Natural Wholistic Pioneers
Flower children, as they called themselves, to some measure arose out of an open-minded ferment in the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco in the mid 1960s, where young people were exploring ideas of open society, simpler living, quality time, self-sufficiency, etc. The ideas exploration was accompanied by strong feelings for nature and natural beauty, sensitivity and emotional openness, deep interpersonal trust and living amongst friends. The mental and emotional openness was much helped along by the recreation of rock-n-roll into folk-rock and psychedelic genres. Flower children, essentially born in the 1940s, wore light, multi-coloured clothes and sang and danced, expressing sheer joy of living.
As true, groundbreaking phenomenon, flower children manifested between the years around 1965-70, and for a time was epitomised by the ‘human be-in’ or ‘gathering of the tribes’ in San Francisco Park, early 1967, when more than 20,000 people discovered they all felt the same way, and were on a similar wavelength. This became a spontaneous movement, and by the ‘summer of love’ mid-year, had swollen to several hundred thousands, which inundated the city. This helped to induce many of the more seriously committed to walk the talk and go bush, and practise the commonly held, inspiring vision.
Natural Family Living
They found it easy to offer all women, all children, and all peoples of all ages and all races equal respect, dignity and caring. They treasured children, and many practiced natural childbirth. The men were very involved with child rearing via gentleness, affection, empathy and respect, rather than restrictions and discipline. They found much value in traditional indigenous peoples and their teachings, and like them, experienced oneness with nature before almost anybody understood ecology. Being already emancipated, the women avoided lipstick, mascara, makeup, high-heels, short skirts, plunging necklines, trendy clothes, push-up bras, cosmetic surgery and all other forms of sexual accoutrements that had overtaken much of mainstream society.
They successfully experimented with cooperative ways of living, including extended family groups, communal and tribal living, and discovered that they were able to live effortlessly, harmlessly, harmoniously and enjoyably, with few possessions, limited personal space and minimal privacy if all participants treated each other with openness, gentleness, cooperation, honesty, love and trust. They used few guidebooks, as it was such a new and different way of living, without structures or leaders, by simply relying on the quality of relating, which they found natural, simple and effortless, reflecting, somewhat a childhood and adolescence sufficiently free of trauma. This small and brief experiment broke huge ground as a living demonstration that true, natural, human nature is really a lot better than our education had taught us, and that cooperative, uplifting living arrangements were entirely possible, enjoyable, easy and economically advantageous.
As a group, flower children were able to attune to, embrace and enjoy fully wholistic and wholesome approaches to life that was unheard of at the time, and unimaginable to most people. These approaches to life include:
- a feeling for, and appreciation of nature, including adopting a natural, whole food diet, wearing natural clothing and living as a natural, intelligent, biological being;
- a sense of the cooperative and harmonious basis of all life, and of peaceful benevolence as a means to solving all problems, great and small, near and far;
- an experience of themselves as truly planetary citizens, beyond nationalistic, ethnic, racial or religious barriers and constraints;
- a realisation of the immediacy of spirituality in everyday life, and being inspired by many spiritual traditions simultaneously without any sense of conflict, including Zen, Sufism, yoga, mystical Christianity and various forms of traditional shamanism.
Flower Children were truly global citizens, concerned with world peace and harmony, functioning as non-disrupting initiators by choosing gentleness over violent confrontation as a means to promote societal transformation. They functioned very much in the background, leading from behind, embracing advanced understandings and life-affirming lifestyles that transcended the more uptight, staid and conventional ways of mainstream living.
Contributions to Greater Society
Flower children were our first group of natural planetary citizens, and proved to be true visionaries in ways that is only now beginning to be understood and appreciated. They predicted problems of pollution, ecological destruction, societal breakdown, wars and increased authoritarian control (all of which are now occurring), if human societies did not lift their game and move towards a world of peace and love, goodwill and trust, through:
- better, healthier, simpler, easier, creative ways of living;
- by applying one’s own understanding, in cooperative, trusting, unstructured ways;
- for immediate and long-term results at grass-roots level;
- so that everybody, the environment and the whole world is bettered.
Flower children taught us that being natural was completely valid and enabled effortless living. They also taught us that nature itself is nurturing, and works in cooperative harmony with whoever would work in cooperative harmony with it. Their legacy was to spearhead what has now become the practice of wholesome, creative, unproblematic, inexpensive, sustainable, pollution-free ways of living.
Flower power culminated at Woodstock on the East Coast of US in August 1969, when more than 500,000 people turned up for ‘three days of peace and love’ after which it dissolved as easily and spontaneously as it arose, and people began moving on for a number of happy, progressive reasons. They had satisfied themselves as to the ease with which they could set up and live self-sufficiently and communally, as a preferable way to live, and they had gotten the message into mainstream and around the world.
Now they were ready for their next challenge – to go back into mainstream society and apply their new skills and understandings to help create life-affirming, sustainable living by providing a lead and applying their understanding in multiple, complimentary, practical directions. Some moved on to apply their understandings and visions in practical, useful, living ways, such as whole-food restaurants and health-food stores, alternative bookshops and natural therapies. Others chose to use their understandings to create sustainable communities.
Contributions to Sustainable communities
One of their great contributions was as groundbreaking forerunners to fully designed, wholistic and sustainable, life-affirming communities. By living effortlessly, self-sufficiently, communally and in harmony with nature, they demonstrated what people thought only traditional indigenous people were capable of doing. By demonstrating the cooperative, benevolent nature of people, they enabled many others to understand that they would be able to live in cooperative and trusting, sustainable communities.
Flower children were spontaneous, peak-experiencing, visionary, emotionally open, whole-brain self-actualisers, who, by demonstrating simple and natural communal living, in simple, ordinary, gentle ways, made future sustainable community living understandable and more accessible to people in the broader, mainstream population, many of whom later become sustainable community developers. They were great social pioneers, and in many ways are still ahead of the current times. The youth had shown us the future.