Tom Robbins Essay on the 60s

by Tom Robbins

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luvdepp
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Tom Robbins Essay on the 60s

Unread postby luvdepp » Thu Sep 29, 2005 6:46 pm

I'm reading the new Tom Robbins book Wild Ducks Flying Backward and there's an interesting essay that he wrote about the 60's. I thought it might be of interest to some of you Robbins fans and it fits in with our recent discussions of F&LILV.

Tom Robbins on the 1960s and Their Psychedelic Sacraments
(Editor's Note: On October 27, 1996, at last year's Northwest Bookfest, the
Applied Poetics Laboratory sponsored a panel discussion which asked the
question: "The Sixties - Force for Good or Force for Evil?" Tom Robbins
kicked off a rousing and thorough discussion with this apologia for the
decade and its experiment in psychotropic transubstantiation:)


It must be really irritating to have come of age in the 1980s or '90s to
find your decade - your very own historical moment - so relentlessly and
unfavorably compared to the decade that has stolen the show of the 20th
century and hogged the cultural limelight for nearly 30 years. Not only are
the '60s a hair in your generational soup, but if you're a thinking person,
you're aware of how dangerous it can be to become stuck in the past.
In most of our lives, there occurs a period of peak experience, a time when
we are at our best, when we meet some challenge, endure some ordeal,
receive some recognition, have some fun or just feel consistently happy and
free - and there's a tendency to become frozen in that glad ice, turning
ourselves into living fossils for the remainder of our existence. For
females, the retrograde flypaper is often high school. For too many
American males, it has been the armed forces: the one time in their lives
when they were relieved of parents, wives, children, dull routines and
responsibilities, when their every need was supported and they enjoyed
camaraderie, travel and adventure. An awful lot of America's leaders never
outgrew World War II or Korea, and as these old Legionnaires, waving red,
white and blue cattle prods and farting the low notes of the Star Spangled
Banner, have over and over insisted on military solutions to civil
problems, society has paid a dumb and ugly price.
Gray-haired flower children, while considerably more benign, are equally
foolish, yet it would be a mistake - a severe mistake - to belittle the
'60s as just an ordinary decade with a good press agent. The '90s do, in
fact, compare unfavorably with the '60s, and I'm prepared, if asked, to
tell you specifically why. For the moment, however, allow me to offer this
brief overview.
Illumination, like it or not, is an elitist condition; in every era and in
almost every area, there have resided tiny minorities of enlightened
individuals living their lives upon a threshold, at the gateway of the next
evolutionary phase, a phase whose actualization is probably still hundreds
of years down the line. In certain key periods of history, one or the other
of these elitist minorities has become sufficiently large and resonant to
affect the culture as a whole, thereby laying a significant patch of brick
in the evolutionary road. Think of the age of Akhenaton in Egypt, the reign
of Zoraster in Persia, the golden ages of Greece and Islam, the several
great periods of Chinese culture, and the European Renaissance. Something
similar was brewing in America in the years 1964 to 1971.
Maybe it is sentimental, if not actually stupid, to romanticize the '60s as
an embryonic golden age. Certainly, this fetal age of enlightenment
aborted. Nevertheless, the '60s were special; not only did they DIFFER from
the '50s, '70s, '90s, etc., they were SUPERIOR to them. Like the Arthurian
years at Camelot, the '60s constituted a breakthrough, a fleeting moment of
glory, a time when a significant little chunk of humanity briefly realized
its moral potential and flirted with its neurological destiny; a
collective spiritual awakening that flared brilliantly until the barbaric
and mediocre impulses of the species drew tight once more the curtains of
creeping meatballism.
One more thing: I think it need be established, firmly, flatly, and
finally, that what we call the '60s would never have happened had it not
been for the psychedelic sacraments.
Certainly, there would have been protests and demonstrations, but they
would have been only a fraction of the magnitude of those that actually
occurred; they would have been far less frequent, widespread, intense, or
colorful.
The political and societal juggernaut of the '60s moved to music - and that
music owed both its aesthetic and moral impetus to psychedelics.
In 1996, the word "spiritual" is, unfortunately, highly suspect. Yet, the
changes in consciousness and in conscience that characterized and energized
the '60s were of a sort that could only be described as spiritual - a
direct outgrowth of drug-inspired mysticism.
It was a dizzy period of transcendence and awareness (transcendence of
obsolete value systems, awareness of the enormity and richness of inner
reality). The zeitgeist of the era was only secondarily political.
Political action (be it pacifist, feminist, environmental, or racial) was
largely a matter of fallout from the spiritual explosion.
And to talk about the '60s without talking about psilocybin and LSD, as the
media have been doing for more than a decade, is to be guilty of the most
dishonest sort of revision, while a panel on the '60s that ignores or
de-emphasizes the contribution of psychedelics would be akin to a panel on
cheeseburgers that ignores or de-emphasizes the contribution of cows.


http://www.rain.org/~da5e/trbana.html
Last edited by luvdepp on Thu Sep 29, 2005 6:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself, who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on the shore and merely existed." ~HST~

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Thu Sep 29, 2005 6:54 pm

Thanks, luvdepp! I do love Robbins' writing. It is pretty easy to see which camp he is in! :hypnotic:
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby Raven » Thu Sep 29, 2005 7:51 pm

Thanks Luvdepp!

Tom Robbins is so so so Tom Robbins!!

crazy man....

Raven
"In my experience, those who do not like you fall into two categories: the stupid
and the envious."
John Wilmot, the 2nd Earl of Rochester in The Libertine by Stephen Jeffreys

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Re: Tom Robbins Essay on the 60s

Unread postby Bix » Thu Sep 29, 2005 7:56 pm

luvdepp wrote:
[b] Illumination, like it or not, is an elitist condition; in every era and in
almost every area, there have resided tiny minorities of enlightened
individuals living their lives upon a threshold, at the gateway of the next
evolutionary phase, a phase whose actualization is probably still hundreds
of years down the line. In certain key periods of history, one or the other
of these elitist minorities has become sufficiently large and resonant to
affect the culture as a whole, thereby laying a significant patch of brick
in the evolutionary road. . . .Something
similar was brewing in America in the years 1964 to 1971.
Maybe it is sentimental, if not actually stupid, to romanticize the '60s as
an embryonic golden age. Certainly, this fetal age of enlightenment
aborted. Nevertheless, the '60s were special; not only did they DIFFER from
the '50s, '70s, '90s, etc., they were SUPERIOR to them. Like the Arthurian
years at Camelot, the '60s constituted a breakthrough, a fleeting moment of
glory, a time when a significant little chunk of humanity briefly realized
its moral potential and flirted with its neurological destiny; a
collective spiritual awakening that flared brilliantly until the barbaric
and mediocre impulses of the species drew tight once more the curtains of
creeping meatballism.


Wow, luvdepp, I knew I should have pre-ordered that book! I came back from vacation with a terrible cold and my little gray cells have not been functioning well all week, but I just had to jump in here.

This just says it all. . ."a significant little chunk of humanity briefly realized its moral potential"...The main thing I carry with me from that time is a breaking away from or questioning of rural, Protestant mindsets. My own parents had already started me on this path by providing me with tons of things to read from the moment I could hold a book and taking me to Europe when my dad was stationed in France during the Korean war. So my family had already taken some steps away from the mainstream.

But then I wound up going to college at a small private Lutheran college which had a set of rules for men and a set of rules for girls. Fortunately, I had a spoiled, only-child roomate who bought every Stones and Bob Dylan and Beatle album that came out, so the message was sinking in slowly. By 1970 I had found a group of women who were meeting monthly (granted it was a group started by the state mental health service :blush:) who were starting to question whether husbands and children were the ultimate goal, whether we should perhaps not refer to every female as "girl", whether the ballerina whose live-in boyfriend hit her so hard he broke her back and left her lying on the floor maybe had a right to be very angry with him and even to press charges. I know, Hannah and Kristen and all you young ones, it is unimaginable to think that these were new concepts. But these "consiousness raising groups" was where these ideas, this empowerment, first began just barely creeping in. Anyway, for me that was the most important step forward I took and I have never gone backwards from there.

Thanks for posting this, luvdepp. Sorry to ramble on so!
Live! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death! ~Auntie Mame

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Re: Tom Robbins Essay on the 60s

Unread postby Liz » Thu Sep 29, 2005 9:24 pm

Bix wrote:
luvdepp wrote:
Illumination, like it or not, is an elitist condition; in every era and in
almost every area, there have resided tiny minorities of enlightened
individuals living their lives upon a threshold, at the gateway of the next
evolutionary phase, a phase whose actualization is probably still hundreds
of years down the line. In certain key periods of history, one or the other
of these elitist minorities has become sufficiently large and resonant to
affect the culture as a whole, thereby laying a significant patch of brick
in the evolutionary road. . . .Something
similar was brewing in America in the years 1964 to 1971.
Maybe it is sentimental, if not actually stupid, to romanticize the '60s as
an embryonic golden age. Certainly, this fetal age of enlightenment
aborted. Nevertheless, the '60s were special; not only did they DIFFER from
the '50s, '70s, '90s, etc., they were SUPERIOR to them. Like the Arthurian
years at Camelot, the '60s constituted a breakthrough, a fleeting moment of
glory, a time when a significant little chunk of humanity briefly realized
its moral potential and flirted with its neurological destiny; a
collective spiritual awakening that flared brilliantly until the barbaric
and mediocre impulses of the species drew tight once more the curtains of
creeping meatballism.


Wow, luvdepp, I knew I should have pre-ordered that book! I came back from vacation with a terrible cold and my little gray cells have not been functioning well all week, but I just had to jump in here.

This just says it all. . ."a significant little chunk of humanity briefly realized its moral potential"...The main thing I carry with me from that time is a breaking away from or questioning of rural, Protestant mindsets. My own parents had already started me on this path by providing me with tons of things to read from the moment I could hold a book and taking me to Europe when my dad was stationed in France during the Korean war. So my family had already taken some steps away from the mainstream.

But then I wound up going to college at a small private Lutheran college which had a set of rules for men and a set of rules for girls. Fortunately, I had a spoiled, only-child roomate who bought every Stones and Bob Dylan and Beatle album that came out, so the message was sinking in slowly. By 1970 I had found a group of women who were meeting monthly (granted it was a group started by the state mental health service :blush:) who were starting to question whether husbands and children were the ultimate goal, whether we should perhaps not refer to every female as "girl", whether the ballerina whose live-in boyfriend hit her so hard he broke her back and left her lying on the floor maybe had a right to be very angry with him and even to press charges. I know, Hannah and Kristen and all you young ones, it is unimaginable to think that these were new concepts. But these "consiousness raising groups" was where these ideas, this empowerment, first began just barely creeping in. Anyway, for me that was the most important step forward I took and I have never gone backwards from there.

Thanks for posting this, luvdepp. Sorry to ramble on so!


Maybe I'm sentimental, but I always thought of them as special, too, Bix and Tom. Maybe they didn't totally accomplish what they set out to do, but they set the wheels in motion and did positively effect institutions and attitudes.

Thanks for typing this all out, Luvdepp. It is much appreciated. Did anyone see Tom Robbins speak in the Bay Area this past weekend? I missed him because I was at the Green Day concert. At the last minute, I found out he was speaking in Frisco and in Corte Madera. And according to his agent, that's it for him on this tour.

This has reminded me of my hometown book club's most recent book choice--Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas. I recommend this book highly because it is a laugh-out-loud book and gives a flavor of the early 70's in the U.S. from an Iranian child/preteen's point of view. The author is now a stand up comedian. As I was reading it I was wondering if she was the new PG-rated Gonzo Journalist. However, her book is entirely accurate. What made me think of mentioning this book here right now was what our special guest* at our book club meeting last night had to say about Iran in the 60's and 70's. Prior to '77 women in Tehran were given much freedom and kept up with the current fashions. This was under the Shah's regime. In fact, she led us to believe that most of the countries in the region--including Afghanistan--were the same. Funny how things change. :-/

*an Iranian woman about my age who came to the US in 1977 and has lived here ever since.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Unread postby KYwoman » Fri Sep 30, 2005 9:35 am

Thanks luvdepp for posting this. I have TR's new book and didn't even get to this yet. :eyebrow:

BTW, I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves TR's writing. This is a collection of articles/essays of his over the years and it has been very interesting and occasionally laugh out loud reading. :cool:
"Buy the ticket, take the ride." :motorcycle:

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Sep 30, 2005 9:43 am

Thanks, KY. Good to hear another positive review. Looks like a trip to the bookstore is in order this weekend. :cool:
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby luvdepp » Fri Sep 30, 2005 10:34 am

KYwoman wrote:Thanks luvdepp for posting this. I have TR's new book and didn't even get to this yet. :eyebrow:

BTW, I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves TR's writing. This is a collection of articles/essays of his over the years and it has been very interesting and occasionally laugh out loud reading. :cool:


You're right KYwoman, it does have some laugh out loud moments. Typical Tom Robbins. And the nice thing about it is that you can skip around and read it in any order, which is how I found this essay.
"So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself, who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on the shore and merely existed." ~HST~

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Unread postby KYwoman » Fri Sep 30, 2005 9:55 pm

luvdepp wrote:
KYwoman wrote:Thanks luvdepp for posting this. I have TR's new book and didn't even get to this yet. :eyebrow:

BTW, I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves TR's writing. This is a collection of articles/essays of his over the years and it has been very interesting and occasionally laugh out loud reading. :cool:


You're right KYwoman, it does have some laugh out loud moments. Typical Tom Robbins. And the nice thing about it is that you can skip around and read it in any order, which is how I found this essay.


I'm usually not this 'anal' when reading a collection of essays, but I just started at the beginning and off I went. When I get back to it, I'm hopping around! Geesh!
"Buy the ticket, take the ride." :motorcycle:


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