Flower Power to the PeoplePosted: December 5, 2011
The holiday season is here and the best thing about it is all the beautiful, bright red poinsettias that deck the shelves, tables and halls. I love living in Encinitas, home of the American poinsettia pioneers, Paul Ecke and family. It is a very special feeling to be living in the “flower capital of America.” I always wanted to be a Flower Child.
I can remember when Hippies roamed the land passing out flowers and blessing people with the greeting, “Have a good day.” That blessing may seem as old fashioned as bell bottomed trousers and embroidered headbands today. Nevertheless, the Flower Children of the 60’s, were the beginning of a huge transformation in this nation. They opened the doors of perception in ways that were seen as subversive and it sometimes seems to me that the United States political scene is still reeling from their impact. Witness Occupy Wall Street.
As someone who knows a bit about New Thought history, I can tell you that the revolutionary ideas that seemed to originate in the 1960’s were based on ideas the Transcendentalists developed in the 1840’s. Those Boston intellectuals may seem stuffy now but they were truly revolutionary 150 years ago. Those wild haired Flower Children only resurrected them.
I had never even heard of a commune until I met someone who lived on one. Now I know that the first communes in the United States were established by the Transcendentalists. Fruitlands was the first Utopian farm, established in 1840, by Charles Lane and R.W. Emerson’s best friend, Bronson Alcott. He’s the same Alcott who started what we call modern education and also the same one who fathered Louisa Mae. Brook Farm came a year later and is more famous. It was established by a Unitarian minister and Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter, was a founding member. Despite the fascinating talent pool that built the first communes, they failed rapidly and spectacularly.
They failed because the people who started them were intellectuals who didn’t know how to farm. They were fascinated by ideas, not by milking or plowing. Many of them had never worked with their hands before. At Alcott’s Fruitlands, they were only allowed vegetarian food using root vegetables that grew, “reaching toward heaven”. If Louis Mae Alcott’s memoir, Wild Oats, can be believed, they were hungry. They were not only hungry, they were poor and remained so until Louisa Mae went to work at the age of 14.
The communes of the 1960’s and 70’s had a lot of similar problems for the same reasons. If you tell workers to do their job when “spirit moves them,” and add in a dash of drugs, you’re very apt to go hungry. Most of the communes didn’t function well and some of the Hippies really didn’t take many baths. Most participants in that great revolutionary movement were young and they eventually grew older and went to work but that’s not the interesting part of the story.
The interesting part is how they opened up possibilities in our general culture, showing us that there is more than one way to live one’s life. They represented a new choice – one that was quite different from going to work for a corporation and staying there until you retired. I wanted to believe in individual choice and they helped me open up. I am grateful to the Flower Children, even if some of their choices weren’t very wise.
It was the counter culture ideas of the 1960’s that propelled me into a study of spirituality. This was true for so many young Americans. I can remember driving a very long way to hear Alan Watts speak. I loved the poetry of Alan Ginsberg and Gary Snyder and their exotic Eastern religious influences. They were the influences who introduced me, and many others, to the practice of meditation.
As a movement, Flower Power was shaky. But the ideas that originated with Emerson, Thoreau and the other Transcendentalist in the 1840 through 1860’s found a new, more popular voice through them. I honor the Flower Children just as I honor the Transcendentalists.
The shared idea that we have a choice about how to live was a lifesaver for many. The idea that women and minorities had equal billing on Planet Earth was fabulous. The concept that we are not put here to fulfill other people’s expectations but to explore our own talents and desires freed us up immeasurably. The idea that Love was a powerful force for good was inspirational.
The basic ideas of the Transcendentalists inspired the Flower Children to say, “Have a good day.” Those ideas, combined with the healing ideas of Science of Mind, have developed into a powerful promise for our times.
Self-reliance, the balance of nature, the equality of all men and women are important. Even more important is Emerson’s One Immanent God concept that he wrote about in the OverSoul. We are blessed to have the history of the Transcendentalists and the Flower Children in our past. Take time to stop and admire the flowers. Have a nice day!
Is there any new choice to make today?
Where is there a flower I can admire today?
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