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Hippie Roots

March 26, 2010

I recall sitting on a stoop on E. 10th Street in 1969 with my hippie buddies (we called each other “freaks” then; an affectionate term we gave ourselves which stemmed from the derogatory way the straights referred to us). It was summertime and the big wave of hippiedom had come and gone from the city by then. Suddenly a freak comes by, takes one look at us, and opens up his leather satchel.

“Just scored some Panama Red! Can you use some?” Just as I was about to explain we were broke, he handed us each a handful, and walked off! We smoked it in his honor. And I — as you see, over 40 years later– never forgot it.

Hippiedom, no matter what you might have been told about it (or, if you were alive at that time, no matter what you might think of it now) was surely a radical idea. We could all argue about whether it was ultimately a good or bad thing, but one thing’s for sure: It shook things up! And one reason was that at its essence was this ideal of Radical Generosity.

Why Woodstock worked was because of this spirit. It wasn’t just because there was good music and lots of weed and acid and people got laid. (Ok, I guess that’s what did it for many who were there.) But if you think that was all it was about you miss the point.

What made this event was the rain, the togetherness, the spirit of giving — the management opening the gates and letting the concert become free; throwing beers from the stage; sharing your food and your vibes and whatever else you had. The blurring of where “I” ended and “you” began. Giving it all away because, the feeling was, we don’t got much anyway except for each other. Giving because there is no “them” at all, but only us here. My brothers helping me out because I’m one of them. My sisters loving me because we’re of the same tribe.

Today, living for me over here, and you living for you over there, is a pain-inducing illusion. Hippidom (at its best) was a way to forget the pathology of separation that had been forced upon us, and to re-imagine we’re one people again like it was in the beginning.

This isn’t radical generosity so much as life as it’s supposed to be lived. This is building heaven from the earth up.

And hippies – with all their faults — instinctively knew that joy is a dish best served given.

Today’s Joygasm: Try an experiment. Give something away to a stranger today: A smile; or a “How’s your day is going?”. Or your newspaper when you leave the bus. Anything. Then report below what you experienced.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 26, 2010 6:06 pm

    Charley–It was Friday night at Woodstock (I was a mature 16-1/2) and I got separated from my freak friend family. There was a soft rain and I found myself a spot near the right side of the stage about 100 feet back. I sat there with the music, the aroma and the dampness, taking in the extraordinary energy of the people and the place. I looked to my right to find this very pretty, older (early twenties) woman smiling at me. She said, “You look like you have a nice big warm back. May I cuddle into it to warm up?” I smiled and without saying a word she nuzzled into me and we became one being in this sea of loving energy. She lit up a joint and shared it with me as we hugged, smiled and laughed…and gently kissed. The last thing I remember that night was Joan Baez singing “Joe Hill” as we softly fell asleep. The next morning she was gone. I never knew her name and it really didn’t matter. We shared a night of simply being. We were two people in harmony…in a microcosmic nation of harmony…with no yesterday and no tomorrow…just a joy filled now. Thank you for reminding me and stimulating this memory. Blessings and love to you and Shelley.

    • March 27, 2010 5:49 am

      If you were there (Woodstock; or any such event or time) a part of you is, still, there. Many of us forget about this part. It’s a part of us nonetheless. Thank you for sharing this sweet memory.

  2. March 27, 2010 11:17 pm

    I was 14. To save money I took a bus with a friend to a town we thought near the Woodstock festival rather than the bus to the festival which was more expensive. Getting out in the middle of nowhere we stuck our thumbs out. The first car that came by stopped and the 20-something year old freak driving said,”where are you going?” We said, “to Woodstock. And you?” He said, “Where else? Get in. If you help me pitch my hugh Army tent you can stay with me.” We hadn’t planned for the possiblility of rain…This stroke of magic gave us a dry place to return to for the festival and the party started.

    The whole weekend was like that. Running into generosity, family, food, fun, safety, invitations, love…I remember a sea of togetherness, smiles, hugs, dancing, rejoicing and oneness. Wandering through the trees, from music space to music space, feeling at home.

    The experience and the Hippie movement it reflected are still with me and continue to inform my life path in profound ways. May the spirit continue to work its magic.

  3. April 2, 2010 1:10 pm

    Hi All,
    I was a freak – still am, in many ways. I remember those days so well, when simply having long hair was a signal of something meaningful. After a few years, everyone had long hair (or at least, long sideburns) and it meant nothing (not that it ever really “meant” something – a signal is not meaningful in itself).
    I have so many memories of random acts of kindness anonymously shared within the tribe, but I wonder whether that has really gone away. You suggest we give something away, such as a smile, and it occurs to me that that behavior is alive and well in the supermarket, on the highway, in the way we have empathy and compassion for our fellow inhabitants of the planet (the true tribe).
    So, yes, it’s still “freakish) to be loving in a competitive world and yes, it’s still our responsibility and our honor to aim for bliss.
    I love that you posted this entry. I love your blog, I love you, and I love our tribe.
    — Neal

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