Saturday, June 24, 2017

26.3 - Summer is here

Summer is here

Okay, after all that I want to end on something lighter.

At 12:54am Eastern Time on Wednesday, June 21 - and the appropriately earlier hours on the night June 20 as you went west, it became summer 2017. So happy summer.

This summer is a special one for nostalgia buffs or more accurately for people who make their living off nostalgia: It is the 50th anniversary of "the Summer of Love" and there already are a boatload of reminiscences that see that summer through rose-colored - maybe literally rose-colored - granny glasses as one of sharing, freedom, music, and peace and an equal boatload of sneering dismissals rife with tales of drug addiction and overdoses, squalor, and street fights.

There are enough individual examples in each boatload to force the boring conclusion that there is some truth in both tales.

So for those of us old enough to remember it, it shouldn't be a question of embracing one of those tales but of embracing our own Summer of Love, our own experience. Mine, I have to say, was much more of the sharing, freedom, music, and peace type - which in a way is why I prefer the alternate name "the Sgt. Pepper Summer." Sgt. Pepper was released June 1, 1967 and was the soundtrack of that summer.

Y'see, the name Summer of Love puts too much emphasis on San Francisco, as if what happened there was what defined the whole concept. And it didn't. In fact the hippie scene in San Francisco - focused in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, or Hashbury as it came to be known - was dying out by the time the summer of 1967 came around and by the end of that summer the area was increasingly defined by hard drugs and awash in lost people who were there mostly because they had nowhere else to be, which is when and where most of the bad news tales of that summer come from.

The Sgt. Pepper Summer, however, was not just San Francisco. It was everywhere that long hair, jeans, maybe some love beads, and a smile meant you were among friends, friends who would share with you, with who you could share, and who - hard to believe is this more cynical time - you could trust even as strangers, trust enough that even when, and it did happen, you got ripped off, it didn't really matter because what you had gained in the times of sharing clearly outweighed what you lost in that isolated case.

So what happened to that summer, what made all that vaguely-defined, borderless community sort of dissolve? Personally I think, contrary to so many who just flippantly dismiss the whole thing as a youthful lark and say people just grew up, I think the reason we lost it is because that sense of sharing, of community, came to us so easily and naturally we thought it could be, would be, maintained just as easily and naturally.

But it can't; it takes work. And we were - I can't say incapable of the work, it was more that we were unaware of the need. So as we got on with our lives, some things, even valued ones, slipped away unnoticed.

Of course that idea hasn't completely dissolved, there are still successful, on-going communes and intentional communities and the fact is the spirit still survives even if it has taken on other tones. Some years ago, someone in the course of trying to convince me to adopt a more conservative appearance, said I looked like "a warmed-over '60s radical." To which my wife at the time responded "Good - because we could use some warmed-over '60s radicalism." Which is still true in both the political and the social sense.

Have a great summer. And resist!

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