I was checking through the bookshop shelf marked "food/cooking," looking for something that might tell me about crock cookery, when I came to this deja vu item, The Commune Cookbook by crescent dragonwagon.
It was old enough to be serious, its jacket blazoned with the sort of things you'd expect - some leafy naturals, hand-me-down implements, and a photo of as grungy a group of people as I'd seen in awhile - presumably crescent dragonwagon's commune.
I smiled a bit and moved on past it. But then I checked myself and went back for a closer look. I don't often turn back to those days, in books or otherwise. But there was something in that scruffy bunch that had momentarily hooked me. The eyes, I think . . . of that second woman on the left. Could that be c. dragonwagon?
It was unimportant. I lost myself in those eyes, falling back down a trail of many years ago. Another place, another era. It wasn't even my world, really. A country collective I stayed with for awhile, peopled by kids half my age - just as I mingle, today, with kids a third my age, here at the U. But a vastly different sort of kids, they were. They had come to live together in the hills, to carve out a different sort of life than what they'd come from.
Nothing bucolic, nothing like that. They were putting out a small magazine called Vocations for Social Change. They'd catalog every lead, every job call that came their way, that might channel people toward something inwardly rewarding, instead of the treadmill money-machine that has always typified the American Dream.
Forty-five hundred people received that magazine every other month. God only knows what influence it had on the rest of them; all I know is that the few issues I got changed the entire course of my life. And not in any way I'd ever turn back on.
It has become the custom to knock those brief years of vanished innocence - to snicker at that generation that 'played at revolution' with stars in their eyes and flowers in their hair. It is said they sold their dreams for a mess of yuppie pottage. Well, let me tell you, friends . . . don't believe everything you hear. I'm still in touch with enough of them, and they are not yuppies. Some are helping today's kids through drug struggles, some are fighting the ecology wars, some are very soft-pedaling 'foot soldiers' who make it possible for paranoid governments to stop fearing each other. Some just tend to making things better for those around them; they radiate a clear and beautiful energy.
But I didn't mean to talk about them. It's the times I'm remembering, and how the world was very briefly wonderful. Even if they were to become yuppies - and I suppose some of them did - we all shared a brief moment in time, like castaways from the Ship of Progress, when we stood magnificently in the face of everything righteous, everything decorous, and declared ourselves to be human and real.
Somewhere I have a photo of myself at the age of 42: weary, beaten, the entire product of an every-man-for-himself world. That was just before I sold out my own generation and joined up with this other. Just before I stumbled across Vocations for Social Change. I'll tell you, it isn't an easy thing to drop the moorings that tie you to an entire generation, when you know for damn sure that you'll always be an outsider in any other. But it is a far more terrible prospect to go on moving with a current that is slowly strangling the life out of you.
Well, yes, those hippie-kids were starry-eyed. And by every cynical standard of my world then - no different from today's mainstream - I should have cocked a knowing, jaded eye and had nothing to do with them. But there remained, even at 42, a touch of the starry somewhere deep inside me, and we made the connection. But I had to learn all over again how to live in relative innocence - to go barefoot and shirtless, to dance all night, to hitchhike the highways, to pee behind trees, to laugh aloud in public places. My generation had forgotten that the world is often a very funny place, though it commits stupid mistakes in deadly seriousness.
There was maturity, too - but not that crazy version of doing as you're told, following the rules. In fact, we had to forge our own maturity, because the models were scarce to non-existent. It had to do with responsibility to the planet, and taking care of each other. And you may rightly say we've still got a long way to go on that score. But don't sell those hippie-kids too short, because they started a trend of consciousness that is broad in the land today. It hadn't existed before.
Maturity came to have another new meaning, too: to explore your own potential, to have faith in the pull of your own instincts. The furthest thing in the world from doing as you're told! I'll bet it never occurred to you that those do-nothing hippie-kids were the first to define maturity as self-empowerment. Every good hope we have for the world's survival rests on this one conceptual achievement.
Crescent dragonwagon doesn't talk about all these things, and one would never guess them from that scruffy picture on the jacket. Although there is much in the book besides recipes - like a chapter on "How to live without much money," and anyone who came through those years (in the right places) knows the empowerment potential of such a subject!
In fact, Ms. dragonwagon spends much of that chapter expounding on the liberating potential of grocery store thievery - common shoplifting - in a cookbook, yet! Self-empowerment? But I can't help laughing over it, for all she's really talking about is poking our consciousness through the thin but terrifying skein of hard rules about who is entitled to own what, and why. Unless those rules are taken up by your own clear choice, with reason to know that it is your choice, you're not a free person!
Maybe this sums it up. We were doing rather petty things in those years, with only a few illusions of great strides being made. We saw ourselves as waiting patiently for The Movement to gather momentum, for changes that were going to come - but never did come. And yet, in our very experience consciousness was breaking free of stagnant patterns and old restraints, undergoing radical change. That was the real revolution of those magical, wonderful years, and we were hardly aware of it.
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