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Mon 28 Jun 2004

The Summer of Love

Category : Commentary/haightashbury.txt

On my first visit to San Francisco, I tried to see if I can find Haight-Ashbury without a map. I knew in which general direction it lay, and on my second day, after having meandered through JapanTown, Alamo Square, Fillmore, and Castro, I finally found it. (I had much stronger legs then. These days, the SF 7-day Unlimited City Pass is my best friend. Passing through familiar streets on the buses, I'm amazed at how much ground I had covered on foot, then.)

I'm a child of the sixties, though too far away to be touched by its excesses. Listening to Janis Joplin and, later, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Carol King, I knew quite a bit about Flower Power and the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius. (It's funny but I've just finished reading Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, and those who have read it will know the connections. But I digress.)

The Pacific Ocean is but one huge basin into which both east and west pour its ideas, some of which gets washed up on the other shore, to be re-used in new ways.

Jared Diamond, in "Guns, Germs, and Steel", writes about how it's no accident that civilisation, as we know it, originated and then spread out from around the Mediterranean Sea. Geography played an important role in the diffusion of knowledge. Technology, too, because nowadays, it takes me less time to reach the opposite shore in California than it took the Greeks to sail to Egypt. The Pacific becomes the new Mediterranean Sea.

So, the Californians absorbed Eastern Mysticism and fused into a most attractive form of music and philosophy which, in turn, was consumed by us, the children of the east. I've gone through long hair and bell bottoms.

And made my pilgrimage to Haight-Ashbury.

If you're intrigued, like me, by the ideas Dan Brown stirred up in Da Vinci Code, this is another book to read: "The Alphabet Versus the Goddess - The Conflict Between Word and Image" by Leonard Shlain. Certainly, it has helped me enjoy the proceedings at this morning's SF Gay Pride Day Parade with a certain historical perspective.

Posted at 1:41AM UTC | permalink


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