The exhibit at the New Mexico History Museum was called “Voices of Counterculture in the Southwest”. We walked into one of the alcoves, entitled “Placitas”. This was the name of the small town outside of Albuquerque where Connie and I enjoyed our January 1969 honeymoon in a cave, and were later that spring awakened by a rattlesnake in the rock wall of our refurbished adobe cellar.
In that museum alcove I had a strange experience. Right there, on the classy exhibit wall was a photo showing me in an impromptu jam session with a bunch of hippie friends! Seeing yourself in a museum is quite an experience. The exhibit documented that we were not alone in “leaving civilization” in our very early 20s to carve out an alternative organic/tribal/close-to-the-land/non-monetary existence. The professors of modern anthropology and the museum curators obviously saw our “back to the land” movement as an historical phenomenon worthy of study and display.
Disenchantment with the Status Quo
What compelled us? How did we summon the idealism and raw determination to leave the comfortable familiarity of cities and suburbs? For one thing we were disenchanted with the status quo. The burgeoning materialism of post-World War II America and the mushrooming influence of technology caused us to ask, “Is all this really bringing us closer to each other and to the bedrock meaning of life?”
Second, we had a dream. Our dream was to create a “society” in which people would help each other, work together, and enjoy the simplest things in life – thus bettering the world. True, the experiment did not endure. But that was because each of us “did what was right in our own eyes,” lacking the overarching unifier of the Redeemer and His magnificent redemption.
So, what are we supposed to learn from this – both for aging baby-boomers and for 20-somethings who are searching for life direction?
The Radical Bent of Youth
“Your old men shall dream dreams (and) your young men shall see visions” (Joel 2:28). Through Joel, the Lord is speaking to our generations simultaneously. Seeing our times, the prophet anticipated the importance of approaching the modern predicament with Heaven-born hope and courage at a time when the outward signs would be anything but hopeful.
Here’s the take home lesson: it is vital not to lose our idealism. We must fuel the fire of vision – or recover it if it is dying out. The next stage of history will hand us the opportunity. The approaching time of conflict and confusion is our cue. By walking in refreshed faith and renewed vision we can be Messiah’s messengers, seeing many lives transformed.
When I was young and radical there was a certain way of thinking. We took a hard look at the world around us and found it severely wanting. (It still is.) We were carried by a utopian vision. And we were ready to make sacrifices to pull it off. Is this so different from our situation in 2017? Underneath the veneer of internet entertainment is a loneliness and self-centeredness that begs for change. There is a disillusionment similar to what we felt fifty years ago. And so I dare say we are poised for a wave of the Spirit even greater than the one that swept millions into the Kingdom back in the late ‘0s and early ’70s.
A Museum Wall or a Current Event?
I don’t want merely to adorn a museum wall. By His grace God washed my heart and gave me His dreams. No less than in our commune days, I want to devote myself to a vision worthy of my all. But this vision (without which we run amok – see Proverbs 29:18) comes from the Most High. It is the vision of living by the Spirit of God in such a way that sinners’ hearts are captured by Yeshua’s love and Israel’s revival impacts all the nations of the world. With that in our hearts, let us proceed with renewed and sanctified idealism as visionary pioneers in the last days.
This article originally appeared on Oasis newsletter, July 2017, and reposted with permission.