It was an inspirational, luminous and searing time. People write about it now or have museum shows about it, but I don’t think there’s enough reference to the 60s as a soul-shaking period of transformation. The summer of love gave us unprecedented unity.
It wasn't just a bunch of hippies getting stoned. We called it the summer of love for a reason. The boomers rose up, beyond rock and roll. It wasn't just some of the greatest music to come about in one period of time and it wasn't just kids resisting the Vietnam War. The 60s included some of the greatest thinkers, artists and leaders in decades speaking out on human rights, women’s liberation, and civil rights. It changed things.
We know the history, but the reason it matters now, more than ever, is that we learned about common bonds; people cared about human rights. Maybe some insightful drugs altered the brain and shifted our world view, breaking through judgmental thinking into seeing our oneness with all life. (And I’m not advocating drugs.) A critical mass of humans cared about peace.
There were moments of sweeping sweetness and concern for the common good. I remember looking out on a sea of young people holding hands and swimming naked in rivers. It wasn’t just about sexual freedom or thrills -- it was a time of great meaning.
It can’t be understood in theory. It had to be lived. And maybe the feeling of hope at that time is just too painful to remember. Maybe now despair is too thick in the air. And the death of the 60s was awful. Multiple assassinations and evil resided right next to visionary ideals.
It was the first time in my life that I experienced a force field of love that was undeniable. My smile and huge hair remained for years as I heard Ginsberg read poetry or marched for human rights.
When John Lennon wrote “Imagine”- it was among many pulsating songs from that time. Here is a portion of the ending:
…No need for greed or hunger-
A brotherhood of man.
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
I don't know what happened to us after that. I was hopeful then for our planet then. I really believed in possibility, like “give peace a chance" and "we are family." These were words that carried the beat of our hearts. Songs and poems poured out of us. We were going to shift violence and insist on caring.
I never really understood any of the theories though I’ve heard a lot about why that love fest ended. But, I don't believe it died because we burned out on drugs or violence or because baby boomers started having babies and buying BMW's.
I don’t think it was just a bunch of us young kids full of narcissism, doomed to disappear. And I don’t know why our huge dreams and wishes halted.
There are many ideas about its demise, but in brief, the dark side of humanity took over. Whether it was the humongous salaries paid in Hollywood bringing us more glorified gore on the screen or greed or politicians like the one now who tweets at midnight. I don’t know. I guess fear and money bought us.
But we can still stand up and speak for fairness and freedom. We have more power than we realize, if we “get together right now.”
As Joni Mitchel said, in “Judgment of the Moon and Stars”
…Show 'em you won't expire
Not till you burn up every passion
Not even when you die
Come on now
You've got to try
If you're feeling contempt
Well then you tell it
If you're tired of the silent night
Jesus, well then you yell it…
Condemned to wires and hammers
Strike every chord that you feel
That broken trees
And elephant ivories conceal
It is still inside us to push toward a new world. We the people.