Monday, August 17, 2009
Reflections on Woodstock and Being Counter Cultural
The 40th anniversary of Woodstock got me thinking . I agreed with the hippie’s diagnosis of our society at the time, too much conspicuous consumption, too much war, too much phoniness, to much concern about superficial stuff like short hair, tucked in shirts and having to wear socks and belts. I wanted peace but mostly I wanted love.
But oddly enough I didn’t get sucked into the hippie’s solution: tune in, turn on and drop out.
For some reason, and I can only attribute the reason to divine intervention, I never took drugs, no, not even once. And it is not because I wasn’t given opportunities. My cousin, who is about a year older than I, was the first person to offer me drugs. We went to hang out at Pease Park and he tried to convince me to smoke marijuana. I don’t know why but I refused. I had always looked up to my cousin but after this episode we drifted apart. He continued to use drugs and at one pointed ended up being institutionalized because of it.
I continued to be a hold out even though I don’t really remember my parents or Sunday school teachers or anybody else encouraging me not to. There was just some part of me that knew to refuse to take drugs was the right thing to do.
During this time the pain of my family life was growing more intense. After many years of suffering through my dad’s bi-polar illness my Mom divorced my dad. Their divorce had a huge effect on my self-esteem and I, who had once had no trouble making friends, became depressed and a loner.
One Friday, a guy I knew in my Presbyterian youth group and I, were driving together to a youth retreat in Wimberly. On the way he told me he had some dope and wondered if I would like to sneak out into the woods that night and partake with him. Uncharacteristically, I said sure, let’s do it. So we had a plan. I was going to smoke dope for the first time.
We were the first one to arrive at the retreat so we decided to go down to the creek. The creek was feed by a spring called blue hole. The blue hole was surrounded by cliffs that rose straight up from the water twenty feet or so. There were flat-bottomed boats that you could paddle up and down the creek. We decided to paddle one of the boats up to the blue hole. We leisurely paddled up the creek but once we arrived at the end we were surprised to be met with a barrage of boulders thrown at us from the cliffs. Another friend, a real prankster, had climbed the cliffs and thought it would be funny to launch huge rocks at us. We were moving and dodging the rocks until we finally dodged a bit too vigorously and tumped the boat over into the water. Soaking wet, we managed to get back in the boat and back to shore.
Soggy dope meant no sneaking off into the woods and by the next night when the dope had dried out I had regained my senses and “just said no”. That was the last time I ever seriously thought of taking drugs. I had many other opportunities but no longer was slightly tempted.
I am only conjecturing but I think with the high level of psychic pain I was dealing with as a teenager, if I had taken one step down that road of self medication it would have been a trip of no return. Mental breakdown or overdose seemed inevitable.
Instead I chose to get high in another way. I became a Jesus Freak. The Jesus freaks looked like hippies and had the same diagnosis of the culture but instead of turning to drugs they were able to see Jesus as the original counter cultural leader. Poor, taking on the authorities, giving up everything to get the kingdom of God even to the point of surrendering his own life: that was the Jesus we got to know.
My best friend's girl friend had invited him to got to a place called the Well. It was a coffeehouse just west of the University of Texas. Most of the folks hanging out there looked like hippies and there was free coffee and do-nuts but the folksy music they sang was not about the Age of Aquarius. It was all about Jesus and how much he loved everybody. After my friend had gone a couple of times he invited me to go. Sure enough I was convinced that these people loved each other. The all claimed it was because of Jesus and after I had been a few times and with some intense internal wrestling I took the plunge and in a dramatic experience of God’s love became a Jesus Freak.
Looking back from a vantage point of almost 40 years I think if I hadn’t been rescued from my sadness, despair and disappointment I would have either gotten into drugs or killed myself. I have had my ups and downs but I have never regretted the decision I made to become really counter cultural and follow Jesus.