In San Francisco this morning, we drove westward out Fell Street. We passed along the north edge of Panhandle Park, which is an 8-block long strip of greenery that provides overstory of shade and repose within this city that seems to vibrate continuously with energy and good will.
As we crossed Ashbury, I glanced through the narrow park toward the Haight, and my mind traveled back in time, as it would for so many of us boomers who vividly remember the color and serendipity of the late 1960s, and how the untamed zeitgeist of that era was expressed here so freely and recklessly.
‘T’was here that the shot heard round the world was fired, or so it seemed to us at the time. No gunshot is it of course, of which I speak, but rather, a double shot of my baby’s love, yeah yeah yeah. On a good day you could loosely refer to the late 1960s free love movement that way. Or, on a bad day, you might think of it as a big shot of what James Taylor referred to, figuratively, as “hot steamin’ junk.’ That’s a phrase that could mean different things to different people, as I’m sure the bard intended when he wrote the song, so I leave the true meaning of the shot to your active, or inactive (as the case may be) imagination.
As it later turned out, however, my subsequent life, after that heady, youthful time of vicarious hippie wannabeism took a different turn.
And so, on this brilliantly sunny Sunday morning in September of 2013, our son was driving me and Pat to a nearby church.
Yesterday over breakfast, you see, I had been explaining to some of Micah’s friends, one of whom was our friend, pastor Toby, how things used to be in San Francisco before they were born, back in the day. How the shot heard round the world had been fired by Life magazine and Time, and the record companies. It was a huge shot of flower-power publicity that softly propagated the Haight-Ashbury pipe-dreams of peace, love, and turn on tune in drop out, etcetera etcetera etcetera onto my g-g-generation, a generation that was, for a while, lost in space, as brother Don later called it.
And so I had explained on Saturday morning to the thirty-somethings that, while the Panhandle Park groupies of forty years ago had sat, anesthetized on gonja, and drifting into a zone where logic and proportion Fell far behind– even as their post-beat dharma-laden layback lifestyle was being lionized by pop culture–there was another noteworthy group in the vicinity.
This other group was a dorky, uncool assemblage of zealots of a different homo sapiens breed. They, like, wore, like, plastic protectors in their shirt pockets and sported horn-rimmed glasses instead of the Lennonish granny glasses. Collectively, these guys developed an obsession with transistors and solid-state circuits into a totally new industry that would, before too long, change the world in a very big way.
Focused and driven, and forty miles from the epicenter of hippie heaven, these Silicon Valley guys were busily shaping our future. Ultimately, they invented and developed the electronic hardware, programming, and text through which you now catch my drift.
Situated down the peninsula, around Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Cupertino, etc, they broke ground on new frontiers of calculation and communication, fomenting breakthroughs that have profoundly shaped the future, and generating thereby as-yet-unimagined career opportunities for many an enterprising post-’60s young person, including, long about the late 1990s, our son.
Although our son is certainly not a dork, he nevertheless has followed in the electronic footsteps of those Silicon Valley pioneers. His life path has taken a far different trajectory than mine did. My personal development, you see, had skipped a beat or two during that comfortably numb time of Alice’s distractions, when Grace Slick had posed a few questions over in the Park and together we took a detour through a Haight-Ashbury rabbit hole. Not that I was actually there, you see, but I was one of those dreamers who strung along, vicariously, from out in the hinterlands.
But this morning, well, we zipped right on past all that flashback stuff this morning, going to church–Christ Church of Park Presidio, a few blocks north of Golden Gate Park. Does that sound really old-school? Well, yes. But hey, Truth trumps pipe dreams in every Time.
So there we were at Christ Church this morning. And there we heard our friend Toby teach from the Bible about a forty-day flood, long ago, that imposed, like it or not, the judgement of God, and there we learned of Noah, who participated in our Creator’s redemptive processes upon the earth. And we understood more deeply, through the Noahic foreshadowing, Christ’s grace, which redeems us and enables us to flush away the rabbit-hole distractions that had flooded our youth with chaos and confusion.
Forgive me for putting it in these terms: Jesus was the original flower child; but he didn’t have to do LSD or any other such thing to accomplish our salvation.
All the bad stuff of this world that would destroy the good in us–it descended like all hell breaking loose, on him at the cross, and took its fatal toll. But then he raised from the dead, somewhat like, thanks to Noah, the human race had emerged from the Flood. You believe that?
You gotta believe, baby. Faith is what keeps this whole damned world from falling apart.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s been a beautiful, beautiful Sunday in San Francisco. On days like this, I think life is just a walk in the park.
Listen, y’all: Bless the Lord, O my soul!