Reflections in a not too distant mirror

Hippie Philosophy, After All These Years…

Updated 22 weeks ago Peter McCarthy
Hippie Philosophy, After All These Years…

What good’s a personal philosophy, if you don't live it?

Living the Hippie Philosophy

Hippie philosophy’s heavy on freedom, freedom to be whoever you discover in the meadows, forests and celestial domains inside yourself, freedom to love in a personally genuine way, freedom from religious taboos, freedom from war, freedom to open your mind and freedom “…To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else,” as my hero E. E. Cummings put it.

Back in the rollicking, contemplative 60s, that’s what we wanted, coming of age to find a world more beautiful and dangerous than we’d been taught.
We pulled it off, too.

Some of it.

We never got all the way to the other shore, but almost anywhere in the world, you’re freer to be than before we charged the social/political the walls and ran through.

The world’s gotten smaller, closer, more intimate. Fewer artificial barriers separate us.

Near the end of an era...
Near the end of an era...

One night, in the 70s twilight, the words just came to me, popping into my head while I sat alone at my desk, digging for a clear idea to finish a poem.

Some ideas wait to come out, these to reflect what the undercurrent felt like when everything in the world changed.

Still hippie to the bone, afraid it couldn’t last, but hoping to hold on after fear scattered my friends, I pressed my Bic on the lined paper, and these lines came out:

To know.
To find love.
To be free.

That was it.

Short and simple.

End of poem.

I hadn’t given it a second’s thought. The ideas were just suddenly there. All I had to do was scribble them out.

The verses above it marked my passion for the freedom of the road, my wish to belong in an open community, efforts to understand that big ball of something always calling us,… It was about living in perpetual exploration.

Hippie Philosophy, After All These Years…

My partner at the time didn't think much of the poem when I showed it too her. She always thought my hippie philosophy was too cute, at least by half, anyway.

Okay, so we could split up. I’d live with this longer than any hippie romance was likely to last. The verses stayed.

#1 Hippie Philosophy: To know

We're inquisitive beasts. We try to know things that are of no obvious benefit. We just want to know.

Without knowing, our sense of how to live erodes. Truth lines a path with insight that evolves gradually into wisdom.

To know is to have tools for building maps and exploring territories. Every knowing sends us down another dark road and waits for us to flash a new light of discovery.

And don't mistake knowing with facts. Facts are utensils and weights.

Knowledge is served by and exceeds facts.

We may first gather facts on our way to knowing, but soon, we leave the facts behind as if at a base camp while we climb to an unknown summit.

Knowing oils our brains with new insights to mix and match and patch together and get hints and ideas about truths.

When we quit the quest for knowing, the soft gears in our heads slow, stiffening with resistance.

When I wrote those hippie philosophy verses after the movement cooled down, none of this was so clear to me. I only knew I was full of passion and understood that they rescued me because I'd been losing myself, falling off into history as the hippie days had.

Hippie Philosophy, After All These Years…

#2 Hippie Philosophy: To find love

Love's big and juicy and all over the place.

If we can love both God and peanut butter, then we no longer have a word with sensible meaning.

Love's been lobbed around like an old softball everybody has to play with until its destroyed. Now, we're short one word to explain that undying thirst for completion we feel inside us.

My love's a slavishly selfish unselfishness. It's satisfaction, family feeling, creativity, mutual, shared exposure. Pretense has no place.

Love is art, if not artful.

Finding love means locating that ability in yourself to recognize and embrace another's essential self, beauty, warts and all, as casually as you accept yourself, but seeing no need to fix or correct anything.

#3 Hippie Philosophy: To be free

Being a hippie taught me to be free and to ramble down that road when it just seems like the thing to do and the hell with what anyone else thinks.

I want to look under lids and turn walls into windows.

My philosophy demands original experiences.

Rather, I want the unabridged right to do so.

Freedom is the ticket to pleasure, passion, fear, adventure, longing, exposure and peace.

Plus a lot more.

It's permission granted to find myself and do your damnedest to understand the world. It's the most valuable asset available, and anyone who dares can own it, even if only in a moment of sureness and wisdom.

You can never really know who you are without it. That's its ultimate value of the hippie philosophy.

Taking A Hippie Philosophy On The Road To Find Out

My passion for writing poetry stayed but my hopes for enough readers to make it a career didn't. I still write them. Once in a while I post them

But my quest to know has taken me down a million different alleys of wonder, confusion, discovery and retreat. It's possible to know some facts that are washed away in the next rain, never truer than sand.

Finding love, part two in my hippies of the 60s philosophy, has been an easy adventure.

Love has no place for coercion, persuasion or pressure. It's just there and everywhere. When we try too hard, it runs away from suffocation.

Free has been the hardest, the trade off with security and money (otherwise known in square society as "earning a living") too easy to fall for.

But I did finally declare my independence and stuck with it. Anything not voluntarily given loses value. And who wants second best when the best is always there for the taking?

Of course, you've got to step off that edge into freedom.

One small step... and... and... You're in the air!


Footnote: I took a flash survey to see how people feel, 50 years later, about the hippie movement. I guarantee, the results are completely unscientific. I asked:

If hippies returned, what would you do if you had the choice today?

Tune in, turn on and drop out: 77% 

Buy popcorn and watch from the sidelines: 

26 people voted.


Every movement, political or otherwise, has a governing philosophy. Hippies were no exception. Core values were too rich to lose and stuck with us, fifty years down the road.


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