The question we face on a daily basis is, does true happiness come from temporary sense gratification or is there a higher level of complete happiness?
Woodstock initiated the “hippie” exposure and the alleged complete happiness of sense gratification.
Before we can get into how the hippie movement turned America and the rest of the world into self gratification, we have to first take a look at the “hippie” culture.
The hippie movement began in America in the mid-60s, though its roots go back several years earlier. Within four or five years the movement had spread to all of Europe, the Scandinavian countries, Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, Japan, the Philippines, Africa and South America.
This movement was a unique cultural phenomenon and had far-reaching influence and impact not only on American society, but also in practically the entire world.
Understanding the attraction that the hippie movement had to a way of life that was so foreign to the one that they were raised in is not rocket science.
You’ve got to appreciate the social and economic climate of mid-60s America. One critical factor was that most of us had already experienced the American dream, were a bit frustrated by it and wanted something more out of life.
Our fathers and their fathers worked and slaved to improve their quality of life. They wanted nice houses, new cars, and other modern conveniences, which they originally didn’t have. This provided a great incentive for them.
So they worked very hard and struggled to get what they wanted, always thinking they would be happy when they got it.
By the time I was in my late 20s and early 30s I had already experienced these things and still wasn’t happy.
I had a nice house with white picket fence and a lovely wife, wore nice clothes, had money in my pocket, owned a nice car, and had a nice stereo, a big TV and two little “rug rats”. Despite living the “American dream”, I was miserable.
Not only was I miserable on one hand, while experiencing material happiness, but also on the other hand there was this gnawing feeling inside telling me “this was not enough, I needed something more”.
Besides the fact that I wasn’t completely satisfied with my material prosperity, there were other social factors that made me question whether the picture of life that my parents and teachers painted for me was really that good.
There was the Vietnam War, for example, which was, in my opinion, a senseless conflict that I could not understand. Young people were being drafted right left, but for what?
Our parents were raised under different circumstances and most of them had unflinching faith in America and anything America did. But, somehow, I couldn’t accept this and couldn’t blindly commit myself to a cause I felt was wrong.
Also new was the racial prejudice issue – the oppression of blacks, Chicanos, and other minorities – not just in the South, but also in every major city in America. Because of material prosperity we had time to look at things going on around us, and we didn’t like a lot of what we could see.
In the beginning, there were young people who rejected the values of society and who dropped out of the rat race to try to live a more carefree existence. They left the comfort of their homes and families, left the luxuries, etc., and moved to the country or to the older, lower rent sections of the cities.
Hippies stood out like a sore thumb. They had long hair and wore outrageous clothing. The rejection of the clean-cut American image was symbolic of rejecting society and what it stood for. It was the same thing with paka (crazy) lolo (weed) and LSD. You have to understand that smoking dope every day and taking lots of acid wasn’t just a protest, it was the purpose. That being, trying to understand ourselves and see where we fit into a society we felt alienated from.
As I look back on it and reflect while writing this, the idealism of the early hippie movement was fairly superficial. In many cases that led to both escapism and profound sense gratification. That’s a bit of a generalization because there actually were a lot of sincere people who were not trying to just escape, but who are actually very responsible and who worked very hard to try to make things better.
There were a lot of humanitarian minded young people working for the civil rights movement and trying to end the war. Their mutual desire to help others made them feel a strong sense of brotherhood among themselves. Of course, they used to get stoned together regularly, and this took on an almost ritualistic meaning because that activity helped reinforce their common bond. It came to be symbolic in the minds of the idealistic hippies of a concerned, liberal-minded mentality, as opposed to the beer drinking redneck with the “my country, right or wrong” attitude.
Then there came a time where there was an obvious split in what was happening. The superficial idealism went one of two ways: it either developed into real idealism or turned into histrionic sense gratification. . At that point, the hippie movement snowballed quickly. In a matter of a few years, tens of thousands of young people grew their hair out, dropped out of college, quit work, etc. They were attracted to the hippie lifestyle because it seemed different and exciting to them.
Although many of them were attracted at first by the struggle to end the war in Vietnam, etc., they just got swept away in the rising tide of sense gratification at all costs.
There were protest songs against the war by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, etc., being played on the radio and they were very popular. So the youth identified themselves with this cause. But there was lots of dope around and it wasn’t just grass and acid anymore. People were using speed, smack, downers, sniffing glue – anything they could get their hands on. And drinking also became very widespread, which is a very significant turning point since the earlier, more idealistic hippies completely stayed away from alcohol. They equated alcohol with the mentality of a society they were trying to change.
Somehow or another the idealism got buried in the drug scene. As more and more of the youths got heavier into dope, they just lost sight of anything positive. They knew they couldn’t be perfectly satisfied with material luxuries, but instead of seeking out some higher purpose, they became like animals, just doing anything they wanted to.
Their philosophy was really just an outgrowth of the society they had supposedly rejected. In other words, they saw sense enjoyment and physical pleasure as the goal of life.
They were more or less saying, “If TVs, stereos, and cars can’t give it to us – what will”? So they got into trying anything and everything that felt good, regardless of the future consequences, either to themselves or others. Then, certain sayings became popular that perfectly reflected the absolute self-centeredness that hippie-ism was becoming. Sayings like, “if it feels good, do it” and “do your own thing (regardless of the consequences to others)”.
Rock music played a big part as well. There were different rock groups who had different “messages” and they had a tremendous influence over their audiences. On one hand, there were the Beatles who were singing about love, peace, and meditation, and who were personally involved, at that stage anyway, in the search for more meaning to life.
On the other hand, there were groups like the Rolling Stones and the Doors who sang about and glorified sex, drugs, anarchy, and absolute pleasure of the sense gratification. Unfortunately, it was groups like the Rolling Stones and others who had the most influence. By this time, there was very little idealism left.
There is another angle by which the rock groups influenced the development of the hippie subculture as well. In the beginning, hippies used to get together at beaches and parks and sit in groups together, talking and playing music. These gatherings were called “Human Be-Ins”, and everyone who went was an active participant in making the event successful.
As the gatherings got bigger and bigger, rock groups started coming to play their music. This had the effect of cutting down on the creativity of the participants. Since rock music was completely overwhelming, it was impossible to sit around and talk or play music or exchange ideas with your friends anymore. You were not a “participant’, you were an “audience”.
You just sat there and got more stoned and listened to the band play, or you got up and danced to their music. The entire atmosphere was controlled by the bands and the kind of music they played.
Someone from the stage would say, “Take off your clothes”, and 500 or 1000 people, out in the audience, would do it!
The death knell for these gatherings came at a Rolling Stones concert in Altamont, California, where the Hells Angels (the notorious motorcycle gang) beat and stabbed a man to death right in front of the stage as the Rolling Stones sang their hit song, “Sympathy for the Devil”. After that, even the most optimistic of the hippies could see that the whole movement had turned into a horror show.
Those hippies who were really concerned about improving society and who weren’t just escapists, looking for cheap thrills, became a bit disillusioned with the concept of the hippie movement as a whole, or as a positive social force. They continued in their own ways either as individuals or as groups to try and implement positive changes. Many of them are still working from within society today for the betterment of society.
In many ways, the hippie movement affected the rest of society, although superficially. They affected clothing styles and hairstyles. They made long hair, ‘in”, and popularized bell-bottom pants and shoulder bags for men, etc. Probably the most obvious social change they brought about was public acceptance of drug use.
Before the hippies, only social misfits, hardened criminals, and the like, used drugs. Now, everyone in America was using drugs. Not every single person of course, but people from all walks of life. Drug use was now entirely socially acceptable and this hedonistic attitude spilled over to all parts of America and other parts of the world.
Toward the end of the hippie movement, the idealism and exuberance was gone and the emphasis was more and more on the individual.
This tendency to be more concerned about “my” own happiness, “my” pleasure, getting what “I” want, not doing anything “I” don’t want to do, influenced psychologists, psychiatrists, and other medical misfits.
They in turn used their influence to spread the “if it feels good, do it” philosophy of the hippies in a more respectable way than the hippies did. They got the “message” across to people in social positions and from certain walks of life that the hippies couldn’t reach.
Books like “Looking Out For Number One” and dozens of others like them appeared on the scene and became immediate bestsellers. These books emphasized getting what you want, and told the reader not to feel guilty in suppressing or exploiting others in search of “your” own happiness.
In short, the hippies laid the foundation for the “there is nothing more important than pleasing your senses” of America, and then the “new-age” psychologists took over and turned nightmare into a refined art, making it socially acceptable.
The problem with the quest of pleasing the senses is that not only is it temporary and leads to great frustration. Look at all the actors and the like that had “everything” that committed suicide out of frustration and misery.
The solution: take time to connect with God, meditate upon Him, dovetail your will with His, and you will experience true happiness and satisfaction. Take it from a former hippie that found that to be true.
How is that done? Follow His instructions. Doing that takes a bit of work and some knowledge. First, you have to understand who you actually are. Next you have to understand what your diet is specifically designed by your body to eat. Next you have to understand that if you offer certain foods to Him before you eat them, He will take away the karma involved in the taking away the life of the foods. That results timely purification of your actions.
Here’s the reality: the soul transmigrates form body to body with the human form being the highest form. The human form provides two options:
- Turn to Him and have the possibility of going to the spiritual planets in one or two lifetimes. Or,
- Let your senses dictate your pleasure and have the soul going back to lower forms and being there for
- lifetimes before acquiring the human form again.
My experiences in life.
“Who Are You” by Chris Butler
Bhagavad gita-as-it-is by A.C. Bhaktivedanta