Counter Cultures. Where has the magic gone?
In 1944, the decision was made to keep young people in education until the age of roughly 18. For the fist time people between the ages of 13–18 were not in the working world but instead found themselves with an absence of responsibility and plenty of free time. This was the invention on the teenager.
With teenagers forming sub-groups amongst themselves, counter cultures arose. Something that united them, created barriers between them and others and probably most importantly, worried their parents. It was a first taste of rebelling against society. A mere 10 years later in 1954, the civil rights movement came about and the American youth found some common enemy. Apart from the movement being a necessary revolt against the twisted norms of a racist society, it created a new, far left group of non-violent “Hippies” (In quotations because I detest the very word). A generation of people that were capable of bringing on change and with it, their culture. This included a second group of casual LSD users that evolved and expanded into a subcultures that extolled the mystical and religious symbolism often caused by the drug’s powerful effects, and advocated its use as a method of raising conciousness. From this we got the “Further/Furthur” voyage, a counter culture phenomenon, that the world hasn't seen the likes of since.
Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters developed the characteristics of this psychedelic lifestyle when in in 1964 they embarked on a journey across North America in a wildly painted, school bus called “Further”. Beatnik icon, Neal Cassady drove this bus for some time and even one of my favourite poets, Allen Ginsberg travelled by his side for a while. They held acid tests, mainly in New York and California where The Grateful Dead often performed their magically improvised, psychedelic music to crowds of tripping, free spirited hippies. The movement paved the way for such musical sensations as Jimmy Hendrix and Jefferson Aeroplane.
In modern day society, we lack the adventurous audacity to embark on a spiritual acid trip on the bank holiday weekend, however their are counter cultures everywhere, weather they are skin heads, motorcycle enthusiasts or goths, they escape the day to day mundane of the app tapping, updating and paper pushing robotic reality we live in today and my question is, who was happier? I know they can’t compress that experience into an application. And when I come to think of the good that has come of the psychedelic movement, I am reminded of Steve Jobs reminiscing about experimenting with the drug and saying “It was a positive life changing experience for me, and I am glad I went through that experience,….creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.”
Kary Mullis , the inventor of the PCR Machine and Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry (1993) openly admits using a good deal of psychedelic drugs over the years. He credits LSD with the inspiration of the polymerase chain reaction, a machine that helps amplify specific DNA sequences. According to Mullis, he came up with the idea while under the effects of LSD.
And of coarse we can not forget Douglas Engelbart, inventor of The Mouse. It is no secret that Engelbart used LSD and other psychedelic drugs for inspiration and solving tough problems while tripping to drum solos by the Grateful Dead.. It is unknown to me if he invented the mouse while on the drug, but he is quoted:
“It must be changing something about the internal communication in my brain. Whatever my inner process is that lets me solve problems, it works differently, or maybe different parts of my brain are used. When I’m on LSD and hearing something that’s pure rhythm, it takes me to another world and into another brain state where I’ve stopped thinking and started knowing.”
…..The list is endless
I for one am thankful for the revolt that was counter cultures, for advances in technology, civil rights and the music that remains unmatched to this day.