We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves Back to the garden
— “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell
In the spring of 1979, my senior biology class took a trip to Horn Island, off the coast of Mississippi. We spent a week on the deserted island, sleeping on the beach in tents that invariably collapsed around us by morning, foraging for food to supplement the few rations we brought along, and doing science stuff that biology majors were supposed to do. On the boat ride home, we were exhausted, seasick, sunburned and whining for McDonald’s hamburgers. Our faculty advisor, some 30 years older and wiser than us, stood on the boat’s upper deck overlooking our bedraggled bodies and stated sarcastically: “Behold, the future of America!” I remember being slightly offended by the remark and also scared. Maybe we weren’t prepared to run things when our time came.
That memory occurred to me while watching a documentary on the history of the magazine, The Rolling Stone. The magazine was started in 1967 in San Francisco by Jann Wenner and Ralph Gleason, a couple of young idealistic college students who loved rock and roll music. It quickly became a haven for the political writings of Hunter S. Thompson, Cameron Crowe, and P.J. O’Rourke. Those of us who lived through the turbulent 60s remember the images on television of disgruntled youth rioting, doing drugs, and basically horrifying their parents. I’m sure those same parents felt that there was no way those kids could develop into responsible human beings, and life as they knew it in the United States was doomed to damnation.
Guess what? Fifty years later, that same generation produced the political conservatives, progressives, doctors, lawyers, and engineers that run the country today. They were far from perfect but at least we are still here. I’m sure many a Baby Boomer who holds a respectable position in the community, perhaps even a religious conservative pillar of society, still lives in fear of some picture showing up of him bathing naked with his co-ed friends at Woodstock. How to explain that to the grandkids?
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that each generation thinks the next will be the end of humanity. Maybe we don’t give the youngsters enough credit. Our parents thought we were crazy, lazy, and stupid because we didn’t do the things they did. We didn’t work as hard, or sacrifice enough to deserve a better life than they had. I think it’s all relative.
Somewhere along the way to adulthood the majority of us flip a switch from living carefree for the moment to being consumed with making enough money to pay the mortgage and car payment. We tamp down those memories of frivolous living somewhere deep in our brain or delude ourselves into thinking we were totally different people back then. Maybe, if our lives turned out all right, and the elder years come upon us, we dare take those memories out, savor the innocence and irresponsibility that produced them, and smile, just a little.
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it’s the time of man
I don’t know who I am But you know life is for learning …
— Devin Houston is the president/CEO of Houston Enzymes. Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are those of the author.