Tuesday, August 22, 2017

My Summer of Love

Grow up repressed, uptight, depressed.

Summer 1962
Read the Beat classic,
Ferlinghetti’s “I am perpetually waiting for a rebirth of wonder.”

My first day in Berkeley,
Go to North Beach, hang out with the Beats.

the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Go to my first protest.

At my student co-op,
Two graduate students
Reinterpret the Christian myths I had rejected in high school.

Spring ‘63
James Baldwin speaks on campus.
Not caring who sees
Leave with tears streaming down my face.
First time I’ve cried since childhood.

Read everything Baldwin has written.

Christmas vacation,
Decide to get involved in the civil rights movement.
The Lucky Stores shop-in,
The Sheraton Palace sit-in,
The Auto Row demonstrations.
Protesting hiring discrimination.
All victorious.

A year in Dallas
Integrate the Piccadilly Cafeteria
Gather canned goods for Mississippi Freedom Summer
Go to the last leg of the march from Selma to Montgomery.
After we stop for gas,
Look over my shoulder

Northaven Methodist Church
Single Adults Group.
Produce “After the Fall” and “The American Dream.”
Take part in an Esalen-style workshop in Austin.
Still a virgin, the foot massage is pure ecstasy.

September ‘65
Return to my student co-op in Berkeley.
Drugs are everywhere.
Read Varieties of Religious Experience,
The Tibetan Book of the Dead,
Timothy Leary’s advice,
Go backpacking in Yosemite,
Drop LSD,
Feel as one with the universe,
Never the same again.

Become immersed in the human potential movement.
Study humanistic psychology.

On weekends hang out on Haight Street,
Make fun of folks on the Grey Line bus tour who gawk at us,
Listen to the San Francisco Sound.
My favorite scene is the Avalon Ballroom on Sunday night.
It seems more authentic.

The Counter Culture liberates me.
Learn how to have fun,
Go with the flow.

June ‘66
Four-day conference on LSD at UC Extension, San Francisco
With Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, Huston Smith, and others.
Send my notes to Dr. Bob Beavers, my former boss,
Who uses them for a lecture at Southwestern Medical Center.

While walking across the Pacific School of Religion campus,
See a friend from Dallas.
He introduces his companion, the school’s Placement Officer,
Who tells me PSR has an existentialist psychologist on its faculty.

January 1967
The underground newspaper, the Oracle, calls for
"A Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In"
In Golden Gate Park
To unify the political radicals and the hippies.
Already demonstrating against the Vietnam War,
I agree completely.

A wonderful event.
What I remember most
Allen Ginsberg chanting OM
As the sun sets.

That semester, as chair of the co-op’s Education Committee,
Invite Charles McCoy from the Pacific School of Religion to speak.
After the event, we chat.
When he learns of my history with the Church,
And my interest in “coffee house ministry,”
He suggests I apply to PSR.

In my application, I say I want to “organize communities of faith, love, and action,”
To integrate the personal, the spiritual, the social, and the political.
Which is what I’ve been trying to do ever since.

That summer,
Sign up for the University’s experimental Residence College.
200 students, no grades, no requirements.
Someone nominates me to serve as Co-coordinator.
I’m elected.

One event is unforgettable.
A panel discussion on civil rights features Ron Dellums,
Then a city councilman.
During the discussion
From the back of the audience
A young, charismatic black man from Oakland speaks.
He’s furious about police brutality.
His name is Huey Newton.
Less than six months before he and others had formed the
Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.

Read The Politics of Experience by R.D. Laing,
The Courage to Be by Paul Tillich,
Coming of Age in America by Edgar Friedenberg.
Write a paper on those books.

Judy Wheeler from New York comes to research us.
I welcome her.
She buys a case of wine.
Great discussion.
Take her to her hotel.
She invites me to her Greenwich Village apartment.

Hitchhike to New York.
Driving through the Holland Tunnel
Open the sunroof of the VW bus
Stand on the bed
Scream at the top of my lungs.

The first night,
Judy leaves the door to her bedroom cracked open,
But I sleep on the couch.
The second night
She seduces me.

How fitting that I have my first sexual experience
During the Summer of Love
With a woman nine years older than me.
A great introduction to sex.
God bless you, Mrs. Robinson.
Just released, The Graduate nails it.

During the day Judy goes to work.
I write “An Evaluation of the Residence College”
For the student newspaper
As they requested.
It reads, in part:

By the end of the summer, a very large number of students had...come to reject... the dehumanizing, alienating world of higher education,..the emphasis...upon behavioral performance,... [and] the values, worldviews, and procedures undergirding most American institutions ... all woven one into the other….

The entire education experience...seems to be extremely well-designed to graduate reliable cogs in the marvelous machine of unparalleled material progress…. The essence of our critique is that America is spiritually decadent….
Creative expression of one’s true self, whether in art, thought, or personal relationships, is not nurtured…. Inner strength is seen as a threat; so the ground for a stable sense of autonomy is undercut…. Our educators demonstrate little concern for the souls of their students even though they are in the very process of inflicting enormous damage upon those souls….

So much is made of usefulness that man himself is reduced to a mere instrument….

What is needed is encouragement of integrity, rather than dishonesty; ... appreciation of the remarkable breadth of human creativity, rather than merely the powers of the intellect; illumination of the value of freedom, rather than the expediency of submission; nurturance of flexible autonomy, rather than brittle automatons; ... ecstasy, as well as rational self-understanding; education, rather than manipulation; love, rather than mistrust….

At the seminary that fall,
My only chapel service
Consists entirely of the words and music of Bob Dylan.
The school President is not happy.
I did not read from Scripture.

Later that semester,
For my Worship and the Arts class,
A 90-minute piece of total theater
In the sanctuary.
Inspired by Nietzsche.
We call it “A Sort of Modern-Day Dionysian Rite.”
Invite the Berkeley community.
Black out the windows
For the light show.
Two students from UC
Wearing bathing suits
Covered in fluorescent paint
Dance under a blacklight.
The School President thinks they’re naked.
We place mattresses on the floor
Bring out wine, fruit, cheese, and bread.
Invite everyone to get comfortable.

The next day the student body President
Proposes to the School President
A special service
To re-consecrate the sanctuary.
He declines.

1967 ends with great enthusiasm and hope.
1968 hits and reality bites back.

Personally, if I could, I’d go back to 67.

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