My good friend, Cindy Sullivan, wrote this essay. I like it so much that I want to share it with my readers. If you are a baby boomer, you will relate. If you are the parents of the baby boomers, you will also relate. And if you are of the generations before or after the baby boomers, it still will be powerful to read. Cindy read it aloud to our Women’s Wisdom group last week. It is even more gripping when you hear it in person. Thank you to Cindy for allowing me to share it with all of you. Let us know what you think!
THE NEW AGE: An Apologia
Flipping Through the CNN pages on my iPad this morning, I was startled to see an advertisement for a new app that allows captains of ocean vessels to warn each other of the presence of whales in the fishing lanes and so save the lives of these magnificent creatures. I thought, Yes, the New Age Movement has achieved one more small victory! Like the soldiers who plant a flag on a land they have taken for a cause, for all of us who lived and breathed the revolution, I claim this app and the beautiful ways our world has awakened.
I came of age right in the middle of the 60’s –and what a fabulously exciting time it was to be an adolescent, with or without the mind-blowing or mind-deadening drugs. We came together, we, the young people of America, in a way which is still lifting us all. They called it the New Age Movement, though in truth, it was mostly a return to ancient values.
We are old now. We may have thrown out our silver or rainbow-colored peace signs, our tie-dyed T-shirts and long swinging skirts, our wind chimes, and anti-war posters. We, mostly, have given up our Peter, Paul and Mary albums, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Leonard Cohen. But, Oh, how we did love the musicians who turned our anger and angst into music. Even without the outward signs, we still know who we are; we are the ones who remember all the words to all the protest songs. We know about the perils of falling in love with a “big blue frog” and what acid rain can do to “just a little boy standing in the rain.” We know why “The times they are a changing” and together we have wondered out loud, “Where have all the flowers gone?”
You, too, know who we are. We are the ones who stand up in church meetings to ask “why?” We are the ones who stand up in school board meetings to support teachers who are being censured for teaching beyond the approved curriculum. We are the ones who question the environmental impact of oil pipelines. We stand up in city hall meetings and vote against coal plants and WalMart. We use our votes and our feet to protect those we perceive as needing help. We actively work to create a “better world” where we can “live as one.” We really can imagine a world without borders and an earth where not one child dies of hunger. We are the ones who tell our daughters that they are beautiful without make up and that, of course, it is appropriate to go to the junior prom without a date. And we tell our sons that not joining the military is also a brave choice. We support Earth Day and Food Banks, and send money to the Fund for Animals or Sierra Club or Green Peace. We were the front runners of the Green Movement before it was popular. We buy organic food and send letters to Monsanto asking them to label GMO (genetically modified) food, or better yet, to not sell it at all. We are in favor of spending money for Head Start Programs and not for new amusement parks. We are against vivisection in all labs and for gun control. We support Amnesty International and walk in any parade sponsoring any minority position. We don’t like plastic or lies or anyone who tries to tell us what to think or how to act or who says to us, “that is just the way things are.” We have not come into adulthood all the same, but we still share strong bonds and an iron clad sense of justice.
We can be difficult to deal with now, and I can only imagine how difficult we were then. They, that is everyone who didn’t realize how screwed up they were (according to us), laughed at us. They called us tree- huggers and tripped-out hippies and spaced-out dreamers, anti-American- commie-hippie-peaceniks, and much worse. But I loved it all—tried it all—felt part of something so important—something that was going to change the very fabric of the world—that which was going to transform society into a place where everyone would know that people are more important than things, where peace would be more important than the bottom line, and where spiritual issues would be at the core of every decision. We were going to use our “free” love and heightened awareness to remind people of their calling to a greater purpose. W were not just self-righteous; it never even occurred to us that we could be wrong. We were going to SAVE THE WORLD.
Being the only holders of Truth was quite a responsibility and telling people they were wrong all day long was exhausting work. We prepared ourselves with Transcendental Meditation and reading Carlos Castaneda and taking pilgrimages to Findhorn to eat vegetables grown with the help of earth devas.
We spent our money on astrology, and angelology, and crystal healings and crystals bowls and crystal skulls. We took courses in palmistry, and kirlian photography and how to see auras, and numerology. We loved loose ethnic clothing in natural fabrics and shoes that felt like going barefoot. We owned guitars and incense holders and statues of dragons or hobbits and, of course, at least one macrame plant holder. We greeted each other with “Namaste,” and felt slightly superior if the one so greeted didn’t understand that we had just honored her spirit. We wore love beads around our necks, POW bracelets round our wrists, bandanas around our heads, leather strings around our ankles (for some immensely important reason which I don’t remember), and when at our most self-indulgent—flowers around our toes. We were not all close enough to Kent State to know what Flower Power meant, exactly, but we knew it was important.
We were fascinated by the Ancient Egyptians, the Anasazi, the Native Americans, and anything Tibetan. We marched against war and for women’s rights, and racial equality, and saving the planet in all its specifics—from rain forests to tree frogs. We aimed to “think like a mountain,” “stand like a tree” and imagine being green. We worked ardently to find our intuitive centers, to find our psychic gifts, and to claim our own special reasons for being alive. To get there we tried shamanic journeying, and vision quests, and silent retreats, sweat lodges, chanting, and millions of hours of meditation with and without special candles and deadening synthesized music.
We held séances and Ouija board parties. We shared and analyzed our dreams. We studied the Tao and the I Ching. We bought sessions with strangely dressed people who told our fortunes with tarot cards or bottles of colored water, and we paid lots of money that we could barely afford for psychic readings, and channeled readings, and astrology readings. We had our chakras photographed, our angel wings unfolded, and our past lives delineated. We took classes in tai chi or yoga or qi gong. We went to acupuncturists, reflexologists, aroma therapists, massage therapists, and network chiropractic practitioners. We tried so hard to find someone who knew more about us than we knew about ourselves.
We didn’t know exactly what was wrong with society, but we knew there was more to life than anyone would tell us. We felt like there was a great secret that we were deliberately kept from. Surely, there were answers somewhere. We intuited that women’s knowing, and right-brain thinking, and the minority perspective were closer to truth that their opposites. We knew that what we called “the establishment” certainly knew nothing. We didn’t trust big business, or politicians, or male doctors, the FDA, or the FBI or anything else with letters for a name. We abandoned authority in favor of experience, and religion in favor a deep, personal spirituality.
Because we were looking for help, we did a great deal of research. We could talk knowledgeably about the ancient Emerald Tablets, and The Ley lines that run through Sedona, and the teaching of the Druids, Stonehenge, and the solar and lunar connections with labyrinths, sacred geometry, even the Fibonacci sequence used in the Egyptian pyramids and Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings. We knew how to chant in Hindu (kind of). We explored Feng shui, and the power of color. We were fascinated with experiments which used sound waves to break up cancer cells. We tried growing plants to Mozart and to Led Zeppelin, and with asking ants to leave our yards. We read Yogananda, and Ram Dass, and Marianne Williamson, and Matthew Fox. We sang Paul Winter’s Earth Mass with our favorite choirs because it captures our love for the natural world. We studied archetypes and know the names of the Greek goddesses. We explained everything we couldn’t understand as karmic or an energy field. We looked for synchronicity everywhere and delighted in Déjà vu. Because we have always loved mystery, we still are champions of every kind of new physics. Yes, we say, string theory is interesting, but surely that is not the final answer.
We know about the brain cells in our stomachs and the cave in our hearts. We have studied Atlantis and Lemuria. We know how to create a merkaba from our own energetic center. We have taken to heart the power of circles and the healing energy of water, and our abilities to affect our own lives through intention and gratitude. We have studied with men who came with turbans from India, or wear saffron robes, or animal skins and rattles, or white cotton dresses. We can quote Gandhi and Meister Eckhart, or at least the Beatles. We have learned how to heal with Reiki, and the basics of organic farming. We have tried sweat lodges, acupuncture, juicing, fasting, vision quests, peace walks, love-ins, sit-ins, and drum circles. We have tried to astral- travel, to sing two different pitches at a time like the Tibetan monks, and to bring birds back to life with the power of our hands and hearts.
Eventually, we had to grow up and take our places in the adult world. Many years later, though we have become to some extent discouraged and tired, and have, for the most part, passed the baton, we still care. When we look around and see chaos and pain and a world that seems to be tottering on self destruction, we take heart in what we have managed to do anyway. We have changed the world—we have become the change we wished to see. We infiltrated the system with our higher truths, or at least our outrage. We taught our children and our students, clients, patients, partners, employees. We wrote books about how war hurts every little thing, and we taught classes on gratitude, and we held political office and changed laws and policies and practices. We unravelled theology and history and education and medicine and agriculture, marriage and almost every other social system in the country by asking questions and insisting that there is another way that values life at all levels.
The 60’s people are now 60 years old—we who thought we would never want to live past 50. People laughed at us then and indeed, still laugh at us now both to our faces and in print. But if they would pay attention, they would see how the New Age Movement, for all is apparent silliness, has morphed into a movement of engaged and brilliant young people who are making real changes. Our old mantra that peace is essential has bloomed into the knowledge that it is not just racism and border issues that have to be addressed, but something much more complicated. Young people seem to understand that they have to fix economic inequalities and deep unconscious prejudices to move ahead. And anger, oh my gosh, we thought we were angry. Who knew there was so much anger in the world! Today’s youth seem to be finding better ways to deal with their rage, turning righteous anger into fierceness. As we wondered how to keep our beautiful blue and green planet, our Cosmic Mother, from giving up on us, our children, our students are finding ways. We yelled, “Save the Planet!” They are. We yelled, “You can take charge of your own life” and they are envisioning and creating futures that are fabulous and outrageous in their scope, beyond anything we had imagined. We taught them to imagine a better world, and indeed, they have.
As I look around now, I see a world already far beyond what we envisioned. The potential of almost every human endeavor looks astonishing. Sometimes I feel left out and worn. But if I look deeply, I see my influence in this time of deep challenge. Our children, or perhaps it is our grandchildren, have heard us. The world they are creating has our values at its core. They use different language—zen leadership, conscious evolution, sustainability, fair trade —but they are speaking for us. While we raged against the cruelty of the machine, our children have found ways to use technology to help end poverty and ignorance. We raged against authority, and just look how that has led to the incredible eagerness of our youth to think for themselves and to look for truth behind everything they are told. We taught them natural health and the danger of chemicals in their bodies. They are not just changing the way we eat but changing the very food and water, calling big business to account just like we taught them. We taught them to care for the trees, and the dolphins, and the polar bears, and they are doing that in unprecedented ways. We taught them to meditate, and mediate and not to judge others for their differences. We taught them that women have a different way of thinking that is achingly beautiful. We taught them to look at different cultures and ancient wisdom for answers. We taught them that the planet is a living being that knows who we are and how we can live here. We taught them to stand up for what they believe, and yes, to sing about it. We taught them that questioning religion is perhaps dangerous, but necessary. We taught them that skin color, is in fact, only skin deep. We taught them that war does not create peace. We taught them that every living thing deserves food and water and a safe place to be. And we taught them that they are responsible for their own lives, their own society, and, at some level, the entire world. Everywhere I look there is evidence that we have been heard.
In the 60’s, at the core, we believed that the impossible is, in fact, possible. That the universe is a beautiful mystery. That every living thing is unique and precious. That the earth is our living teacher, and that our lives have meaning far beyond anything we can explain. As the 60’s generation, we insisted that love could change the world. As we have grown wiser in heart and larger in vision, we now know that love—active, genuine, personal and cosmic love—can change, not just the world, but the entire inner and outer multiverse. We are watching it happen right now. Don’t blink!
by Cindy Sullivan