Over the weekend, Mick and I went to see the Hippie Modernism show at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. The show reminded me of all the idealism that swirled around when I was a little kid. Hippie Modernism explored how the Counterculture tried to change society for the better with its openness to new experiences, its desire to make essential goods and services available to all, its concern for the planet. Some of what we looked at through the lens of life in 2016 seemed silly out of its original context: the pieces that were fueled by LSD were a bit hard for someone who doesn’t drop acid to fully appreciate. And yet there was such hope, such exuberance. The San Francisco Diggers‘ free store and daily food handouts, the artwork of former nun Corita Kent, the Ant Farm collective and so many other groups who tried to make the world a better, kinder place were all represented in the exhibit. Anti-corporate sentiment, a desire for more acceptance, less greed, more connection to a greater purpose all flowed through the show.
As a Catholic kid who matured after Vatican II changed how the Church shepherded its people, I absorbed a lot of ideas about helping the poor, focusing on something greater than myself, and avoiding greed when I was very young. Those ideas meshed nicely with much of what the Counterculture was trying to achieve. I still carry those ideas in me, still find them awakened when I experience something like the Hippie Modernism show. These ideas also rush to the front of the bus when I listen to politicians talk about how they would run the country if elected. Since tomorrow is Super Tuesday – and in Minnesota this is a big deal – I keep thinking about all that old idealism and wide-eyed optimism vis-a-vis our slate of presidential hopefuls. I keep thinking about how I hope to hang on to my own idealism in a world that is a long way from the Sixties and Seventies but still lives with many of the same problems the Counterculture wanted to fix. We still see plenty of greed, ignorance and denial about climate change, lack of access to basic services for many, inefficient use of the resources we have, and apathy towards ideas that put the greater good above individual gratification.
It saddens me to think of how little has changed regarding how we treat one another. We’ve had great advances in technology and medicine since my childhood. But our basic human compassion has not evolved so much. There are nonprofits and co-ops that resulted from that time, but the need for them has not been diminished. All the arguing over immigration and guns and which religion is going to save us seems to miss the point: we are all in this together.
Hang on to that idealism. Dig it up if you have to. Put it to use.
Images courtesy of Pixabay.com