Category: Essays

The Big Issue of Life: 3 Recent Indy Films

I keep thinking the three odd, non-mainstream movies I’ve seen recently, “The Tree of Life,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, and the newly released “Margaret,” (a 2002, post-911 film whose distribution was delayed), all have something crucial to tell us. Or rather, show us, because we have to figure out their messages for ourselves.

Or, these films are, at the very least, a reflection of part of our new century’s collective consciousness, as well as bulletins from our collective unconscious. I was drawn into the films though they were not as much “entertainment” as they were stimulants for difficult thought, and it is a bit if a challenge to articulate just what the three may have in common.

The first, Terence Malik’s “The Tree of Life,” I found so mesmerizing in lyrical imagery that the fragmented narrative didn’t bother me at all. And yes, there was a story there, a typical family drama of the early sixties. Brad Pitt is the father of three boys and we are perceiving mostly Jack’s world, the older boy’s, perspective, his chaotic and bewildering coming-of-age through adolescence to manhood under the somewhat stern dominion of the father played by Brad Pitt.

The ethereal Jessica Chastain is The Great Earth Mother beneath whom the three sons are sheltered, and the tensions between the parents, and the father and his sons, are fraught with the same incongruous conflicts many of us recognize from the emotional throws of growing up in small town America.

In the middle of the film there is an interlude of dazzling imagery, an explosion of nature’s growth and time’s passages, throwing us into thoughts of the Big Bang, the violence of earth’s natural movements, the tossing of seeds and leaves and light, atoms and molecules, sperm and ovum, the sense of time immemorial, infinite time and the great questions of time’s purpose. It doesn’t segue into or away from the narrative well but it gives us some hints as to the ambitious nitty-gritty of the film.

Jack is a poetic soul, struggling to understand his own existence, and the middle son is the sensitive would-be musician whose life is cut short by the Vietnam war. As the brothers grieve and the parents suffer and wound one another, we feel the vicissitudes, the anxiety and threats that persist alongside daily living. We believe in the “Tree of Life” of the title, the welling together at the root, the battering of the branches, the dappled summer light that brightens the buds of the heart and awakens the body’s mortal awareness.

How does one capture and interpret the secret of what it means to be human on this particular planet, to know the Self writ large? Who Are We? Jack wonders in voiceover. Can the far-reaching, archetypal symbol of the Tree hold us all, thread and root us into an interconnected whole?

Most of us never question why we’re here, but then, again some of us question constantly. As a poet, I read all sorts of approaches that speak to this question along with shapely and sinuous answers. And Malick’s film itself is poetry, and poetry’s response is often layered down to the bedrock, twisting with wishes, as on a Mobius strip.

Despite critical raves, in theatres throughout the country people walked out on this film, frustrated no doubt by the alternate mumbling and blaring of the soundtrack and the lack of linear storytelling, perhaps unwilling to give the film the attention it needs. I saw it twice, not wanting to miss any of the pieces the first time, and the second, to focus on how the pieces were put together. I found it visually astonishing and the acting excellent, earning Pitt an Oscar nomination. Pitt takes on a deeper dimension of himself as the frustrated father, and Hunter McCracken, plays Jack with universal truth in his every move.

In the finale of the film, a strange, surreal place (meant to be heaven?) emerges, complete with beach and lapping waves, for what seems a city population coming and going as if the sand itself were a New York sidewalk. The family we watched coming apart, comes together again in reconciled affection. Sean Penn, is the older Jack, who has found himself as a modern architect, and appears with his younger self, his lost brother, the mother who never ages, and Pitt as a more tender father. Between the shifts of light, the shapes, the colors, the abstract landscapes and the faces of the figures, it appears Malick is paying homage to our whole experience as beings on and of the earth, nothing less than eternal in the sheer mystery of soul travels.

Like “Tree of Life,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” is also told from a child’s viewpoint. This protagonist, an untrained star of amazing power and depth is played by six-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, a fascinating child to watch. In fact, the entire cast is without acting experience, and yet, each tapped into a larger self and found his or her character’s perfect center. As for plot, this movie possesses even less than Tree but is equally provocative.

The girl lives alongside her father on a small barrier island in New Orleans’ gulf, an area bordered by levies, called “The Bathtub.” The young child, “Hushpuppy,” narrates as we watch her alcoholic father’s health fail in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Her mother “swam away” one day, though Hushpuppy still sees her in her minds’ eye, and calls to her from the water’s edge.

Her father raises her like a boy, won’t let her cry over his illness, (though both do at the unsentimental end) calls her “The Man” and exhorts her to stand up and cheer for herself, showing her “guns” (muscles). The film takes place in just a few days.
In the back of Hushpuppy’s imagination are the arctos, ancient, mythic creatures, huge in her fantasies. And when she finally meets several of them nose-to-nose, she is like Alice grown tiny. Yet through her confidence and self-reliance, Hushpuppy is able to dispel the enormous spirit-creatures with her own magical powers. As a metaphor for her own wildness, one could say these wild beasts further represent her own smoldering independence.

The film is disturbing. The ragtag group who cling to what’s left of their junky homes are nothing like proper parents. By any middle-class measure, these children would be taken away for their own safety. But though it disturbs us that Hushpuppy suffers both abuse and neglect, her father’s love for her is real, and vice versa. While he tries to shelter her from his illness, Katrina swings in, and the inhabitants of the island find themselves cut off from their self-sufficiency. Everything is dying around them. And when they fight the help they’re offered by government agencies, they are like primitives who can only survive in their natural habitat, preferring to die in it. While she observes her father under doctors’ care, Hushpuppy ironically remarks that when people grow sick here, “they plug them into the wall.”

After their escape from the hospital, she cremates her father and sends him off to a burial at sea on a homemade float just as the ancients did. One remembers the rituals of Avalon, and that the Nature that threatens this community’s life is also a part of its soul. The film speaks for a kind of Libertarian independence, against an intervening government civilizing society. The motley crew slips away from the Red Cross camp, and Hushpuppy conquers the primitive creatures in one triumphant moment of staring them down.

This is her fantasy of course, the way she sees herself, a girl-child raised like a boy, a loyal, devoted daughter, who grieves the loss of her mother and father equally. But Hushpuppy knows who she is. She tells us the scientists will look back 100 years from now and “they’ll know there was a Hushpuppy who lived with her Daddy in the Bathtub.”

Will she survive? Not by any dint of current cultural standards. But then, as she earns our respect and captures our hearts, we wonder about our own world, held as we are in its tightening, grip, more and more alienated from Nature. What if we don’t need banks? And lawyers? Or the Federal Drug Administration? What if we didn’t rely so heavily on the Powers-That-Be, those that seem to be serving themselves more than their constituency? Wise men tell us that this is now the era for us to outgrow the ubiquitous crumbling systems and shallow values of our over-materialistic world.

Hushpuppy is mythic, a magical child. She shows us an alternative life we would never choose for ourselves. But still, we sit in our silent tears at the end of the film, find strangers in the restrooms afterwards wiping their eyes as well. We know something’s been lost in our world that is not lost for Hushpuppy. She’s free and she’s confident and yes–she’ll probably grow disillusioned as she ages–but her faith in her strange foundation is steadfast. We’re sure we don’t want to live like her, but we’re not sure, how in our modern lives, we can find what’s been lost.

A few days later I picked up a movie in the supermarket on Redbox. I’d heard an NPR program on “Margaret,” and because of its length among other reasons, it had been held back from release. Based on a play by Kenneth Lonegrin “Margaret” tells the story of a fatal bus accident and the privileged, teenage, West Side Manhattanite, Lisa, played ferociously by Anna Pacquin. Lisa causes the accident by distracting a bus driver with her flirtatious interest in his cowboy hat. The bus driver, (Mark Ruffalo) runs a red light and runs over a woman, (Alison Janey.) As “Monica” dies in the girl’s arms, Lisa, (if she hadn’t discovered it by 911 already) learns that life can change in an instant. Although she readily admits to her math teacher (Matt Damon) that she cheated on his test, Lisa begins to think about “right” and “wrong” in absolutes.

She’s traumatized by Monica dying in her arms. In the aftermath of the accident, exchanging looks with the bus driver, she tells the Police the light was green. But Lisa develops an obsession about her lie and confides in her actress mother who has her own distractions as the star of a new Broadway hit.

We see Lisa in and out of school, arguing, manipulating and seducing teachers and friends. She lives an “entitled” life and most teenagers, she is passionately idealistic. When she tries, with the help of Monica’s cynical friend, to administer justice for Monica’s senseless death, by amending her statement, incriminating the driver and starting a law suit against the MTA, she only succeeds in drawing them into a settlement which benefits Monica’s greedy, distant cousin.

Still the driver gets to keep his job despite a previous record of reckless driving. But does Lisa recognize in herself the mountain of guilt she has projected onto him? Though she makes one admission that the accident was her fault, she has not taken full responsibility for her own reckless behavior, which continues throughout the film to the point of losing her virginity and claiming to her teachers that she has had an abortion. We do not think this is true.

Meanwhile Lisa’s mother is being courted by a rich Columbian man who dies of a heart attack shortly after she breaks up with him, leaving both mother and daughter finally with some things in common: guilt and grief. In the last scene mother and daughter attend an opera at Lincoln Center and at the sound of the diva’s voice, they are reduced to tears. Then sobs, then hugs. For the first time we see the love between them shows.

Lisa’s aware that the world isn’t fair. She is a feisty and courageous, persistent and operatic herself. The world seems to her a series of random events such as her mother’s lover’s death, the horrible accident and the ever-present memories of 911, which the filmmaker emphasizes by numerous pans of the skies over NYC.

All three of these films tell us something about the difficulty in reconciling the many opposing forces in our modern society. Tree of Life looks back with nostalgia for a simpler time as much as it looks through the eyes of a young man toward an unsettled future. Beasts gives us a young child’s endeavor to come to terms with her lost mother and dying father, and to transcend her immensely disadvantaged life with hard-won inner strength. “Margaret” (named for the a young woman’s realization of death in a poem by Gerard Manly Hopkins) gives us the thin-skinned, self-centered insecurity of another dramatic young woman with scary close-ups of an adult world that offers no answers to injustice. The precariousness of living in our times is stated in each. Something’s not right with our world.

Nonetheless the lesson we can draw from all three films is found in the wise words of the Earth Mother in Tree of Life: Help each other. Love everyone. Every leaf. Every ray of light. Forgive.

Question Everything, A 4th of July Meditation

As it’s the 4th of July, I just posted an American flag by Andy Warhol on Facebook along with Whitney Houston’s video singing the Star Spangled Banner. I surfed through my friends’ remarks for the day, lots of flags and remembrances of those who fought for our freedom and support for our courageous troops who are still serving, as well as those who’ve paid the ultimate price.

It’s heart-moving and provocative emotionally to see the out-pouring of patriotism. But ever since I was a kid and learned about the divisions of borders, other countries, some hostile, some brutal to their people and what has been done in the name of patriotism (not to mention religion), I’ve had serious doubts about the separations these kind of loyalties create. And last night I was with a playful and talented group of people at a karaoke party where people sang plenty of good ‘ole American songs, and wore red, white and blue blouses and hats. Holidays are always great reasons to get together with others and celebrate. One guy sang Toby Keith’s notorious hit “Courtesy for the Red, White and Blue” almost as good as Toby himself.

I listen to country, corny as the lyrics can be, I like the stories, I like the beat. But I can get pretty uncomfortable with the raging nationalism. I remember the first time I heard the song, also called “The Angry American.” I was living in Boston and it was in the wake of 9/11, a time of heightened patriotism when America had the sympathy of most of the world. There were some lines in the song that offended some of us peacenicks, such as, “The Statue of Liberty is shaking her fist . . . Man, it’s gonna be hell when you hear Mother Freedom start ringin’ her bell and it feels like whole wide world is raining down on you . . . ” then, “we”ll put a boot in your ass, It’s the American way . . . “

In my opinion, it is outrageous, but on another level, I could see his viewpoint and chuckle at the machoism. I grew up in NY, I’ve got that dark humor, and it’s not outrageous in terms of the particular individual that Toby is. Many of his songs reflect attitudes that I don’t embrace but I find him a terrific singer and songwriter and could certainly see where he was coming from. 9/11 was horrific and his millions of fans here and overseas love the song. I’m a die-hard liberal but I admire the clever lyrics and the passionate music.

It’s a revenge song for sure and it talks about “lighting up” the enemy’s “sky like the 4th of July,” which we can directly associate not only to the war in Afghanistan, but especially the “Shock and Awe” which came later as the U.S. military began bombing Iraq. On faulty information as it turned out. And a lot of innocent people were killed. That’s not a chuckling matter.I don’t support the euphemism of “collateral damage.”

When I heard the song last night on the eve of the July 4th, I thought of another artist, Alice Walker, feminist Afro-American poet, novelist and activist. Years ago, teaching one of her essays to college freshmen, I came across her poem, “On Sight” which is embedded in the essay. In it she references the moon-landing of 1969, when astronauts planted the American flag on the moon. Here are some of her lines, the latter part of the poem:

The desert has its own moon
Which I have seen
With my own eye.

There is no flag on it.

Trees of the desert have arms
All of which are always up
That is because the moon is up
The sun is up
Also the sky
The Stars
None with flags.

Point being, can you really own the moon? Do we even own the land? Native Americans thought they belonged to the land, not the other way round. Patriotism is nice to celebrate, a country’s birthday is a good excuse for a holiday, and we like holidays, watermelon, hot dogs and apple pie . . but . . . this late in history, at a time when technology has brought the entire world into communication and more and more young people around the world are creating the same culture, at a time when the entire planet’s environment is threatened by consumerism, overpopulation and continuing wars, too much patriotism may be an outdated, and dangerous habit.

Basic world values are also becoming more similar, countries are still struggling for democracy, even as our citizens raise questions about what true democracy is. Does the congress really represent our country and its changing population? Does it consider what is in the best interests of its constituents, or has it sold out to corporations and lobbyists? Is our media even reflective of true democracy? Or is it designed to keep us in a trance? It appears up front and personal until you really examine the profit over loss principle of capitalism behind it. Who are those guys on Wall Street that caused the melt-down anyway? And what kind of democracy lets them off scott-free?

Maybe we should have World Day, celebrate the Big Bang, the whole creation of oceans and continents unto every corner of the earth. Celebrate people everywhere who are willing to envision real global change. People who are protesting what they don’t like about the world. I like our flag, but back in the sixties I agreed with those who burned it in protest to the country’s activities in Viet Nam. It’s just a symbol after all. And a symbol is only as good as what it represents. Some people forget we have a right to protest our government. A symbol is also an easy way to rally sentimentality (which is feeling without substance behind it). Dividing people according to religion or borders is always a good way to control private interests and sometimes that’s what nationalism does.

Even as a kid I was always freaked out by the Star Spangled Banner’s bombs bursting line. And those bombs are kind of like fireworks. I prefer John Lennon’s lines in Imagine, “Imagine there’s no countries/ It isn’t hard to do/Nothing to kill or die for/And no religion too.”

And I know I’m not the only dreamer. . . Socrates called himself a citizen of the world, not just Athens. Then again, they gave him the choice of hemlock or exile. He took the hemlock because, as he said his “daimon” or intuition did not object when he thought that being exiled would defeat the purpose of his life which was to teach the youth of Athens to question everything.

The Moving On Dream

After a long hiatus, I have returned to my dream blog. It’s not that I wasn’t dreaming all these months, but I have been working on two other books, an Ebook on Writing Memoir (in a few months it will be on my site) and a poetry manuscript. My last blog entry was on my mother’s death. I want to return to that period because I had so many dreams at the time, there was almost an onslaught I couldn’t keep up with. Having lost my father when my siblings and I were all still quite young, our mother became a powerful matriarch. Now that I was losing her, albeit that she was 94 and 5 years into severe dementia. I know I had many mixed feelings. She had for so long been sharp and clear and independent. It was heartbreaking to see her totally dependent. Since I was the sibling most in charge of her, I coped best as I could with hiring aides, visiting nurses, changing medications but my dreams repeatedly told me my own feelings were out of control. I felt helpless and inept when it came to seeing my mother lose her mind. Since I am single too, I couldn’t help but come into contact with my fears for the future.

Here is one of those dreams that, in retrospect, I would call “prognostic,” that is, it tells of the future, tells me the future without my mother would be all right. Jung might have called it “a compensatory dream,” because it compensates for my conscious attitude which was doubtful and frightened at the time I had it shortly after her death. Here is the dream i wrote down:

We’re going to travel in this heavy car, a modern SUV. It’s early morning. We pack in confusion. Should I bring a blanket, a scarf? All my siblings and me, and my mother, who is going to drive us to a house we rented for a vacation. She’s confident, or trying to be. All the bags are in the trunk. My brothers are young, we’re all younger, close to the ages we were when our father died.We’re going to be gone for a long time. I worry I’ve forgotten something. The car moves slowly like a boat. Sometimes I’m steering, sometimes, Mom. We kids squabble amongst ourselves. I see a high school boyfriend, he may be in the car too. We’re going to a new place with all our stuff. We’re somewhat excited, somewhat anxious. It all depends on Mom. She’s driving . . . I’m driving . . . This is the world after Daddy.

It’s not a difficult dream to analyze, pretty transparent. It’s early in mourning. We;re squabbling, which is what we did as not everyone could agree on when she should be relinquished to professional care. What did surprise me was the throwback in our ages, and the sense that we all lived together like we did when my Dad passed unexpectedly when I was 15, my older brother 17, and the two other kids 11, and 6. The truth is we’ve all been living all over the country, in different states, for close to 30 years. I can’t recall the last time the four siblings were together. It seems that always one of us is missing. And my mother lived alone all this time, a long distance from all of us except my sister. In any event, I was the only unmarried one and it made sense for me to be the chief caretaker. I moved to Florida to see about my mother and she was worse off than she’d let on. Then came five difficult years. She lived to 94 and in the end she only died from old age. Her mind was gone but her body stayed healthy for several years. Her suffering was really our suffering, especially mine as I watched day after day as her mind deteriorated until she was oblivious. I found it painful to watch, though after awhile she wasn’t conscious of what was happening.

In the dream we are both driving at different times. Ultimately she drove the situation and I had to steer it. It was one of those dreams where you have to get somewhere and you’re not even sure where you’re going. There was a sense of it being a good place, a vacation, a place of rest. I suppose we are all headed there eventually. In dreams cars often represent the body, the way we get along in the world. The way the car moved like a boat is interesting because in many threshold dreams, one is moving across water, as in crossing the river of life into death. We see that theme so much in literature. I think of Dante’s Inferno, or Greek mythology where the boatsman, Charon, escorts the shades (souls) to the underworld of Hades (which is not the Christian hell, but just the world of those who had died. ) The car itself is a big SUV. I’ve never had one, nor did my mother or any of the kids. But I associate “safety” with the size of the car. Comfort too. It’s a good choice of a car to travel in. We’re all a little insecure. Soon it will be the world after Mom. I want to get there, to that resting place, her resting place, settle down to a life without mom . . . What will that be like?

The prevailing mood is both excitement and nervousness. Something is changing; something new is coming to be. I was surprised in the dream to see my high school boyfriend but upon waking it made sense to me. He has appeared in many of my dreams always as an escort, a shoulder to lean on. I was lucky to have had such a loving, supportive boyfriend back then and he stayed in my unconscious and shows up symbolically in situations where I am unsure of myself. As Jung taught, everything in the dream is an aspect of the dreamer, so I have this inner, young masculine,18-year-old energy, inside, enough to take over and lead the situation as 18 is often the age we leave home.

There is a sense in the dream that we will be away a long time. And it was a long road to my mother’s death. And of course, it is a life-changing event. I won’t ever live in the mother’s presence again. The feeling paralleled somewhat how we all felt when my father died. His death was sudden and unexpected and all of us pulled together behind my very strong mother who raised all four of us by herself, put us all through college and didn’t do anything for herself until we were all out of the house. Mom did the driving. And so the association to my father’s death naturally spoke to her own death. Yet the dream was reassuring, at a time when I did not feel reassured.

The feeling of being at sea is a good metaphor for those last years with my mother. Still, the dream indicated it would be all right. We would get there . . . get through it. We’re in a big strong car, it will take us there safely. We can trust that we’ll get to the right place, at the right time. And we did.

To hear a discussion on dreams, writing and intuition, please watch my video interview posted on the right hand corner of this page.

Of Butterflies and Mothers: The Numinous Dream

A month ago, I lost my almost 95-year-old mother. I felt that I’d been losing her incrementally, one small stroke at a time as she descended deeper into dementia for the last five years. At the end she was content, docile and sweet, though we had had some rough times in the years before when she was in the early stages.

As she lost her balance, she could no longer walk; as she lost her vocabulary, she would no longer talk. It was a heart-breaking experience for those who loved her and knew her as a strong, independent, beautiful woman for most of her long life. Eventually she stopped eating and drinking and in the last week of her life she was bedridden, her eyes closed to the world. For five days we watched her breath become shallower, her vital signs weakening daily. On the last day of her life she opened her eyes and struggled with her breath for several hours, made a little more comfortable with morphine.

Two nights before she died I had a very short but numinous dream. I am with a group of people outside somewhere and a flock of bright yellow butterflies swoops down upon us and then spirals off in synch above our heads. I think there is a sound of “ooo”ing and “ah”ing amongst us and the sense is that something quite magical has touched us, maybe even blessed us.

According to Wikepedia, the word “numinous” comes from the Classical Latin “numen” which infers the presence or power of the divine. In the early twentieth century Rudolf Otto popularized the word in his classic book The Idea of the Holy. Otto names two characteristics to a numinous experience, a reaction of fear and trembling, or a fascinating attraction. He also suggests there is a very personal response, as if one had had a sacred visitation from the transcendent world. The word sometimes implies a supernatural occurrence.

Many people begin their spiritual journey with a numinous dream. The magical quality of the images and the interaction between the dreamer and something deemed divine leave the dreamer with a lingering sense of having been “touched by an angel.” These are what C.G. Jung referred to as “Big Dreams.”  Even since I began listening to my own as well as other people’s dreams, I have run into this experience only rarely. But these are the dreams people remember forever, even if they do not follow, record and think about their dreams on a regular basis.

I’ve had a handful of these dreams in my life and in some cases they were initiations into deeper searching. In Jung’s terminology, the “Self” is divine. When we put ourselves consciously on a path to “individuation,” Jung’s term for becoming whole, becoming our best selves, fulfilling our purpose, we are moving toward expressions of the Self. Self with a capital S, contains and transcends “ego.” And in Jungian psychology we are intent on going beyond what the Ego knows, suppressing Ego in terms of self-aggrandizement, i.e. anti-egotistical. Usually in our dreams we are observing and experiencing the venture in terms of the ego’s point of view.

But there are often other figures, objects and landscapes that have their own existence, apart from ego, and in dream work we try to make these other ego-alien points of view more conscious so we can know what parts of us are unconsciously expressing themselves. These are aspects of our “shadow.”  But shadow is not necessarily negative. We can have a positive shadow, even a “numinous” shadow where knowledge or understanding seems to come from outside of ourselves.

In many cultures the butterfly is a symbol of the soul. In Greek it is “psyche” which also is a homonym for “soul.”  The overall atmosphere in my dream was infused with a rush of awe. I had the sense that we’d all looked up at the same time, that as the butterflies swooped, our heads raised up to meet them and for a brief moment we were all entrained together.

When I awoke, I immediately thought of my mother with wonder. She had stopped eating but she had done that before and begun again. This time I felt her soul was already in movement toward the other side. Often at the end of praying aloud for her, I had encouraged her, if she saw the light, to go toward it. Though she’d been a fervent Catholic, she looked at me as though she did not understand what I was saying. But I believe the day of my dream was the day she began to surrender.

Dreams that leave us in wonder and move us emotionally into awe, as if we’ve been graced with a transcendent presence, fall into the category of the “numinous.”  Sometimes these dreams may be actual visitations of the deceased, sometimes they are given messages from the unconscious, from other dimensions to which we are briefly given access. These dreams evoke beatific longings and a connection to superconsciousness.

Mine was a healing dream, if only for me. I felt reassured that she had begun her journey. Later I realized the etymology of her name “Stacia” is from “Anastasia” which means “Resurrection” in Greek.

I was comforted by the dream. I wanted her to go; she already seemed to have gone though she’d left her body behind for several years. Yet no one is prepared to lose a mother. It is a primal loss, one that, according to the French writer Marcel Proust, we never recover from. Still, I am so grateful for that numinous dream, the force of, not one, but a whole fleet of winged creatures taking flight, lofting upward to only God knows where mothers receive all the love they’ve given.

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The Utopian Dream: The Sixties’ Hippies & The New Age

Last night I watched a special on the  Biography channel about the Hippies of the Sixties. The documentary followed the Hippie movement from Timothy Leary’s discovery of LSD and its Haight Ashbury beginnings, to its psychedelic pinnacle with the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper Masterpiece and Broadways’ Box Office Block Buster, “Hair”, to the sexual freedom within the Back-To-The Land communes, to the flood of Eastern philosophy and spirituality into the mainstream, to the tragedies of the King and Kennedy assassinations, to the darkness of Charlie Manson’s “family,” and the violent clashes of protesters and police outside the Democratic Convention in Chicago in sixty-eight, to the phenomenon of Woodstock Nation and the Rolling Stones’ Altamount Concert  debacle, to the inauguration of Richard Nixon and the CIA’s subsequent secret war on political dissidents, to the protests which finally led to  the end of the Viet Nam War.  Quite the decade.

Of those of us Boomers who came of age during that tumultuous era, many became “Yuppies,” upwardly mobile members of society by the time of the mid to late seventies. But against those who say the Sixties era of Love and Flower Children was ultimately a failure, there are just as many who believe the sixties prepared the culture for the inexorable changes that we are now facing.

It was no accident that the Age of Aquarius celebrated in “Hair” occurred some forty years before “Jupiter aligned with Mars,” but we have only now reached the end of the Piscean Age astrologically. The “vibration” in the zeitgeist was not an artificial trend but rather the first blasting wave of a higher frequency to which the planet was, and is still now, attuning. The new energies rushing in undoubtedly threw people off balance, and the discovery of mind-expanding drugs began to show what these new energies could cultivate on their own. Today we drink more water to keep in balance, today we exercise routinely. Today we meditate without drugs.

Casualties happened as they do in any revolution. Young people became infused with these fevers provoked by certain injustices and hypocrisies they saw in the society, many of which have not yet been eliminated. But the pursuit of equality for Afro-Americans and women, and for that inalienable right, happiness, the goals of anti-war and environmental awareness movements–all displaying a deep longing for a more just, simpler, earth-friendly way of life– were seeded at that time.

Like any passionate historic movement, the era of Hippiedom, went to extremes, lost its power, and faded away. Yet the utopian dream it set up, though it failed from misguided-thinking, immaturity, and poor planning, is slowly coming to fruition in the committed human potential and consciousness movements in this new century– Despite the government’s recession, despite the war on terrorism, despite the near collapses of our most basic systems.

Conservatives can and will holler and may pray , crying for a return to the society of the immediate post-world war era when America led the world in manufacturing, gender roles were circumscribed and the population was naive. But this society will not be returning to that epoch. What lies ahead is the transformation of the West to a society of Service, the distribution of world wealth to a global balance, and a completely new way of living with less waste, zero tolerance for  political corruption, innovations of clean cars and green products and preventative health supplements aligned with a melding model of medical/alternative healing.

The planet Pluto, (healing through symbolic death and resurrection) which moves so slowly it defines each generation, has moved into Capricorn who rules institutions, churches, corporations, banks, schools, government. Pluto will transit through Capricorn for, roughly, the next 16 years. During the passage, the ailing dinosaurs of these institutions will be undergoing drastic renovation. And as they are renovated, we will be a good deal closer to a green and sober version of the utopian dream of the Hippies.

Steve Jobs of Apple Computers was a hippie, and hundreds of other ex-hippie  visionaries  have created companies that are renovating  the traditional work places. The old multi-marketing Amway model has given way to dozens of new companies creating their own residual incomes and separate economies through sharing, consensus and team cooperation, (an Aquarian quality), creating leverage in the marketplace and more free time for individuals to work creatively  in their pajamas over the internet. Technology (yet another Aquarian province) has exploded out of the innovations of the sixties’ generation. The collapse of real estate ownership and the recession we are experiencing is just a symptom of an era whose time is up. Shared property, less extravagant and more ecology- oriented life styles are already on the cutting edge.

We owe much to that crazy decade. It was rich with light, deep with darkness and an incredible, evolutionary passage. It was an introduction to a new 2000 year epoch and the beginning of the end of Piscean energy, which is characterized by the concept of “duality” and “opposites,” “competition” and “winners” and “losers”.

The world being created now is still in its infancy. But the permanent changes that came out of the movements of the sixties and seeped into western culture at large when the pendulum swung back from its extremes to sobriety and moderation–these are the very changes that will allow the new culture to come forth.

Liberty. Equality, Fraternity was the cry of the French Revolutionaries as the blood from the guillotines filled the streets of Paris and several republics rose and fell before an exhausted country settled down again to a nouveau regieme. Every dramatic change of power has its mistakes, its back-slide and its backlash. This new movement will be global and, because of technology and power struggles, it will also be fraught with misinformation.

Some of us can feel with our new senses, heightened intuition, and new visions, recognizing each other and locating through the internet the thousands of organizations and millions of people working for peace, healing, and a more equitable, and yes, peaceful/loving world.

Don’t look back. Only those who are clinging to the collapse will be left behind. Yes, all the darkness and destruction, the strange, traumatic weather, the wars, the dives on Wall Street, are birth pangs for this new world. We are awakening from one dream into another more hopeful and spiritual dream.

Have you noticed the karma is such that all corruption is becoming transparent and exposed?  Stay tuned and stay awake on the narrow path to the New Earth by practicing the laws of reciprocity, forgiveness, and attraction. Pay it forward.

We were given imaginations so as to dream. Surround yourself with upbeat, like-minded people for we are coming into our power to create through thought and visualization. You are what you think. The journey away from paradise has been a long one. Hold out for its return. Unplug from the spinmeisters, the pharmaceutical ads, the politicians owned by lobbyists, and any clergy that believes in a punishing God.

Earth has consciousness and she is evolving. Love your mother. And hang on with confidence,    because, like the sixties, it may be a bumpy ride.

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