Where have all the hippies gone?

Where have all the hippies gone?  Long time ago. Where have all the hippies gone? Long time passing.  Gone to corporate lawyers.  Gone to Wall Street bankers. Gone to the suburbs.  Long time ago.  Long time ago. When will we ever learn?  When will we ever learn?
No doubt many of you will remember with some nostalgia, the Vietnam War Protests, the Free Love, Free Speech, Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation movements of the sixties.  The goals (even if they were never articulated as such) of the hippies and protesters of the sixties was to create a just society that was more clearly aligned with the principles and values of the founding fathers.  In 1776, the pragmatism as well as the culture dictated that not all “Americans” would share in the dream of the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Not all members of America were included in this founding father’s dream and by the early sixties; this smoldering situation was ready to burst into flames. America was rife with injustice and inconsistencies and a generation brought up on the ideas and values of American freedom and justice for all were ready to fight and march and protest to change things.
Looking back nearly fifty years, I remember my first wife Julie had been attending the University of Wisconsin at Madison in the sixties when it came to several students’ attention that the local Eagles club was excluding Black people from membership.  My wife joined a protest with several other students who picketed the Eagles Aerie.  Some years later, we both joined a group called PACE, which stood for People Acting through Community Effort.  We researched banks and organizations that had instituted Redlining in our community and we helped to organize boycotts and protests of these organizations.  So where have all the hippies gone? 
I often wonder when I look at the past few decades of greed, incredible debt, huge deficits, 10,000 square foot homes and increased intolerance towards the poor and immigrants where the hippies have all gone.  Who was it said, “I have met the enemy and he is us.”  Did we simply run out of energy or was the seduction of power and wealth too strong to overcome? Did all the hippies morph into bank officers and corporate CEO’s or were they brainwashed into moving to the suburbs and watching NFL football every weekend? 
If I go onto Amazon.com and look up the subject of “sixties” under books here are the first few titles of over 17,000 books on the subject that you will find:
The images and titles of these books no doubt bring back memories to many of you. Hippies, protest marches, psychedelics, peace signs, changing times, pot and hope are only a few of the icons we raised.  These are now the stuff of “once upon a time” and old faded memories.  I wonder where all the hippies went?  Are they sitting around reading books on the sixties and wondering how pot bellies replaced beach bodies?  Or are they all applying for social security benefits and hoping to find that foursome on the golf course in the sun? 
For me, the dream of the sixties became the exigencies of the seventies.  I went back to school in 1971 after serving in the military during the Vietnam War from 1964-1968. I got married, had a baby and became focused on supporting my family and “getting ahead.”  I became the “me” generation and wanted to be rich and successful.  The only true metric of any value seemed to be to make more money.  I wanted to be known for something and to be SOMEBODY. I also wanted to be secure from debt and poverty. 
To this day, I can’t say with any honesty that I have escaped these desires.  I vacillate between Gates and Buffett and OHSO and Tolle.  It is like being torn between two competing dreams both offering the path to happiness.  What is the real secret of life?  Does it lie in material fulfillment or spiritual fulfillment? The world is a large labyrinth with paths leading in both directions.  I find myself often lost in this maze of admonitions, directions and proverbs. Did the other hippies get lost in here as well? 
Were you ever a hippie or protestor?  Where did your hippie go?  Why is being a hippie now considered wrong by some people?  What values did hippies have that we should admire?  Should we all be part hippie? What is wrong with protesting against injustice? Why are so many people against the Occupy movement?  Would we rather the young generation simply tolerate injustice and get along with business as usual?  

What is a New York Minute like?

A New York minute is an interesting term.  A New York minute is a fast, frantic, in-year-face, speedy and harried measure of time.  It is the opposite of the stereotypical Southern minute where time is slow and unhurried. Years ago, if you had been to Alabama and New York, you would have seen the difference in time immediately. Of course, today everyplace is changing and (I fear) there has been an exorable move towards the NY standard.  I am from New York and despite having lived in the Midwest for over thirty years; I still get accused of being on New York time. Probably because I do almost everything fast and have been multi-tasking before the word was coined.  In my own mind, I have slowed down considerably from when I was an “East Coaster” and I enjoy the Midwest because things (at least when I first arrived) seemed slower and mellower out here. Perhaps, it has to do with the farm cycle versus the industrial cycle.
It is interesting that we allow time zones to measure our time but we don’t use “specific place” zones, except in slang.  For instance, how would a Minneapolis minute compare to a San Francisco minute or a New Englandminute?  Today, they might all be about the same.  Thus, the term a NY minute is slowly passing out of use as we all become mini New Yorkers.  However, there are still places in the world that are not on NY time and perhaps you will get to visit one someday.  Even in parts of the US, there are places where the culture is not vested in moving fast.  One can take a trip to the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota or up Lake Chelan in Washington to Holden Village.  At these places, the emphasis is not on how many things you can get done or how much you can accomplish in 24 hours. There is a totally different emphasis.
In the Boundary Waters, you smell the flowers and you live according to paddle time or fishing time.  At Holden Village, the emphasis is on spirituality and finding your true center of being.  At both places, you forget time and you begin to live by the more ancient cycles of the sun, moon and stars.  I have been to both of these places and I want to go back someday. The peace and serenity you find at each is truly beyond description.
Have you ever been to New York? Where would you like to go that is not on NY time? How do you expect time would be for you there? What if time was like that for you right here and now?  What if in your own residence, you could set your own time standards? What would they be?  Would you slow your life down or speed it up? What do you think a good measure of a life well lived would be? 

Take the time today to reflect on a bad decision you made

Yesterday, I went to a Men’s group meeting in Luck, Wisconsin.  This is an interesting group of men led by Mr. Dan Beal, a former high school principal.  They have been meeting every other Wednesday for over eight years now. Each meeting, one man hosts a subject or idea or topic for discussion.  With plenty of coffee and snacks, the group meets for about two hours and shares their ideas on the subject.  Good fun, fellowship and camaraderie are had by all.  In addition, one always learns something from sharing ideas with other people. The subject for yesterday’s discussion was selected by Russ Hanson and dealt with selecting a single decision in our lives that we most regretted and then speculating on “what would our lives have been like”if we had chosen another decision.
I tried very hard for a week to think of a single decision that I regretted and that I would do over. I could not come up with one. I called my friend Bruce and ran this by him.  He said “It does not seem doable. How could you make another decision?”  I agreed with this perspective but it seemed somewhat arrogant to say that there was nothing in my life that could not be changed or perhaps another road I should have taken.  I decided to use the following decision as the basis for my contribution to the group. I wrote it out as follows:
I made this decision when I turned 18 years old.  The year was 1964.  I made it a time right after high school when I could not get into college and the Vietnam War was building up.  The decision I made has profoundly affected my life ever since.  Indeed it is probably the single most important decision I have made in my entire life.  Its repercussions still affect my life to this day.
I decided to go into the USAF.  You may ask why and here are my reasons:
  1.       I liked the uniforms and thought they would attract more women.
  2.        I assumed it took more brains to be in the Air Force than the Army or Marines
  3.       I had some vague ideas about being a war hero 
  4.          I was sick of living at home and wanted to see the world

I note that this decision was a major mistake.  I will not bother you with the myriad reasons why. Suffice it to say, that none of my reasons really panned out. Thus, the path I should have trod, the decision I should have made was this:  I should have joined the US Marines.  You asked us to speculate as best we could on the changes that this decision would have made in our lives.  However, I can safely say that in my case, this is not mere speculation but true unadulterated fact. I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that had I joined the Marines and been a Jar Head instead of a Wing Nut the following changes would have occurred in my life:

  •            I would have had relations with a lot more women. Maybe as many as Wilt Chamberlain and that is as some of you know more than 20,000 women.  It turns out, according to reliable statistics, that the Marine uniform is very sexy to a great deal more women than the US Air Force uniform or most any other uniforms.
  •            I would quickly have been selected for OCS and risen in time to at least a 3 star General.  I would have been decorated many times over, seen true combat and no doubt have been at least awarded a Silver Star, a ticker tape parade on Broadway and a meeting with then President Lyndon B. Johnson, whom I might add I subsequently met but that is another story.
  •            As a result of my war hero status, I would have pursued a career in politics and easily have become a US Senator from Wisconsin and perhaps even run for President of the US. With my brains, good looks and military connections, It is highly likely I would have become the next president of the United States instead of Richard Milhous Nixon.
  •           I would now be receiving a tremendous pension. I would be rich beyond belief and living in a great big mansion near Bone Lake where I would be protected by a whole bunch of secret service men who no doubt would be partying with local women even as I speak.
  •             And last, most important and not least, if I had been a US Marine instead of an Air Force wing nut, I would have a really cool tattoo of a bull dog on my right arm instead of the bare skin that now adorns it.
Thank you for allowing me to share my fateful decision with you all here today. I can only hope that if the Hindus are right and I am reborn again, I will make the right choice on my second time around.
By the way, for those of you who might have missed it, there is a moral to this story: Clothes really do make the man!
Well that is my talk and my contribution to the discussion.  Now it is your turn. What decisions have you made that if you had your life to do over, you would change? Why would you change it?  How would your life be different today if you had? 

Are you always right on time or are you the waitee?

Right on time!  This phrase could be seen as a compliment.  I would guess most of us would take it that way.  Another way of looking at it might be to say, you were correct or exactly on the time we agreed on. Whatever way you look at it, most of us appreciate it when someone is “right on time.” Generally we reply to a compliment with a “thank you.”  However, few people ever seem to answer: “thank you” to someone who is on time.  I wonder why we don’t seem to recognize people who are complimenting us for being on time?  Do we simply expect people to be on time? Therefore, it is not really worth a real compliment. 
If you think about it, being on time is not such a common phenomenon.  In fact, if you think about it, it is not very common at all.  How many times each week have you gone to a meeting that started late or that several people showed up late for?  How many events that you showed up for on time started late?  I have often seen them delay a plane take off because a bunch of people were arriving late.  Of course, I feel bad for the people who might miss their flight but I am also concerned over my connections and missing my departure schedules. You are sitting on the plane wondering how long they will wait for the late comers.
Being on time is not a natural state of affairs.  People who are on time have to work at it. It is not easy to be on time.  A great deal of effort, responsibility and planning are needed to be “right on time.”  Any time someone does something that makes your life more pleasant, isn’t it worth a compliment?  When people show up on time, it makes my life easier and more pleasant. No one today has a great deal of time to waste just sitting around waiting for someone who is irresponsible and thoughtless. Yes, sometimes accidents happen.  However, have you ever noticed that they always seem to happen to the same people? The same people are late over and over again.  Thus, maybe we should note those people who work at being on time. 
What if you started thanking the people in your life who were right on time?  How would they react?  Would they feel more appreciated? Would you like to be more appreciated for the effort you make to be right on time?  Would being acknowledged for or acknowledging the effort by others to be right on time make any difference in your friendships or in your life? 

Has the recession taught us the value of long-term thinking?

A common refrain in many organizations is “Always time to do it over, never time to do it right.”  How often have you seen this in your company? When I was consulting, it was one of the most popular problems we dealt with.  I would repeatedly hear employees use these words to describe how things were done in their workplace.  It was no wonder that American quality fell behind that of the Japanese during the eighties. We became a country where we did little or no long term thinking or planning. Our planning horizon was sixteen weeks.  This is the length of time between quarterly reports. Our goal was firmly fixed on the corporate stock price. Could we have a more fickle or less worthwhile target?  We are so busy doing things short term that we find it easier to fix the problems this creates rather than thinking things through and avoiding the problems in the first place. We ignore the old admonition that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
When I look back to the date I started consulting (September 1986), I ask myself, “Have we changed?” As a nation and as a people, are we looking any more long-term? Have we moved away from simplistic measures of success? Are we looking at more forward thinking or are we still primarily reacting to changes?  We have just gone through one of the worst recessions in history and have we learned anything from our experience?  Many would argue that it was short-term thinking that was the major cause of the recession. We spent and spent and bought and bought and borrowed and borrowed like there would be no tomorrows.  A few wiser people tried to warn us about this long-term debt and increased deficit spending, but most of us were too busy “shopping until we dropped” to worry about the future. We were like the grasshopper fiddling while the summer slowly passed by.  Finally, the winter came and you know what happened to the grasshopper. 
We are now in the situation of slowly recovering from this recession.  Many are still unemployed. Many are still homeless or in foreclosure.  Many are still in debt up to their eyeballs.  But we are still asked and perhaps willing to build billion dollar stadiums for the pleasure of watching our favorite sports teams on Saturday and Sunday.  Sports seems to have become the “Opiate of the Masses.”  No times or recession can be too bleak as long as the NFL is still playing on Sunday.  We can wait until November to find a new savior who will pull us once and for all out of this recession and restore us to our rightful place as the most powerful and prosperous nation on the face of the earth and indeed in the history of mankind.  Our new savior needs to do this with little or no effort on our part and certainly not ask us to save more or put off until tomorrow what we want to buy today.  Its not our fault if the country was in recession, it is the fault of the politicians who mismanaged the economy.  How dare they ask us to spend less and save more. Why is it taking Obama so long to fix things?  
Do you think long-term or are you primarily always reacting to short-term crisis?  Do you plan for the future or are you focused simply on what problems and troubles today will bring?  What role does long-term thinking play in your life?  

Is it too late?

We have all hear the phrase or said “I wish I could turn back the hands of time.” Have you ever thought how this could be done with a digital clock?  We no longer can turn back hands.  We now must press buttons.  Thus, progress and time marches on and on and on.  However, what if we could get progress to march backwards? What if we could turn back the hands of time?  Imagine all the events that it would be possible to alter.  Would we be smart enough to prevent disasters?  For instance, what if we could go back to the beginning of WW II?  Would we be able to find a way to stop Hitler and the Holocaust?  What if we could go back to the assassination of Julius Caesar?  Could we grab him by the toga and warn him that his best friend was going to kill him?  Do you think he would believe you?  If there were a way to turn the clock back, who would have the power to do so?  Can you imagine everyone running back into history to change things?  Who would decide what to change?
But let us imagine just for today, that you had the power to turn your own clock back.  Just for today, imagine if you could change your history. What time would you turn it back to?  Where would you turn it back to?  Then what would you do?  What would you use your power to change or do differently?  Would you try to save the world or simply undo some stupid things that you personally did?   
Sadly, we all seem to forget that while we can not take back any actions or words that hurt others in the past, we can make amends for them today. What if you made a list of things that you would like to change in the past and started today to make amends for those things?  Could you pick one thing you would like to make amends for each week and work on it?  How would you feel?  How would this change your life?  You really do control your own destiny and perhaps can turn back the hands or as least digits of time.  It is never too late to change things if you start today. 

Lets take some time for a book today!

Book time is my favorite time.  This is when I am already past the “startup” of a new novel and I find the time to just sit down and relax with it. I often go into an old bedroom in our house as it somehow seems more peaceful.   Book time might be just before going to bed or sometimes when I have nothing to do.  The world never seems more peaceful.  It feels like hiding in a cave. When I was a child, book time was when I would go to the library. I discovered libraries at an early age and it was like discovering paradise.
We have one of the nicest libraries in the world in Frederic.  The library head is named Chris and some of the librarians are Lori, Paul and Marlene.  They are all very helpful and customer service is never wanted for at the library. Each day they make pots of coffee for the patrons and they never forget to refill the pots.  Once or twice per week someone brings cookies or pastries to share. There are nice areas for just discussion or reading and they have children hours once per week.  On any given day, I can find Brian or Jerry or Ken there and have an interesting discussion about something going on in the world. There are book clubs and many other activities sponsored by the Frederic library.  Recently they bought a bunch of Kindles and you can check these out.  There are several classes that they offer for patrons on using the new technology and the little library in Frederic is truly a Cyber Library.    
The best thing about libraries though are that they are peaceful and quiet and full of all the ideas, fantasies, mysteries and great things of the world. I fell in love with books there. I probably love books more than anything in the world.  I love them not only because of what they represent, but because of where they can take you and what they can make you. When I was young, I was taught that knowledge was power and information was a precious resource. The balance of power has shifted now due to modern technology and the internet.  Perhaps today it is more important who you know than what you know. Nevertheless, I persist in my love of books, and knowledge and theory and ideas.  I am bothered however by one major shift in our culture.
We seem to live in a society that is more and more obsessed by sports.  It is a society where star athletes are heroes and computer geeks are nerds.  It is a society that places more value on baseball, football and basketball than on books and reading.  Perhaps foolishly, I dream of a society where towns have signs up for leading academic students , leading music majors, leading drama classes, leading art students and not just for the “Football champions of 03” or the “ Class AAA Baseball Champions of 2011.” I dream of a society where drama coaches, music coaches and art teachers are as highly paid as NCAA athletic coaches. I dream of a society where as many students show up to watch the debating matches and chess matches as show up for the basketball games.  I dream of a society where there is no such thing as nerds and geeks and where developing brain power is as sexy as developing muscle power.  
Do you read enough?  Do you value ideas as much as you value “who won the Super bowl?”  Would you pay as much for a beautiful work of art or a ticket to the symphony as you would for a ticket to an NBA playoff game or a Super bowl game?  Do you spend as much time reading as you do watching sports?  Do you concern yourself with politics and culture as much as you do with popular NASCAR and Hollywood celebrities?  Do your children?  Why not?  Do you think your life might be different if you valued ideas more? What might change? 

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