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.