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Hacktreks Travel

Hacktreks 2

First Chapters

Denise Cassino

Timothy Leary was dismissed from the faculty of Harvard University for giving LSD to undergraduate students forty years ago this March. His experimentation with LSD led him to believe its use was an important means to self-discovery and a substance that would change the world’s consciousness. He had no idea just how true that theory would prove to be.

In 1945, when the Big War ended, the surviving soldiers suddenly returned to a much-changed vision of the America they had fought to preserve. They had children they’d never seen and others that did not know them; their wives had joined the work force and many of their brethren were lost forever. The GI Bill allowed many veterans to return to school for college degrees. Wartime factories were soon converted to peacetime uses and men went back to work. The fast unfolding fifties found new, cookie-cutter housing projects cropping up all over the country, their G.I. Bungalows filling up with families whose children would soon become known as the "baby boomers."

America in the fifties was a time of innocence. Mothers still did much of their own baking and sewing, housekeeping and childrearing. Day care was non-existent. Fathers were still the primary breadwinners as well as shade tree mechanics and home carpenters. There was no such thing as lawn care. A simple push mower still did the job nicely. America enjoyed an optimism that was reflected in all aspects of society. Clothing styles were traditional, people dressed up for church, wearing veiled hats and white gloves. Little girls wore dresses and patent leather shoes and young boys donned short pants until they were old enough for trousers. Men wore suits for all important occasions. The silver screen portrayed American soldiers as the good guys, and Doris Day crooned to her wholesome leading men in shirtwaist dresses and pearls. Movie musicals were still the fare of the day although no longer the extravaganzas of the forties. "From Here to Eternity" portrayed as torrid a love scene as one could find in the movies where on-screen nudity was taboo.

Children walked or rode their two wheelers to the local elementary schools, and mothers participated in PTA, baked cupcakes for school occasions and provided homemade birthday cakes for their children. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited every morning in schools along with the Lord’s Prayer. Children returned home after school and played tag and kick the can in the front yard. Families left for work or went to bed with unlocked doors and open windows.

The Saturday Evening Post still featured Norman Rockwell covers and the newest invention, television, entertained us with traditional features such as "Hit Parade," "The Perry Como Show," "Leave It to Beaver," and "The Three Stooges." The only sign that anything other than a totally idyllic world prevailed were those members of a small and obscure but influential group known as "The Beat Generation."

The Beatniks lived in a black and white world. Color television had not yet been invented and even color movies were uncommon. But one of the things the Beats did have was hi-fi sound. They were into Jazz, especially the kind of jazz known as bebop. The Beats used this music as a backdrop to their poetry, creating the first multimedia and the first signs of unrest brewing in America. The Beatniks also used marijuana, one of the first mind-altering drugs seen on the fringes of our society. Everyone had heard of heroin, a terrifyingly addictive drug that only deadbeat people used, but marijuana was a whole other thing. Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Ken Kesey were the first writers of the time to accurately depict the beat generation and its philosophy.

While J. Robert Oppenheimer was in New Mexico experimenting with the bomb, another scientist by the name of Dr. Albert Hoffman was experimenting with another very different kind of bomb, one that would also affect the world quite profoundly. While the A-bomb was being tested so was the first form of LSD. In 1943, Hoffman took his first "hit" and was so dramatically affected, he dedicated his career to further understanding its effect. Finally isolating psilocybin from the mushrooms, he created LSD. Other scientists began to take notice.

In 1959, Ken Kesey and poet Allen Ginsberg took LSD for the first time. In 1960 Dr. Timothy Leary, took psilocybin mushrooms while in Mexico after which he began work at Harvard where he pursued the psilocybin project. Ginsberg ended up participating in this project, as did many of the other Beats, including Kerouac and Neal Cassady. In 1961, Leary gave psilocybin to all the important members of the Beat Generation and asked them to report on their experiences. Finally, in 1962 Timothy Leary took LSD for the first time. In 1963, he predicted that within 10 years, over a million people would have tried LSD. Little did he know.

After being fired from Harvard, (something he couldn’t imagine enduring just two years earlier, but took in stride in 1963) Leary began his work on The Psychedelic Experience: A manual based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. And in 1964, Ken Kesey and his beatnik friends took to the road in the first hippie school bus (although none of them had long hair or even beards at the time) and shot the first acid movie.

Meanwhile, Civil unrest was brewing, quietly unnoticed by most American families. The fear of "The Bomb," which had by then been developed by several other major countries, brought forth some of the original folk singers and protesters. Phil Ochs, Joan Baez and Pete Seeger began to inspire youth with their songs of disillusionment. Racial strife was beginning to gain attention and black Americans began to demand equal rights and respect.

By the mid 1960’s, the war in Viet Nam had begun to affect the average American. High school seniors were drafted upon graduation and soon came home in body bags. As the baby boomers aged, their affluent parents sent many of them to college. College students whose grades dropped below par were next in line for the draft. About this time, Timothy Leary's famous statement "turn on, tune in, drop out," gained wide recognition and appeal for those seeking alternatives to the "System" and ultimately changed the world.

"Turn on." What exactly did turn on mean? Primarily, it meant to take drugs, drugs that had become illegal by this time because of the government’s fear of losing control over the people. These drugs were made illegal due to the experiments that Leary was conducting at Harvard and the subsequent testimony before congress that many proponents of drugs were forced to give. Turn on simply meant stimulate your mind with or without drugs, though using drugs was the most common interpretation of this part of the phrase.

"Tune in," meant interact with people, explore the world. Discover yourself, examine your mind, your possibilities and draw your own conclusions. Do not let others lead you, lead yourself. Think for yourself. Know yourself.

"Drop out," meant follow your own mind and values instead of being led, blindly, by tradition or others who purport to have your best interests at heart but in truth, may not. The only way to drop out was to do your own thinking, to question authority and make your own decisions. Stop conforming. Stop letting life lead you, begin to lead your own life.

"Turn on, tune in, drop out." Dr. Leary did not limit himself to what is accepted and acceptable, he pursued new ideas and encouraged people to explore their own consciousness, to fully examine their ideas and beliefs. This was why he was so loved so feared. Richard Nixon called Timothy Leary "the most dangerous man in America" which only further inspired the younger generation to follow his precepts.

Suddenly, the well pressed, matched clothing worn by college students in the early sixties was tossed aside for a totally unconventional look, which further alarmed society. The Hippie generation was in full swing. Bell bottoms, love beads, long hair and beards were the standard uniform. Students "turned on" - pot smoking and experimentation with psychedelic drugs was rampant on college campuses. Students "tuned in" to the unsolved problems of society, protesting racial inequality, poverty, unequal affluence and the Viet Nam War. Men burned their draft cards and dodged the draft through many creative means including moving to Canada, showing up at the induction center wearing casts and altering their body chemistry by eating a wide variety of strange concoctions.
Social mores changed. Students "dropped out" - pre-marital sex and homosexuality were embraced. Where there were hippies and drugs, a bond existed that transgressed all boundaries. Scantily clad young people took to the road in vans painted in psychedelic colors, happily picking up stray hippie hitchhikers along the way. Communes began to crop up in isolated locations where their inhabitants "did their own thing," sharing food, housing, children and mates. Children were born out of wedlock and given such names as "Moonbeam," "Time Warp" and "Winter." The sexual revolution was well under way and traditional marriage became frowned upon by this new generation, which ultimately perpetuated a 50% divorce rate later resulting in many one-parent homes and more working mothers. Women burned their bras to express their liberation from society’s demands and abortion was legalized. Negroes became known as "black" and black was beautiful. The black youth movement sported "afros" a foot wide. Movies such as "Easy Rider" began to portray "acid trips" in Technicolor while artists like Andy Warhol and Peter Max produced strange, surrealistic and psychedelic images, which were snapped up and displayed on every campus in America.

Suddenly, Elvis was out and groups such as the Beatles, The Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin’s Big Brother and the Holding Company began influencing young people while sporting psychedelic clothing and long hair and singing the praises of drugs and sex. Rock concerts drew hippies by the thousands and featured musicians smoking pot, snorting speed and destroying their instruments on stage. Many rock stars overdosed on heroin and died of drug-induced conditions. The hippie generation climaxed in 1969 with Woodstock, an outdoor rock concert held in upstate New York with hundreds of thousands of harmonious hippies and their children tripping on psychedelic drugs and skinny-dipping in the ponds.

Kurt Vonegut, Ken Kesey and Carlos Castenedas became popular authors promoting the counter-culture and its virtues. Traditional religions were discarded while atheism grew and ancient philosophies, religions and cultures were explored and embraced.

Then, suddenly, the assassinations of three prominent leaders, both Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr., left many Americans young and old, disillusioned and hopeless. This was particularly true of the counter culture. Oddly enough, within its confines, this was a non-violent group. Only in the streets of America did violent protests erupt caused primarily by bewildered police forces whose only training was in the use of Billy clubs, tear gas and bullets. The national guards’ shooting to death of four innocent students at Kent State University in 1970 during a war protest further exacerbated the ever-growing chasm between the two disparate generations of the time. Many parents attempted to breach the gap by smoking pot with their college-age children in hopes of finding some understanding of this strange new culture.

Even the face of crime began to change. The Manson family led by an ex-convict named Charlie reveled in orgiastic LSD trips, and in an ever-evolving paranoiac state, slaughtered 7 people in two nights during a macabre murder rampage. People began committing other crimes and suicide while tripping on drugs. Some people took hundreds of so-called "trips" and possibly altered their consciousness permanently. Never again would front doors be left unlocked at night.
As these ever-increasingly turbulent times in America spilled into the headlines of international newspapers, the youths of other nations began to follow suit. Soon, war protests ensued in Europe, drugs followed and the hippie generation invaded Europe for long, psychedelic sojourns traversing the continent in colorfully-painted vans promoting their new lifestyles.

As thousands of college graduates were forced to join conventional society, drug use subsided out of necessity. Other forms of reaching a higher consciousness grew in popularity. Ancient methods such as transcendental meditation and yoga were suddenly in vogue. Celebrities traveled to India to study under the Maharishi. People began to delve heavily into the occult sciences of astrology, numerology, I Ching, witchcraft and palmistry. Psychology was a developing science that soon found millions of Americans prone on their therapists’ couches.

The traditional eating patterns of Americans began to change as well. Asian foods became popular. People turned to diets of brown rice, tofu and vegetables seeking to detoxify the very bodies they had so recently polluted with drugs and alcohol. For the first time in years, wine consumption and production was up in America. Bolstered by the introduction of cheap wine, usually drunk straight out of the bottle by the hippies, a better quality than Boone’s Farm Wine was soon in demand.
Ecology and the preservation of the environment became pressing issues. Song’s such as Randy Newman’s "Burn On, Big River" about the polluted state of the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, brought much needed attention to the state of our environment. The new public awareness of toxic waste and rampant pollution forced legislation requiring clean up and prevention of the environmental destruction.

Television was in Technicolor and featured such unconventional programming as "All in the Family," which shockingly portrayed a family headed by the bigoted Archie Bunker. Star Trek made its debut, and Saturday Night Live poked fun at society with a never-before-seen irreverence.
In 1972, the Watergate scandal broke and its subsequent investigation ultimately forced the first American president ever to resign in the face of sure impeachment. This added to the growing cynicism about government corruption already in the forefront due to police brutality and the exposure of graft and corruption in politics. For the first time, we had seen an American president publicly booed and excoriated, and our respect for authority was permanently damaged. Never again would we blindly follow our leaders.

All of these developments were just the beginning of an ongoing cultural revolution still occurring in the world today. The words that changed the world, "Turn on, tune in, drop out" gave credence and approval to a generational phenomenon that embraced and endorsed a culture that ran counter to everything this country had stood for in the past. It resulted in an international society composed of individualists no longer driven by the morals, values and dictates of others.

Peoples of the free world forever after will think, dress, eat, choose their forms of entertainment, lifestyles and occupations based upon what is best for them as opposed to what is acceptable to everyone else. No longer do we follow patterns of behavior designed by others. We are free to explore, examine and discover a world that best suits our own wants and needs. Timothy Leary’s trip into the science of psychedelia may have launched the social revolution more than any other single factor. Little did he know the incredible impact his prophetic words would have on the world at large when he penned them in 1965.

© Denise Cassino February 2003
Conifer, USA


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