A voice said, "Cry out!"
and I said, "What shall I cry?"
All flesh is grass...
Its beauty is like the flowers.
The grass withers, the flower fades...
But the word of our God stands forever!
Yeshaiyah the seer captured an essential quality of human
life in his vision our beauty is kin to that of flowers.
We share a brief and intense life in common; when mature,
we flower and burst forth with seed for future generations.
As for them, everyone recognizes their colorful make-up,
how it lures the eye of wandering insects, assuring that
next summer the meadows will again be clothed with splendor.
We humans likewise desire to generate in beauty and bring
forth others who will be like us.
One summer day my imagination was stirred by the love that
was all around me and from that day forward I yearned to
participate in a new life that was filling our country.
And like me, for many Americans now alive, 1967 to 1973
were the years of our flowering. We lived, breathed and
drank in a colorful, passion-filled time; work, travel,
music, and politics plunged us into monumental joys and
sufferings; we experienced an endless summer brimming with
hopes and dreams. All during the Woodstock years, from that
first "summer of love" to the close of the Vietnam
war, we burst into flower, faded, and scattered the seed
of our generation all across the United States. We bore
the seed and carried the new raw love that burned in our
blood; we built the bridge from the last generation to the
present, from our parents to now; we were the flower children
young, innocent, and short-lived.
The summer of love almost slipped by me like a day lilys
brief appearing. My one true glimpse of it was like a French
sailor gawking at the enchanting natives of a Tahitian village.
Sixty red-blooded Boy Scouts from Ohio and I spent two weeks
in the furnace heat of Idahos Farragut State Park.
To cap off the adventure, we bussed to Seattle for a free
evening before taking the ferry to Vancouver Island. A few
friends and I rode the monorail to the old Worlds
Fair site in search of excitement. Everywhere we walked,
young hippies filled the grass and paths. It was like going
from a foreign legion outpost in the Sahara to Paris. We
stood out like sore thumbs in our olive-drab uniforms, dark
green knee socks, red tassels on our garters, and wide-brimmed
"Smokey the Bear" Stetsons. All
around barefoot teenage girls drifted by, some in long-length
white cotton dresses, some in clinging Indian prints, some
in bell bottoms and peasant smocks with hand-embroidered
designs, some with flowers in their hair, or head bands,
or beads and garlands around their necks. They looked like
part of an Indian tribe, or like medieval minstrels, or
gypsies. We looked like Mayor Daleys police or the
National Guard at Kent State. The sweetly acrid smell of
marijuana burned on the evening breeze. They were around
my age, yet casual, un-selfconscious, absorbed in another
reality I wasnt even aware of, neither out of place
nor awkward in the slightest. Had someone explained what
they were into, I might have deserted right on the spot
and never gone home. Who knows? Two more years were still
to pass before I bought my first pair of bell bottoms and
tried the drugs of the freak culture.
For flowers to grow, the tiny seeds must first fall into
the earth and die. For a long time, the little seed in my
heart remained buried before it began to grow. Little roots
went down Timothy Learys interview in Playboy,
Ingmar Bergmans The Seventh Seal, the Beatles
Magical Mystery Tour. Similar to the tactics of a communist
on US soil, I hid underground, biding the time, awaiting
the right opportunity. Secretly, anonymously, I took root
thinking, reading, watching, preparing for the days
ahead when my ideals could be expressed openly.
A "Death of God" theology course the following
summer paved my way into hippiedom. Without God, nothing
ultimately mattered. Why shouldnt I do anything I
felt like? Who was keeping track of me? Who was watching?
My theology professor, an old Kierkegaardian, led me down
the primrose path of his masters genius. As soon as
I learned that the road to freedom divided into three main
branches, I had a choice to make. One led to an ethical
life, one to an aesthetic, and one to a sensual. Which would
be right for me? Should I live doing what was right, or
for beauty, or for pleasure? Should I be a monk, a Mozart,
or a Don Juan? I chose the aesthetic. I would search for
truth in beauty and beauty in truth. I would enjoy lifes
most beautiful things and find meaning in them to go on
living. My tenets were simple: art was the most beautiful
part of life, film the greatest
art; nature the most beautiful part of the earth, and hippies
the most beautiful people. Yet, why were the most beautiful
experiences in life so filled with the ominous presence
In the old German tale Faust, the world-weary savant conjures
up a spirit one dark night in his study. With hopes of learning
the meaning of life, he embarks on a quest, guided by Mephistopheles,
the devil. The cost of the experience will be his soul,
the wager hinging on the devils confidence that he
could wear down the ever-restless Faust and finally get
him to say "verweile doch, du bist so schoen"
(linger a little, you are so beautiful) to something he
would not want to let go. I, too, awaited the same
that one awful, beautiful moment I would wish with all my
heart to linger a brief second longer. As close as I came,
my years as a flower child never fulfilled that wish.
There were times, tripping or stoned or close to nature
that the awesome splendor and the painful briefness of life
drove me deep into despair and near to giving up my own
Faust-like quest for beauty. Why couldnt we always
be tripping? Why did we have to come down? Why couldnt
my friends and I stay like this forever carefree,
young, unambitious, giddy with purposelessness? Still, behind
every one of such fine moments hid the unrelenting Mephistopheles,
quick to snatch even that brief glory out of our hands.
He knew how to draw us on, how to tantalize and further
promise and then lock us up forever in the prison of his
insane world. Behind the beauty of every experience lurked
a hopeless despair, an agonizing feeling of helplessness
and futility. All the flowers were meant to fade and every
relationship to fail. A sense of impending doom damned every
endeavor. "Theres a thorn tree in the garden,
if you know just what I mean," Eric Clapton sang. The
thorn tree was death. We had to get back to the garden,
but the cost of getting there was enormous the thorn
tree blocked our way.
So I had to settle for a different garden. It was lush
and relieving. All around lay low-lying hills, lakes, streams,
waterfalls, meadows and woods. Nearby, too, was the ocean,
low dunes, reeds, and saltwater marshes. Yet in spite of
all this beauty there often came the terrible lonely feeling
of not fitting in. It didnt matter where I was, stoned
or not. The sensation that I was out of place overwhelmed
me. Sitting on a cliffs edge watching the hawks gyre
and soar on the updrafts, or on a lawn beneath a shade tree,
I knew that nature was doing what it was meant to do. I
knew that plants and bushes and flowers were all fitting
in their proper place, but I, strangely enough, wasnt.
They were in harmony with
the wind, the air, the sun, the rocks, the tender skin of
the earth, the cool waters, and the fiery heat of day. But
I was alone, a stranger and an outcast. Thoughts like these
continually disquieted me. Even in the stupor of being high
I couldnt dull my senses enough to the awful feeling
that I didnt fit into the realm of nature as all the
other parts did.
I felt a horrible outrage at the thought of death. It was
so unjust, like a knife stab to the heart or the twist of
a screw deep within. One day I wouldnt be on the earth
watching the sun come up in all its peacefulness or see
the moon rising in the early twilight. I wouldnt be
around when the apple trees came into bloom to fill the
air with fragrance or when the lilacs came out drenching
the evening, or when the daffodils covered the hillsides.
The clouds would come and go and I wouldnt be there
to notice them. I wouldnt be able to see the sparkle
of sunlight on water or feel the raw salt wind off the Sound,
or sniff the soft balm of melting snow. The seasons and
life would run on without me. It would never halt and wait
till I was there. Was there anything more unfair than that?
In all his wisdom, Shakespeare could only say, "Golden
lads and girls all must, like chimney sweepers, come to
There was little consolation in Georg Buechners thought:
Christ was the greatest Epicurean because he knew when to
die, or in Jacques Brells lyrics, "Its
hard to die in the spring, you know," or in Omar Khayyams
When you and I behind the veil
Oh, but the long, long while the
World shall last,
Which of our Coming and
As the Seas self should heed
It wasnt fair that I
would have to lie beneath the ground year after year and
miss everything. Death was horrid and ugly; I didnt
want to be a disembodied spirit, chained in the deepest
recesses of the earth, held in agony by the excruciating,
crushing loneliness. Who didnt dread the stillness,
the imprisonment, the horror, the hopelessness, the helpless
despair? And the conscious waiting that would go on
every second of every hour, day after day, year by year.
The torment of mind would be acute, the pangs more fierce
than losing someone you truly loved. Over and over again
would be the thoughts of my conscience and the clutches
of hopeless darkness all around.
One day I faced the issue squarely and decided to wrestle
with this fear. I heard rumor of a man who had defeated
death and I found him at his cross. Joining him was better
than anything else I had ever done. I had nothing more important
to do than be with him. I had nothing left to really live
for, nowhere to go, no more true friends, no lasting hope
or adventitious future. With
him I could face the threat of death. He was all I needed.
It was a relief to see it all go, especially the empty life
I clung to so greedily. With him all things became new.
In him there was no more dying. He was life. His name
Unlike some people I followed, his people love to live
together and be with one another. With the help of others
like myself, all the deepest thoughts and greatest longings
of my soul came into being. I became a member of a commune
of people, part of a tribe with its own culture and government.
Together we have the hope of bringing forth another generation,
our true sons and daughters to fill the earth with love
a garland instead of ashes
the oil of gladness instead of
the mantle of praise instead of
a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of
the planting of the Sovereign,
that he may be glorified.