young hippie. And now, I think the very word still stirs up great conversation. I'm trying to keep up with the posts.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Fri 6 Apr 07 09:19
So what're your cousin and her husband (or perhaps ex-husband) up to now? How did their embrace of the hippie ethos in 1971 influence the rest of their lives up to now?
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Fri 6 Apr 07 09:22
#49: oh, that's so awful. I'm sorry. Did you ever confront them? Yes. It was a nightmarish few days. We found the travel agency where they had paid $1900 for a deluxe Caribbean Cruise. We thought we found out where they were hiding out and asked the cops to confront them. It wasn't them, so the cops stopped helping us. I had to call my boss to wire money to replace the stolen plane tickets. The ugly kharma is theirs, but I later thought that our jumping back into the road life, optimizing how much we could make face-painting, was somehow out-of-sync. As hard as it was to be violated like that by supposed friends, I eventually moved on. An ex-Priest once told me that "not to forgive someone is like drinking poison and wishing them ill."
Gary Burnett (jera) Fri 6 Apr 07 09:48
I had hoped to jump into this conversation actively but, alas, my copy of the book has not yet arrived (or had not when I visited my office yesterday; I'm working at home today, nursing a cold). So, please forgive me if this question is off-the-mark. I'm interested in some of the stylistic aspects of some of these books -- when I first read things like Trout Fishing In America (which always seemed like the quintessential hippie book to me) and Slaughterhouse Five as a teenager (I'm the same age as you, Scott, born in 1955), it wasn't just the content that spoke to me as a hippie wannabe, but the way they were written -- jumps in continuity, multiple narratives intersecting with each other, etc. I'd be interested in seeing some comments about these kinds of things: is there a hippie narrative "style" that distinguishes these books from non-hippie books of the same period? Certainly in the San Francisco music scene of the time there are hallmark stylistic elements such as a particular approach to song structure and improvisation that make that music distinct.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Fri 6 Apr 07 09:56
Hello, Robertflink! >>This "yearning for authenticity" pops up in many places, not the least of which is in religion. Aside from pointing to "those who aint" were there some features by which authentic hippies were identified? Maybe authentic hippie is mostly an internal state of being, one of trying to live out a peace-and-love ethos as best one can. In my next-to-last chapter, I talk about meeting a young neo-hippie on the ferry on New Year's Day 2006. When she was hitting me up for a ride to I-5, she never guessed that I was/am a hippie in the process of writing this book about the Hippies. She might look at me, with my short hair and conventional dress and deduce that I had sold out. But, hypothetically, who would she be to say who is or who isn't authentic? I'm not a diehard, longhaired, wear-your-freak-flag high hippie today. However, when I see the way that those of the era who didn't "get" the best of what their own generation had to say are now embroiling our Nation into another ill-conceived war, I am willing to stand up and write a book that might help in a small way to sensitize others to the positives of a raised consciousness. Actually, I am trying not to be the one being didactic. Rather, I am mining these works of literature for the essence of the heightened consciousness that these many authors bring to the fore. >> I frankly don't recall much of a feeling of being oppressed by the middle class or "the system". I think you point out with this comment how the Vietnam war draft was a catalyst to much of this hippie sense of "being oppressed" by "the system" that was supporting an immoral war. Also, very much feeding the non-hippie part of the countercultural cauldron were the liberationist movements. Most notably, "Black Power" and, later, the Women's Movement, were fueled by demands for enfranchisement, of being denied opportunities by the white-male dominated "system" of the '60s.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Fri 6 Apr 07 10:41
>> from Tom: I think any label limits you. If you take that label seriously you are grasping at some artificial identity rather than delving into the mystery of who you are. So I think that labeling oneself or others as "authentic hippies" is not very useful. We are all struggling to be authentic human beings and we all frequently fail and fall into phoniness. This is a very postmodern perspective whereby it is the "other" who must provide the label. With the "hippies," it was the media descending on Haight-Ashbury that turned "hippie" into an overnight, pejorative delineation for the youth taking part in Psychedelia. When Kesey and Cassady and the Merry Pranksters crossed the USA in the bus Furthur in 1964, the label "hippie" was not in use. In the chapter on "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" I talk about this subject. On the other hand, and as a practical matter, as subjective as the term "hippie" might be, for me it is a linguistic demarcation for those youth of the late '60s and early '70s who voluntarily embraced the peace & love ethos of the burgeoning counterculture. "Head" or "Freak" are even more delimiting, I think, and "counterculturalist" is too academic and even less precise. In other words, for my purposes in writing this book, there was no better label than "hippie." Also, I think the great discussion in Inkwell right now is a sincere attempt by many to encircle this term and to flesh out its significance as a cultural/spiritual/political/artistic phenomenon of the people who fit the label. The authenticity/ phoniness binary is not without merit, but I think there are/were a great many people who sincerely embraced the peace & love ethos, who didn't shudder to think of themselves as hippies and who, while falling short of embodying the spirit of love and peace--as all humans do--are trying to be solid citizens on the planet and also delving into the mystery of who they are. (Heavy shit, man.)
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Fri 6 Apr 07 10:47
>> from Tom: There are many thousands of books and my circle of friends are all reading different stuff and I rarely find more than one person who has recently read any of the same books I have. But if everyone will just read The Hippie Narrative, then the world will be right again, and we will all be healed of this affliction of postmodern, info-overload fragmentation!!
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Fri 6 Apr 07 11:19
>>> from Robyn: (The Dionysian indulgence in mind-altering substances led them to an Apollonian temple, as it were!) That Dionysian/Apollonian dialectical journey.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Fri 6 Apr 07 11:23
>> Hex: I saw what had become of the Haight, and how speed and heroin had destroyed the neighborhood. Armen Napolean Stepanian, The Honorary Mayor of Fremont and operator of the first community recycling program in America, described what happened to The Haight as when the green drugs turned white. (I talk about the Mayor in the chapter on The Fan Man.)
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