The 1960s and 70s were trying times for everyone involved, evn for those that tried to stay uninvolved.

Drugs, war, and music seemed to dominate many lives of those both young and old.

Here are several semi-related paragraphs about that time in my life.



          One might think the Eastern philosophies would view puttering with high regard. After all, puttering has a fluidity that transcends its lack of order, and it has a very loose relationship with planning and schedules. I had a friend in college that was always saying, "Stay fluid." This seemed to mean that you should never lock yourself into any singular plan or thought. To stay fluid, meant that you were always prepared to change your plan, not that you actually had a plan, but, that as needed, you could change horses in the middle of any stream you happened to be drifting in at the time. During the late 1960s and early 70s this "stay fluid" capability was a valuable asset, in that, we were always on the edge of one insanity or another, and to lock in on any one space we found ourselves would have been suicidal.
          Somebody once said, "You can always tell how involved someone was with the 1960s by how little they remember about it." There is probably some truth in that statement, but as time passes and long term memory takes over from the short term, most of us that lived the life of the 60s seem to be recalling at least the highlights. As I look back on many of the experiences from those days, it is with a bit of trepidation. We did so many things that should have killed us that it is hard to figure how any of us made it out alive. Some did not.
          John was one of those that never made it to the next stage. John and I had a standing date every Wednesday afternoon for most of a year in college. What took place on this so called date was, we would take a large dose of LSD and play chess for the rest of the afternoon. For the two of us, afternoon classes were canceled, and these chemical mixtures of color and time took us to a different school every Wednesday. The order of the game itself may have been the only thing that kept us from blowing off this world entirely. John had a propensity for water even though he couldn't swim a lick, and when he was high on one of the many elicit drugs we made a way of life in those days, he would nearly always have to be saved from his own ambitions to become one with water. I have had to drag him from the Spokane River on two occasions, and know of several more instances where others have done the same.
          One Sunday afternoon four or five of us were having a picnic on Hangman Creek several hundred yards above its confluence with the Spokane River. We had all dropped acid as well as polished off a couple of bottles of some cheap wine and eaten far too much potato salad, when John announced he was going for a walk. We told him to stay away from the river and he agreed. When he headed off, not in the direction of the river, we all felt comfortable he would be fine. We never saw him again. We never knew for sure what happened, but none of us really doubted that he ended up in the river as he had so many times before, but this time none of us were there to pull him back out. Since none of us saw him go into the water and his body was never found, we always liked to think that he had finally made it to the big city to play key boards with Frank Zappa.
          Not everything was wonderful from that time, but when I think of it all at once, it usually comes out with a positive warm glow to it. There was a short window of time where most of us really did believe in the possibility of spreading the feeling of universal love amongst the masses. We even thought love could stop the war in Viet Nam. Maybe we were right, and our love was just too weak to do the job, but as I look back to those young naive days of the late 60s, I still think we saw something real. Something that should not have been set aside, for most of us to return to the economic based culture from where we had come. This whole generation of "baby boomers" has very little real perseverance. I think most of us had things a bit too easy. We never had to work hard and wait long for very little or even less. Growing up in the 50s was soft and plentiful for most of our generation, and we got more of what we wanted than what we needed. In the 50s and 60s anything could happen, the country was on an economic roll, nearly everyone was making money and there was no end in sight. As youths of this time, we were free to meander through our self indulgent lives with little thought of how we had gotten there or what kept us in our virtual reality. Very few realized how the past neglects of the environment were about to catch up with us, and we just coasted along as if we were on an endless picnic.
          About that time the French pulled out of Viet Nam, leaving a vacuum that seemed to suck our generation out of the periphery, and sent us either off to war or out into the streets in protest of everything that had come before us. In a few short years, a generation that had, just moments before, been playing Bobby Darin and Leslie Gore records were now listening to Bobby Dylan and The Jefferson Airplane. These same kids, who's mothers had warned not to drink too much at the Saturday night "frat party" were now ingesting LSD and sitting around in circles smoking sweet smelling herbs. Our parents, who were then in charge of the world, had little understanding or tolerance with our departure from the status-quo that had brought the planet to where it was, and we, the generation of pampered idealists, pulled hard at the bonds that tied us to our past.
          Our parents, the generation that were adults, or nearly so, during the Second World War, were proud of where they had brought the world. They had just beaten the hell out of Hitler and his Third Reich along with Imperial Japan, freeing the world from these chains of evil, and the job of neutralizing communism was well on its way to creating unprecedented profits here at home. The war had devastated the infrastructure of much of the industrialized world, but American structures were only strengthened, and with this head start the U.S. shot out to an early lead in the race for personal comfort and eventual decadence.
          Our parents thought they had cut a fat hog, they had worked hard and truly sacrificed, they could see the end of the rainbow and it appeared to have the proverbial pot of gold. We, the spoiled whippersnappers of the 60s cared less about the pot of gold and more about pot itself. Marijuana was a drug that had been around long before Moses led anyone out of anywhere, but it had received far less attention as a drug, than for many of the other uses that came from this same plant. The hemp plant has been used extensively for centuries, world wide, as a source of fiber for rope, and clothes, and paper. The Declaration of Independence is written on paper made from hemp fiber.
          These fibers have woven the fabric of many a culture, and only in our modern times have they become a problem. Every civilization of mankind has taken unto itself one or more of the many mind-altering drugs that lie waiting for us around the edges of our lives. In America, soon after the lifting of prohibition, the economic forces of the alcohol industry pressured congress to make marijuana illegal. Marijuana had never competed much with alcohol, and even during the decades of prohibition it took a definite back seat to those fermented spirits that kept the country in legal and social turmoil. Lobbyists for the booze industry felt falsely threatened, and worked diligently to remove any possibility of future competition from this benign plant. Those laws against Marijuana paved the way to the decline and end of the valuable hemp fiber industry in this country. These same laws had very little effect on the use of marijuana, few people used the drug before, and few used it after the passing of these laws. It wasn't until the mid 60s, when the youth of this country adopted marijuana as their drug of choice, that it found any appreciable popularity. Those laws, passed in the late 30s, served only to make it more enticing for much of a generation dedicated to combating and confusing the established order.
          This "baby boomer" generation seems still to combat the established order, but now that order is pretty much their own. They seem to be at odds with themselves, as they struggle to sort out the useful ideas from their own and preceding generations, and as always, those self appointed guardians of personal profit have risen to the top. Decisions, large and small, are made with economics as the number one, if not the only, criteria in the process. Even more than the generations before us, we have chosen to ignore non-economic reasons for our actions. The general morality of society appears to be sliding away before our very eyes. It is not that we are suffering so much from immorality, but we have seen a gradual tendency toward amorality in our entire culture. There was a time when honesty and truth were held as basic unalterable virtues, but they have become relative to their own context, and only apply if they fit our personal needs. It has not only become okay to cheat the government, or large corporations, but it is okay to cheat anyone, and it has become a righteous obligation to take as much as we can for ourselves from every source available.
          Fair play has become a thing of the past. Finding the truth has given way to finding the solution that serves one's self. Our legal system provides a good example of this lack of interest in real truth. Neither lawyers nor prosecutors care one iota for the truth in the cases in which they are involved, but only whether or not they win the case. This relationship with the truth has permeated all facets of our society. It has worked its way into the very fabric of human life, and truth and fairness have become the exception instead of the rule. Right and wrong are now determined by whether or not we can get away with something. The golden rule has become a sad joke, and nobody's laughing.


Copyright 2007. Ed Gnaedinger.