The hippies are little understood these days. One particular version of them – the later, pot-smoking, political protestor – is what remains in popular culture. But the actual hippies, especially the early hippies, were a much different group. They were interesting and brave people: people very much worth remembering.
Who Were the Hippies?
The hippies were preceded by the Beat movement, a group of young people who rejected the conformity of the 1950s – a very “corporate” time. To get a feeling for their mentality, here is a quote from William S. Burroughs, one of their inspirations:
In the U.S., you have to be a deviant or die of boredom.
The Beats were, as one writer put it, “a whole bunch of people, of all different nationalities, who came to the conclusion that society sucked.”
The hippies, on the other hand, believed that they could make life better. And that was the great difference between the hippies and most other movements – the hippies acted. They changed their lives, painted their cars, and wore strange clothing. Rather than cowering at the thought of being different, they went out of their way to show their difference, and there’s something deeply transformative about that.
I’ll forgo a history of the movement and get right into the wisdom of the hippies. Let’s begin with the thoughts of two early hippies. First, some thoughts direct from the early days, care of Bob Stubbs:
We have a private revolution going on. A revolution of individuality and diversity that can only be private. Upon becoming a group movement, such a revolution ends up with imitators rather than participants.
Another, from Dr. Debra Jan Bibel:
Yes, it was sex, drugs, and rock & roll, but it was also spirituality and consciousness studies that eventually led to environmental/ecology movements, cognitive neuroscience, and psychoimmunology, as well as the increasing popularity of Buddhism in the United States and the development of world music appreciation…
Dr. Bibel is writing after the fact, of course, and you can see her disappointment with what the movement became. She continues:
The hippie wannabes spoiled the scene, did not understand the ideologies nor the proper use of entheogens. The popular image of hippies was of them, not the more thoughtful, experimental, and realized post-Beats, the pioneers who led the way.
As happens so often, the first people come for internal reasons and do the important work. Then others come along, wanting to lead the group and take credit for it as well.
From the early hippie habit of action came many of the better developments of the 1960s: new thoughts, new perspectives, the belief that they could live and thrive as individuals, not nameless insects in a giant hive.
But, more important than anything else, the early hippies discovered that they could activate their own will… that they could live their way, create the things they loved, and ignore the expectations of the state-tribe.
Once people reclaim their will, new, interesting and beneficial things tend to sprout up on every side.
The Thoughts They Sought Out
The hippies were very young, and even though they were generally intelligent kids, they knew that they lacked data and perspective, and so turned to older, experienced men.
Perhaps the best of these older teachers was Buckminster Fuller, a fascinating and good man. Here are some of his thoughts:
Politicians are always realistically maneuvering for the next election. They are obsolete as fundamental problem-solvers.
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I seem to be a verb.
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The end move in politics is always to pick up a gun.
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You’ll see from this next one that Fuller makes up his own words. Bear in mind that he was a very serious engineer, so these odd word combinations were created carefully and are used with precision. You may have to read the passage slowly, but if you do, you’ll see that these are coherent thoughts.
The youth of humanity all around our planet are intuitively revolting from all sovereignties and political ideologies. The youth of Earth are moving intuitively toward an utterly classless, raceless, omnicooperative, omniworld humanity.
Children freed of the ignorantly founded educational traditions and exposed only to their spontaneously summoned, computer-stored and -distributed outflow of reliable-opinion-purged, experimentally verified data, shall indeed lead society to its happy egress from all misinformedly conceived, fearfully and legally imposed, and physically enforced customs of yesterday.
They can lead all humanity into omnisuccessful survival as well as entrance into an utterly new era of human experience in an as-yet and ever-will-be fundamentally mysterious Universe.
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You can see that Fuller is deeply concerned with change in the world. Here are several more on that subject:
When I was born, humanity was 95 per cent illiterate. Since I’ve been born, the population has doubled and that total population is now 65 per cent literate. That’s a gain of 130-fold of the literacy. When humanity is primarily illiterate, it needs leaders to understand and get the information and deal with it. When we are at the point where the majority of humans themselves are literate, able to get the information, we’re in an entirely new relationship to Universe. We are at the point where the integrity of the individual counts and not what the political leadership or the religious leadership says to do.
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We are powerfully imprisoned in these Dark Ages simply by the terms in which we have been conditioned to think.
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Dear reader, traditional human power structures and their reign of darkness are about to be rendered obsolete.
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Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment… Humanity is in ‘final exam’ as to whether or not it qualifies for continuance in Universe.
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I’ll close with a practical thought from Fuller. This is one that all of us should be taking seriously:
You never change anything by fighting the existing. To change something, build a new model and make the existing obsolete.
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Regardless of how we wear our hair and our clothes, we should all, like the hippies, act to make life better. Now.