Monday, January 21, 2008

Age of Aquarius

“When the moon is in the Seventh House and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then Peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius”

-Fifth Dimension, Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In

A young friend of mine asked what it was like to be a "hippie" in the '60s. This is my answer.

Like most middle class children of my era, I lived a pleasant, well-regulated life. The shadow hanging over us was the specter of the "Evil Empire", Soviet Russia. The Cold War was in full swing, the Iron Curtain firmly drawn. We practiced duck and cover drills in school and shuddered at photos of mushroom clouds. The UK's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament combined the semaphore signals for N and D to produce the icon later adopted as the universal Peace Symbol.

A defining moment for my generation was the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the young, charismatic president who carried the dreams of a nation on his shoulders. After his tragic death, the world turned colder and darker. Demons had been let loose.

The Vietnam War began to escalate as many of us entered college. I listened to protest songs and marched in demonstrations in New York City and Washington, D.C. There were still good times to be had: open air concerts in Central Park, weekends exploring Greenwich Village, an unforgettable summer at Oxford University with trips to London (Carnaby Street), Paris, Cologne, Amsterdam. Beatles songs became progressively more complex mirroring the growing counter-culture mindset of college students with time to discuss issues and act on convictions. We rejected, or thought we did, our parents' values. They didn't like or understand our long hair and activism.

My present-day students use the word "hippie" in a mocking or derogatory sense. One elementary-aged child told me that hippies live on the street, have funny clothes, and don't like technology. The high schoolers think being a hippie was all about drugs. When I tell them that I never chose to participate in the drug scene they don't believe me, but it's the truth. I was high on the experience, the music, the sense of being part of a youth movement unlike any seen before.

The war dragged on and a lottery was instituted. Young men I knew chose to resist the draft by emigrating to Canada or fleeing for parts unknown. My husband, a young sailor at the time I was a peace marcher, tells me that servicemen felt unwelcome or invisible on returning home. I was anti-war, not anti-soldier, I reply. We both agree that we would not want to see our son drafted or serving in the armed forces.

Our wedding was as non-traditional as we could make it without offending our families. My hair flowed past my waist as I walked down the aisle. The music we selected included "In My Life" and "Morning Has Broken".

With the arrival of two children, my life settled into a more conventional pattern. But my attitude and world view are still firmly based on what I experienced as I matured in the late '50s and '60s.

I still consider myself a member of the Woodstock generation.

"And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe its the time of man
I don't know who l am
But you know life is for learning" -Joni Mitchell, Woodstock

"Keep true to the dreams of your youth." - Johann Friedrich von Schiller

"Blah-age" by Zeusandhera
"The Companion Plan for Survival at Home" by Uh...Bob
"JFK Motorcade" by Tom Dillard
"Once Upon a Time" by dmcordell 


LJK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LJK said...

Thank you so much for sharing this with me! You were lucky to be a part of such a great time in America.

I understand your feelings of frustration at the stereotype "hippie" has become. I consider myself somewhat of a neo-hippie, and it dissapoints me to hear my peers talk about hippies in a derogatory way. They changed the world.

The writers, artists, activists, and musicians that came out of that time period are so enlightened, probably because of the adversity that was going on at the time: the civil rights movement, the Cold War and the Vietnam War, all huge issues. It heartens me to realize that in the face of immense challenges, people were able to rise up and fight for truth.

Great pictures, too. Is the last one of you?

diane said...


We weren't saints or saviors. We didn't all agree on what needed to be done or why or how.

But most of us cared a great deal about our country and wanted to effect peaceful change.

For all the digital connectivity, I sometimes think that the young people of today are more isolated than we were. When we believed in something we came together physically to demonstrate our concern. I don't see that happening much today.

Despite the "sparklies" in my hair now, inside I'm still that flower child that you noticed standing on the bridge.


Anonymous said...

HI Diane,

I landed on your site while blog searching on the words...
'Age of Aquarius'.

An online friend had asked me when my b'day was and in responding about my Feb b'day, I ended it with ...
Deb - 'The Age of Aquarius'.

Then I got to thinking, what does that exactly mean. :))

Born in 1958, the hippie era was not exactly something that I was a part of, well not from an adult standpoint.

My reason for dropping in and posting a comment was reading your line... We would not want our son serving in the military.

I'm an Air Force Mom and Mother in law. My son Vince 23, married an airmen in 2006.

I hope when you have the thought that you would not want your son serving, you also balance that with
the thought that you are thankful we have an all volunteer military.

It's the numbers who choose to serve that give your son the option of the choice.


diane said...


I understand your comment and respect it.

This has always been a conflict for me. Both of my parents were WW II veterans, my husband is a veteran of Vietnam.

A number of my former student students serve in the military and for many of them it has been their best possible life choice.

While I honor the servicemen, I deplore the need for them. I have no answers; I just don't want my child exposed to the horrors and aftereffects of war.


A Keeper's Jackpot said...

Ellen brought that picture of you to book club on Saturday.

Did you notice I put that traffic map on my blog?