I grow up repressed, uptight, depressed.
I read Ferlinghetti’s “I am waiting for a rebirth of wonder.”
My first day in Berkeley,
I go to North Beach, hang out with the Beats.
the Cuban Missile Crisis.
I go to my first protest.
Ar my student co-op,
Two graduate students
Reinterpret the Christian myths I had rejected in high school.
I hear James Baldwin speak
Leave with tears streaming down my face.
For months, I read everything Baldwin has written.
I 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.
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.
I return to my student co-op in Berkeley.
Drugs are everywhere.
We read Varieties of Religious Experience,
The Tibetan Book of the Dead,
Timothy Leary’s advice,
Go backpacking in Yosemite,
Feel as one with the universe,
Never the same again.
I become immersed in the human potential movement,
Study humanistic psychology.
On weekends I 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.
I learn how to have fun, go with the flow.
While walking across the Pacific School of Religion campus,
I see a friend from Dallas.
He introduces me to his companion, the school’s Placement Officer,
Who tells me PSR has an existentialist psychologist on its faculty
And recommends I consider that option.
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 is
Allen Ginsberg chanting OM
As the sun sets.
That semester, as chair of the co-op’s Education Committee.
I 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 I sign up for the University’s experimental Residence College.
200 students, no grades, no requirements.
Someone nominates me to serve as Co-coordinator.
One event I will never forget.
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.
I read The Politics of Experience by R.D. Laing,
The Courage to Be by Paul Tillich,
And Coming of Age in America by Edgar Friedenberg,
And write a paper on those books.
Judy Wheeler from New York comes to research us.
She buys a case of Almaden wine.
Afterwards, I take her to her hotel.
She invites me to her Greenwich Village apartment.
I hitchhike to New York.
Driving through the Holland Tunnel
I open the sunroof of the VW bus
Stand on the bed
And 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.
During the day she goes to work
And I write “An Evaluation of the Residence College”
For the student newspaper.
I write, 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 [that] are 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…. Children…must become reliable hoop-jumpers…. 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….
The problem is that the ideas we do have are constricting and confining and that so much is made of usefulness that man himself is reduced to a mere instrument…. Our educators…so thoroughly insist that all feelings be made rational, coherent and supportable by empirical evidence that they diminish the possibility that more captivating experiences can be thoroughly lived and then, but only then, meaningfully integrated into the whole personality….
What is needed is encouragement of integrity, rather than dishonesty; concern with behavior being congruent with experience, rather than with proper, high-level performance at any cost; the demand for broadly conceived productivity, rather than narrowly conceived achievement; 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; acceptance of occasional fluctuations, rather than mere consistent predictability; personal interaction, rather than information-dissemination; recognition of the need for ecstasy, as well as rational self-understanding; education, rather than manipulation; love, rather than mistrust…. Give us enough powerful men so committed, and we students will make our values practical…
At the seminary that fall,
The only chapel service I do
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,
another student and I design
A 90-minute piece of total theater.
We hold it in the sanctuary
And invite the Berkeley community.
Inspired by Nietzsche
We call it “A Sort of Modern-Day Dionysian Rite.”
For the light show,
We black out the windows.
One highlight is a dance
By two students from UC.
Wearing bathing suits
Covered in fluorescent paint
They dance under a blacklight.
Sitting at the back, the School President thinks they are naked.
At the conclusion, we place mattresses
On the floor
Bring out wine, fruit, cheese, and bread
And invite everyone to get comfortable.
The next day the student body President goes to the School President
And proposes that they hold a special service
To re-consecrate the sanctuary.
So 1967 ends with great enthusiasm and hope for the future.
Then 1968 hits and reality bites back.
Personally, if I could, I’d go back to 1967.