Over a week ago I ran into Joe in the Buffalo kitchen– on my daily trudge from the pit house site to a REAL restroom– and a couple of the things he said keep rattling around in my brain. I think we were talking about community and ways of being ‘civilized’ (the pit house had just been witness to a bitter argument over music, taste and the Triangle of Communication—ask me later) and after a pause Joe offered that the human neocortex* has created a ‘hall of mirrors’ in our brains. Mammalian self-reflection can become excruciating if our self-awareness is repeated over and over, warped like a line of clowns in a county-fair funhouse. When the human inverse asks ‘why are we here?’ how the hell do you respond?
Probably with unhappiness and fear, or feelings of inadequacy.
Joe thinks the young people who built New Buffalo in the late 60s would have answered, “This isn’t right; it isn’t enough. We have to rebuild.”
Unhappiness and fear are part of the human condition, and feelings of inadequacy may never leave us no matter how old we get, but the arrogance-hope-naiveté-courage of youth alone had the huevos to try to reject modern ‘civilization’ wholesale. The MO of the hippies we’re studying was a patchwork of Native American spirituality, ideas culled from East-Asian religions and American pioneer can-do.
Of course, these people came up against their own limitations. But it is a long process to build and change societies, and the hippie movement is still part of our popular American consciousness. I’m not sure they failed; I think people will keep engaging with the ideals of the 1960s in the hopes of reworking what is seen to be unfair, inhumane or dangerous in our government and American life.
I wish you could talk to Joe. Your mind would be spinning!
*Wikipedia: The neocortex is involved in higher functions such as sensory perception, generation of motor commands, spatial reasoning, conscious thought and language.