|The Flower People. Henry Gross. ("The Lynch Family" pp. 69-91) New York. Ballantine Books. pbk. 17.8 cm, 180 pp. 1968.|
Michael Kindman, "My Odyssey through the Underground Press" p. 413:"... Below this, was a long letter from a reader, Patti Ramsay, who writes of reading a book entitled The Flower People by Henry Gross, whose slightly fictionalized account of Fort Hill, under the name the "Lynch family," especially appealed to her. She had obtained from the author more information about the actual "Lyman family" and now was asking Mel to tell her more about it. ..."Henry Gross, introduction to The Flower People:"... all the names have been changed to protect the people involved..."
[see also: At the Arlington Street Church: Where was God?]
The Lynch Familyfrom The Flower People by Henry Gross, pp 69-91
Far from the strident psychedelia of the cities, on a quiet hilltop near the sea in central California, sit six modest dwellings, housing, though not always simultaneously, the fifty or so members of the Lynch Clan one of the few communal living efforts in the country that really works.
The motif is rural, the mood relaxed yet industrious, and one feels immediately, upon entering the aura of the place, that he has come upon a people who have not merely dropped out of a way of life, but who have, very wisely, dropped in to something infinitely more sensible and rewarding.
Anybody who genuinely wants to and who brings with him the solitary credential of sincerity can instantly become a member of the family, can stay as long as he likes, can come and go at will and without explanation, and can depart forever with no more formal discharge than a wave of the hand.
Drugs are used minimally or not at all, the decision being the individual's. Children frolic with youthful nonchalance in the well-kept yards, inebriated on air and sunshine alone. Sequestered in one of the rooms, an artist communicates desolately with his canvas, while in a hammock behind a rosebush a nineteen-year-old girl with placid eyes dabs dreamy poetry onto a yellow pad, and a cubicle in an attic sits a young astrologer, poring raptly over his latest chart.
It is a paramountly happy tribe, with David Lynch its godlike guiding chief, smaller family subdivisions within it, and single individuals in unaffiliated abundance although the popular image of Gargantuan communal orgies is, in this instance at least, an erroneous one.
Although David is not physically present at the moment, being on an extended visit to Los Angeles in effort to organize an additional arm of the living organism to which he's given substance, his influence is everywhere in evidence: in the all-pervasive vitality of the group, the rampant peacefulness, and in the driving sense of direction that everyone seems to have. The tribe function so well, in fact, that it has attracted the attention of various neighborhood groups, among them the local Unitarian Church, whose membership convenes one evening in the church's recreation room to serve coffee and cake and "meet the hippies from the commune."
Twelve Lynches and perhaps a hundred Unitarians attend. The mood is relaxed and cordial, and the garb the flower children ranges from the kind of thing President Johnson might wear on his ranch to outlandish combinations of gaily spangled shawls, vests, headpieces, and jewelry. The Unitarians dress somewhat more conservatively; though, in an appealing effort to convey a sense comradeship and open-minded willingness to understand, the teen-aged church members sport beads and clever buttons and say "wow," "groovy" and "man" as often as possible.
Following refreshments and small talk, the two groups assemble, mostly cross-legged, on the rug, with the Lynches more or less at one end to demarcate them from their audience. The Reverend Prentice, a fortyish fellow who could have played the same role on a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover, launches the discussion by holding out his hands for silence.
"I'd like," he says, "to welcome our friends from the commune. Now, I got interested in the hippie movement with a friend of mine early this summer. And the more I found out about the movement, the more I realized that you can't really call anyone a hippie, and define him as such, because there are all sorts and all types, and the name is almost meaningless."
He shifts his weight and rests his hand on the arm of a chair. "But to me, at least, the name indicates a person who is trying desperately to lead his own life in a way he sees fit ... usually in a way that goes against the moral standards that most of us prefer to live with and live by."
He gestures toward the flower children around him. "So this evening we have a whole group of hippies with us. I have the names of them: Bob, Ben, Richard, Tom, Terry, Ella, Sarah, Carolyn, Rosemary, Henry, Alfred, and George all the Lynch family, they call themselves."
"What was their last name?" a young Unitarian lady inquires incredulously, gleaning a warm ripple of laughter.
"Lynch," the reverend repeats. "And I think that would be a good place to start ... if, say, Tom would get up and tell us why they call themselves the Lynch family."
There is general mulling as the reverend descends, Tom uncoils to his feet, and somebody opens a window.
"Well, we call ourselves the Lynch family for a couple of reasons," says Tom, adjusting a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles. "One is the convenience, since we consider ourselves one family we number about fifty all told and rather than introducing everybody with a different name, it's easier to say that we're the Lynch family. Also, considering that we are one family, it would seem normal to take a family name. And the person who founded this group of people, who bound us all together, so to speak, is David Lynch who's in L.A. now."
He twirls a few strands of long dark hair between thumb and forefinger. "David just sort of emerged as our leader because ... well, he's the one who just seems be right about things more often than anybody else. And ... well, it began, really, a few years ago. A small group of us were living in a tiny apartment in Oakland with, you know, six or seven or eight children." A smile crosses his face. "And Oakland isn't a very good place to live, you know."
A surge of chuckling attests to audience agreement on this point. "So," continues Tom, "we began looking around for someplace else. We also felt that it was time to expand and take on more people anyway. We often had as many as eighteen people staying over in the apartment, and it's just too many."
He shifts his weight and hooks his thumb under a wildly ornate leather belt. "Anyway, we found this place around here, and it seemed to be made to order. We started with one house, which had been closed for twelve years and which we rented on kind of an arrangement in which we could do work in exchange for rent, and bring the house up to living standards. It took us, I think, six weeks to get hot and cold running water, and six months to get electricity. But we now have a built-in refrigerator and" he smiles with the pride of a do-it-yourselfer "all kinds of goodies." He pauses, sensing skepticism. "Yes!" he says with a grin. "They really work!
"Anyway, since then more and more people have moved into our group, and bit by bit we built up to our present number of fifty, and now we have six houses on the block."
He looks whimsically about for rescue. "That's brief and sketchy, I guess, but that's the history of how we got there. Would somebody like to give me a rest?"
A reddish crew-cut in the audience raises his hand, and the reverend, playing master of ceremonies, points to him. "I think," says the fellow intently, pausing momentarily at that point to organize his thoughts, "well, in my opinion, I think that what has caused a lot of trouble in our generation is the persistence of an authoritarian attitude in some families. You know, this patriarch thing, where the father, or in some cases the mother, is right simply because he's the person in command. And that's what I wonder about this family. You know, because it's so super-patriarchal, with one leader and all, wouldn't you run into the same type of problem?"
"No," says Bob, and all eyes sweep toward a well-built Lynch member sitting with his back propped against the leg of a chair. "You see, we don't have an authoritarian kind of society. I know it sounds awful to put it like this, but in our case it's like our leader is right whereas our fathers weren't. You see, David is the leader, and leader means nothing more than the person who is listened to more than anyone else. And the person who is listened to more than anyone else is the person who's right more than anyone else."
He senses the general doubt and attempts to dispel it. "Well, like take myself. I'm a Libra, and one of the biggest hang-ups of a Libra is being very conscious of balance, very aware of both sides of a story. I'm basically a very skeptical person, very questioning, very difficult to convince. And working with David, who is so forceful, so absolute, would seem to be impossible for someone like me. Yet at times when he's said something that seemed extreme and absurd and I questioned it and thought that the decision was not the right one, it always turned out to be right, regardless of how extreme it was. So my point is that for me to be recognizing a person as a leader" he smiles somewhat sheepishly, realizing he's proved nothing "well, that person must really have something."
A Lynch girl in a knitted shawl cuts in and lifts him off the hook by offering her own interpretation of David's unique role. "Each person that comes to our group," she explains, "or that will come here, has a certain job that he or she does. And my job is not David's job, and David's is not mine or Sarah's or Richard's. We all have our specific thing we do. Like we're not really a community of hippies, but rather a community of artists. And Richard paints, and Roger is an astrologer and film-maker, and Bob and Terry are a sound artist and technician ... and while each person blows his own thing, what David does, David is there to coordinate."
She smoothes the lap of her dress with her hands. "Not that anyone, you know, hesitates or waits for his word before they do something. It's just that you ... well, it's really a discipleship more than anything else. Like David taught me more during one summer than I'd learned throughout my entire life. Without any question, he put together a lot of things which I'd felt for a long time were true ... he put them into words, you know, linked them together so that it all had some meaning. And he's done this with all of us. Like, we still each do our own thing, but it's just so influenced by David's coordination that ... well ... I guess that's why we consider him our leader."
A white-haired member of the church group, with a friendly face that was years in the carving, clears his throat and is immediately given the floor. He doesn't bother to rise as he speaks. "One thing I'm curious about," he says, "is how you manage the financial arrangements. For example, in regard to taxes. How does that work?"
"Meaning what taxes?" asks Tom.
"Well, like income taxes."
"We don't make enough money now to pay income taxes."
The gentleman is surprised. "None of the fifty?"
"Well," says Tom, "our income is generally very erratic. Like every so often we have somebody who has a job, and that goes a long way ... and occasionally Richard will sell a painting, but the rest of the time people just ... well, when money is needed, people just find it."
He smiles, aware of the credibility gap. "You see, each house is responsible ... we each are responsible for raising our own rent. There's no community thing about it, and as far as the housing problem goes, we have enough people in each house so that either one person can find all the rent or everyone can find a little bit of it. In terms of food, we go down to the markets every Saturday night after they close and pick up what the affluent society wastes."
"And it's very good," chimes in Bob, "and there's lots of it." He draws a laugh by rolling his eyes like a boy beholding a malted. "Crates and crates of melons, corn ... all the garbage. But it doesn't bother us at all."
From the dissipating laughter comes the old man again. "In other words" he returns to the tax situation "your leader, say, couldn't take all fifty of you as dependents at six hundred dollars each, is that right?"
"Right," says Tom. "He doesn't make any money to take deductions on, anyway. He has no you know no concept of money at all ... what it means or anything. He just spends it if it's there and doesn't if it's not. Somehow we all make out.
"Of course," Tom points out, "there will probably come a time when one of our things begins to pay off ... like Richard's paintings or a recording company we're thinking of starting or possibly even a television station. And if that happens, we'll incorporate ... a nonprofit corporation. And then we wouldn't have to pay as many taxes, and the corporation would go to support us all. All those technicalities and legalities will be worked out when the time comes. If it means we'll have to pay taxes, we'll pay taxes. I mean, we won't withhold them ... like Vietnam taxes or anything." l
Bob lifts his hand and inserts a related point. "You know," he says, "the reason that our group manages to make this kind of thing work is probably the result of two main things. One is the amount of activity that goes on. Everybody in our group works and works hard. They don't have to work at something that necessarily makes money, but they have to justify their existence in some way.
"The other thing is that there are practically no people in our group, with the exception of the children, who are under twenty-one. We're a more mature group, in general, than most of the hippie communes."
"That's true," puts in one of the Lynch girls. "The hippie groups generally have an average age of seventeen or eighteen. They're not really old enough to make things work."
Tom picks it up again, twirling his hair between his fingers. "I just got back from San Francisco where I spent quite a few days with the Diggers, and- "
"Is that a family group, too?" asks a lady from the side of the room.
"No and that's the difference between the Digger and us. The Diggers are a kind of very high-powered organizing group that gets together and bam bam bam gets things done. They'll build a hotel, or they'll collect food for six hundred and fifty people, but the Digger don't eat their meals together. They live in three, four five houses that are scattered around Haight, and there might be ten or twelve in a house, but they really don't have the close bond that we have going for us."
He straightens his glasses. "As a matter of fact, there's a lot of trouble in Haight-Ashbury right now. That whole scene out there is really falling apart. And I really think that it's because, even though the Diggers are working like mad, the rest of the people have gone out to sit in the park for a while and catch the rays."
The old man says, "You mean they're what you might call superficial hippies."
"Well," says Tom, "they don't have much intention in their lives. Maybe it's just because they're kind of young. Like most of the people you probably see in Haight, most of the people lying on the sidewalk that you go tripping over, they're about fifteen or sixteen, and they're from Orange County down in L.A., and their family owns two cars, and they're there for the summer. And when they get their fill of it, you know, and when the summer's over, they go back to some high school somewhere."
There is a lull for a few seconds, then a lady in the rear of the room says, "Speaking of schools, do you send your children to the public schools?"
Tom shakes his head and chuckles, passing the question to Bob, who smiles with amusement. "Well, actually," Bob concedes, "in terms of public schools, we're starting our own school, and the person who was supposed to start the school was delayed in New York, so I guess-" He laughs. "Well, we had a run-in with the truant officer, because our school couldn't start when the public schools started ... so I guess we're sending the kids to public schools in the meantime."
"Well, why," the lady inquires further, "do you want to set up your own school for your children, anyway?"
"Because," says Tom, "the school to which they would normally be sent is a waste of time. It's useful in meeting people outside of our community, but in terms of education it's a sheer waste of time."
"You mean," says the lady, not vindictively, "that you made a judgment about the teachers and the curriculum and-"
"Yes," says Tom. "The kids were in the school all last year. And we came to realize that in a community such as ours, with fifty creative people, the kids can simply learn a lot more from us. I'm sure there are those among us who are far more qualified than the average public schoolteacher."
"What about the draft?" a young male voice from the rear alters the subject.
"The draft?" repeats Bob.
"I mean, you know, your attitude toward it and like that."
"Well, we're generally against the war in Vietnam," said Bob, evoking laughter for expressing so mildly what hippies, to the popular mind, might be expected to declaim so rabidly. "But as for the draft ... well, it's a private responsibility, ranging from, I guess ... well, we have people who've done service; I think there are even some decorated war heroes in the group. And we also have people who have dodged the draft . .. people who've gotten out of it in one way or another ... and then others who are enlistees and have gone in during the past two years." He shrugs Socratically. "As I say, it's up to the individual."
A plump woman in a gold dress raises her hand. "How come you dress the way you do?" she inquires comically, and the room erupts into guffaws.
Tom waits patiently for the mirth to dwindle. "Why do you dress the way you do?" he counters, and another surge of laughter fills the room.
But he's made his point, and the ball is picked up by one of the Lynch girls. "My answer to that question," she says, "would be that everybody dresses the way they feel most comfortable right? But what, in God's heaven, is comfortable about a tie around your neck that you can't breathe in?"
General agreement murmurs through the audience. "Actually," Tom refines and polishes, "what Ella means is comfortable in the psychological sense. Like if we went to work, we would put on work clothes; if we wanted to do dress to go out, we'd be as pretty and as elegant as we could. I think that in appropriate situations people wear jackets and ties, despite the fact that they're physically uncomfortable, because if they didn't, they'd be more uncomfortable in a different way. In other words, they really would be more comfortable in a jacket and a tie."
The plump woman pursues the matter. "This question is very interesting," she says, "because some people, from the time they were children, were brought up with a tie and jacket. Yet, let's say they had the same opinions or ideals as you in some ways, but were still accustomed to wearing a jacket and tie. I don't think they would be accepted in your group, because I've never seen them. Would they?"
"Well," says Tom, "I was brought up with a tie and jacket for years and years. In fact," he grins, "I still wear the jacket." A Jack Benny pause. "Because I can't do without the pockets."
The woman persists good-naturedly through the laughter. "Well, what about if somebody cut their hair in a crew cut? Would they be accepted then?"
There is a general affirmative response from the Lynch group. "After all," says one of them, "it's only a state of mind."
"Then why," slices the woman with a grin, "don't you do it?"
A roar of laughter explosively overrides the patent invalidity of her reasoning. When it subsides, Tom tries to patch up the pieces. "It really is only a state of mind. You see, hippieness ... well, it's nothing that can be precisely defined, but it's just like being opened up and not being put on by looks. I mean, what are looks? Well, this is what we're constantly trying to do in our group go beyond these conventional ways of communicating with one another and trying to really get to the bottom of each and every one of us. We like to get inside each other's heads, and once we get that far down, who cares, you know, what kind of clothes a person wears?"
There is a widespread flutter of concurrence; cleverness, for once, has succumbed to common sense. Now the old man makes his presence known again, and all heads turn respectfully to the elder. "In San Francisco," he says, "you hear a lot about psychedelic drugs and that sort of thing. Does that have anything to do with your family life?"
"Well," says Tom, "we try to-"
"It's hard to say," interjects Bob.
"I think-" says Tom, "well, once again, it's an individual thing and ..." he smiles, "it helps."
"The question was a long time in coming," Bob notes with a grin, and a ripple of laughter, of the tension-release variety, circuits through the room.
"Actually," picks up Tom in a more serious vein, "I think drugs have helped some of us ... those of us who have taken them. As a matter of fact, I think in every case, everybody who has taken drugs and not everyone has has found it to be a very good experience. And this is mainly because David, our leader, is a terrific guide. He really helps us in every way possible. But there is actually very little drug-taking at the present time."
"Could I say something?" says a grimacing girl on the sidelines. "Could I suggest that we stand up for a minute, because many of us are very cramped?"
Laughter accompanies the eager attendance to this suggestion. Five minutes later everybody is settled again, and Tom begins discoursing on the drug experience. "LSD," he explains, "can be an extremely powerful tool if used properly. I mean, you take LSD and you get really opened up to yourself.
"Of course you naturally forget it when you come down from a trip, you don't remember anything that happened to you; you can't. You can only remember that you were someplace else ... perhaps that you had an incredible vision ... but you're incapable of talking to somebody the next day and coherently telling them where you were and what you saw. I've never seen it happen just simply because you've transcended your mind for a while, and to put that kind of deep level of mental experience into words can't be done at once. You've got to really sit on the thing for a long, long time to try to understand what happened to you ... and to create images and analogies and ways to talk about it and communicate it. I mean, if someone asked you what an LSD trip was like, you'd just have to say it was something else and leave it at that."
The audience is listening raptly, all eyes and ears tuned to maximum reception, like bugs with antennae at the ready. "Can you communicate with others when you're on LSD?" comes a question from a young lady.
Bob takes over. "That depends. You see, LSD is basically an inside experience. Some people just sit in a corner for twelve hours. Other people talk a lot. And others, of course, can freak out, roll on the floor ... you know."
"Well, I know this girl," says the young lady, "and she claims she can talk a great deal on LSD. She's taken about thirty trips, and-"
"Well, probably," says Bob, "if she's taken thirty trips she can. You see, when you've taken that many trips, each subsequent trip is on a lower level than the one previous. And if the circumstances are right for the first one, you don't need ... I mean, a door that important is only opened to you once. If you don't see the importance of what's on the other side of that door the first time, you don't get a second chance. After that, you're just playing with the drug. The trouble is, you've got no way of judging it. I know many, many people who've taken thirty or fifty trips, and they think the last one was more important than the first one. They think that each subsequent trip had a greater value of opening them up than the first one. And again, they've got no way to discriminate, no way to judge, because, since they can't explain the first one, how can they explain the thirtieth one? It doesn't, you know, get simpler."
"Well the thing is," persists the girl, "I've heard it said that people have to take many trips before they hit the one trip that counts."
"That's also possible." Tom picks up the ball. "Again you've got to take it under the right circumstances. It's just like ... like falling in love with a woman you've met thirty times before. You don't fall in love with her the first time or the second time or the third time ... but the thirtieth time you do. Now, you could say, 'Why didn't I fall in love with her the first time?' "
He turns both palms upward in homage to the obvious. "You see? It's the same thing. The circumstances just weren't set up for it, you didn't see those things, you were blind to them. And then suddenly it's there, it's been there all the time. Well, that's also true for many people with LSD."
He's made his point, and he stops. "Anyway," Bob resumes, "what I was referring to were the people who had the right circumstance the first time. Like my own first LSD trip was perfectly built up to. I was really prepared for it, because along with the LSD, David sent along about a twelve-page letter explaining just what I was to do ... you know? So I'd be set up for the thing to make it as effective as possible."
"How long did this take?" asks a teenager sitting on a piano bench. "A week? A year?"
"Well, it's hard to say," says Bob. "I thought about it for a long time. And then the LSD just happened to come available at a time that was right for me ... a time when I was ready to know those things."
"Do you have to take it at any special place?"
"No ... that doesn't matter as much as you might think. It's not the physical environment, it's the emotional and mental environment. You should be calm when you take it."
"Would you recommend that I take a trip?" puts in the old man with an impish glint in his eye.
The apparent incongruity of the idea elicits laughter. "Well," says Bob when it diminishes, "I'd recommend that, you know that everybody take a trip. But I'd recommend that if they haven't done it before, or even if they have, they treat it with the utmost seriousness ... and, you know, expect to get out of it everything in the world."
"Do you have that letter David sent you?"
"Yeah, I have it around somewhere," says Bob.
"You know," says the old man with introspective sincerity, "I think I might enjoy myself on it for a while, but then ... well, you know, you hear about bad trips and all... insanity and so on... and-"
"Well, I don't think it's possible," says Bob, "to take a real LSD trip and not go through that. Because even if this tendency toward insanity isn't inside you and I don't think there's anybody that's walking on this earth that doesn't have those layers of chaos and confusion inside him but even if he's so spotlessly clean that he doesn't have these areas of confusion, he'll pick up on the general emanations coming from other people. I mean, we're all related on inner things. Our minds are not totally our own any more than our emotions are. We share them with those people we associate with; we share what we get from our parents and our grandparents. I mean, we are, in our minds and our feelings, greatly a result of our environment, so you necessarily have to go through those levels of consciousness on an LSD trip. And they'd naturally be pretty scary ... and they always are pretty scary."
He pauses to light a cigarette. "On my own first trip I went through a long, long period I'll never forget ... monsters and demons all over the place. And I didn't want any part of it. I said, 'No, no, no, I'm sorry I took LSD' and tried to forget all about it. But there was nothing to do. I had strong enough control of myself so that I didn't jump out the window, but I wanted to. I really wanted to end it all. I would have done anything ... but somehow I had enough stability and enough strength just to keep myself still, knowing, just as David's letter had said, that it would come and it would pass ... that I'd smile and get through it.
"Which" he smiles at the enraptured audience "is what happened."
There's some rustling in the room as people resettle themselves, then a small female voice inquires as to whether or not LSD can reveal any great truths to the user.
"Nothing new," Bob emphasizes. "The only thing is, the old ones can be gained faster."
"You mean," says the lady, "by the specific individual, right?"
"Right," says Bob. "Like the philosophers and sages of the past didn't have LSD, and they arrived at the same state of consciousness. But it took much longer. I mean, Buddha sat under the bo tree for eight years before he ever became illuminated."
"Illuminated?" questions the lady.
"Just totally aware," Bob clarifies. "After eight years he reached a state where he was superconscious all the time." He considers this for a moment. "Actually, all great men ... all men who do works of transcending greatness are superconscious at the time. Like one of the people who has meant the most to me has been Emerson Now, there was a man that produced a great part of his work in writing and thinking in a state of superconsciousness. He was just as high as anybody in the Sumati or enlightened state. And it's the same with every great poet and painter when they produced a masterpiece they were right there with it."
"Do you think of yourself as approaching this state?" puts in the reverend.
"In a sense, yes," says Bob. "Like I've had the experience of getting right back to the first state I achieved on the LSD trip without the use of drugs. It's been something I've worked on, knowing it was there. That's the important thing; that's what LSD showed me that the state was there, that it existed."
"In other words," the reverend verifies his understanding, "now you know what to strive for; now you know where you're going."
"Right," says Bob. "Before that I was lost. I didn't know how to get from where I was to where I wanted to go. And all the LSD furnished was a guide, an arrow, that said, 'Go this way.' And from that moment on I tried to go that way."
There are a few seconds of lull, then Bob, grinning, turns to the artist, Richard, who is engrossed in a cluster of grapes. "Maybe ... would you like to say anything, Richard?"
Richard, from whose face shines serenity as if from a halo, draws good-humored tittering by making it plain he'd rather nibble than babble. "Yes," he says, visibly gearing himself up for public speaking, "I did have several trips ... a number of years ago."
He picks a bit of grapeskin from his teeth as he amasses and organizes his thoughts. "Well" he resigns himself to going into it "during most of that first trip I saw what great perfection and harmony could be attained. In all things in painting, in writing, in walking, in eating, in being with people. And afterwards I knew that it would take me a lifetime to try to create the harmony that I saw. It just reminded me that there was much more to myself than I ... it woke me up in a way, you know, as though I'd been sleeping all my life."
He pauses, and a lady in the middle of the room jumps into the vacuum. "You know," she says, and she seems, judging by the audience murmur, to be summarizing the sentiments of most, "all this sounds great. It really does. But frankly, I'd be just plain scared to take a trip."
Richard acknowledges her with a peaceful nod of his head. "Well, of course," he says understandingly, "all powerful things have a twofold nature. There's an incredible power for good and an incredible power for bad, and LSD is no different. If it's used constructively, because you really want to know, then you'll be told. You get exactly what you put into it ... and if you pick it up just to amuse yourself, just to have a good time-"
"Maybe you will have a good time," interjects the old man.
"Well, that depends," says Richard. "You know, everyone gets something different out of an LSD trip. Again, it's what's inside you. What's inside you comes out, comes to the surface where you can see it. And if those things are things like repressed violence, then you're bound to see them, too."
He picks absently at a hair on his sweater. "But it's as if you're seeing them from a long way out. As if you're looking at your self from a great distance. You may see that self choking people or throwing itself on the floor or bashing its head against the wall. In other words, those things may be deep within you and have never been let out before. And it's scary to see it, but you've got to see it someday."
"I'm not sure I'd want to," says the lady, harvesting another rustle of assent from the audience. "I'm afraid that I might see so many repulsive things about myself that I might go into a real depression."
Richard shrugs with the easy nonchalance of one who has risked and won and may now sit safely back and merely recount. "Well," he says, "you just have to prepare to go into a real depression if you want to clean those things out."
"An unhappy love affair can make you see those things in yourself, too," puts in a thin woman. "It can really open you up."
"That's very true," Richard agrees. "Anything that really shakes you, it's the same thing it forces you to get out of the little narrow-minded thing you've got going. Whatever you've got going for yourself, all your defenses and blockages, it just smashes them, and you've got to stand back and see yourself and see the whole thing very clearly."
He rummages for an analogy. "It's the same kind of thing when you wake up in the middle of the night sometimes, like just before dawn, and you can't sleep, and it's as though you can see your whole life closing up around you or opening up before you ... or whatever it's doing. And suddenly you see this as though you're on top of a mountain. It's all very clear...."
He pauses, and there is silence. The old man asks: "Would you take LSD again?"
Richard shakes his head. "Probably not. I took it again after that, and it was less of an experience, and I took it once more after that and it was even less."
The sense of silence persists for several seconds until a cheery-faced lady inquires totally out of context: "I think you all are very clean ... do you have any rules about keeping clean?"
Staccato levity perforates the air of significance like spray from a machine gun.
"Let me tell you something about that," takes up Tom with a grin. "There was this real idiot, this Dr. Somebody or other, who is like the head of the San Francisco health department. And this doctor decided that all hippies were A, diseased, and B. living in filth. It was" he blinks his eyes with patient sarcasm "just terrible. Anyway ... so he mobilized the D.A.R. and what have you, to like get on the city health commission to run a house-to-house inspection of Haight-Ashbury and of course they would catch all these hippies living in filth and all kinds of unimaginable sin and what have you."
He chuckles. "Well, the police inspectors went into these buildings and found just six violations and every one were the landlords' faults, and not the people who were living there.
"I mean," he declares with a laugh, "I can't live with Bob if Bob doesn't take a bath every now and then. It's normal living, that's all. And like I'm sure that there are some houses and some hippies that are not as clean as they might be. But this is not characteristic."
"Do you believe in God?" asks a teenage girl.
"You mean we as a group?" says Tom.
"Well ... like you personally."
Tom fingers his hair thoughtfully. "I've always believed in ... well, powers beyond what we call ordinary powers. But I've never been much of a spiritualist."
"I mean do you believe in a personalized God?" says the girl.
"No, I don't believe in that great big God up in the sky that's watching what you do, and if you do something bad He punishes you, and if you do something good He rewards you with something. I believe, you know, that God is inside everybody, and ... well, I believe in life."
"What about love?" inquires a middle-aged lady. "I mean, you hear all about hippies being the love generation. Does that mean" she reaps the predictable laugh "that you're falling in love all the time?"
The question is fielded by Sarah, who has, until now, been quietly crocheting a sweater. "All the time," she agrees humorously; then, more seriously, "but the thing is, you have to control it. I mean, falling in love is one way, but you can reach that same place, that same love, without a man or a woman. You can reach that within yourself, and at the same time keep up your work and get a job and deal with society. And that's like becoming what love is ... becoming closer to what you really are."
She shifts to a more comfortable position on the rug. "That's what's so wonderful about our family. Because the more people you come in contact with or touch or reach out to, the more you become." She smiles, wondering if she is getting across. "It's like we all get inside each other's head."
"Wouldn't a point be reached," suggests the old man, "where there would be too many people to get inside everybody's head?"
"I don't think so." Bob takes over. "We hope never to see it happen, anyway. I mean, it's true that it would be very hard to take a large group of people to start with and try to reach that point. But if you start with a nucleus as we did, and this nucleus goes through enough of a cathartic process to be opened up to each other, then, as new people are added, they can blend into the group very quickly."
"What we're looking for," adds Tom, "is like a revolution of individual responsibility. I mean, the people who can't live with us are the people who are selfish, who put themselves first, and who can't cooperate and make the whole family work. Those are the people who have to run, like, screaming back into the bushes. But the people who can live together ... like the men who will help set the table or build little things for the houses or repair things ... well, this is the right kind of feeling. Women who make clashes or cook the food or do these Emersonian, Thoreauian type things, you know ... that's the kind of thing we do."
"You know," Bob resumes, "I think it might be well to emphasize that. When we are living together, we try to do the basic family tasks which might correspond to, you know, pioneer tasks ... just basic things, like cooking, sewing ... that sort of thing. And ... well, I can't speak for myself, but I think the women see this role of ... that's the being a woman, being a mother, as very important. And this is the way they exist. It's being a woman to their man, and I mean it in just those basic terms. It's a simple life, and very satisfying."
There is a pause, and the reverend takes advantage of it. "It's getting a little late," he acknowledges for everybody, "and I wonder if perhaps, Tom or Bob, you could kind of sum things up for us. Like well, one final question I had was what do you think will happen to your commune in, say, oh, thirty years from now? Will it still be around? Will it have grown?"
"Oh, definitely," says Tom. "And that's exactly why this kind of community is so important ... because there are going to be a lot of people around in the world, and they are really going to have to live with each other. Really. Unless, of course, we have another war and wipe them out. I don't know. But it seems like all this communal living, if you want to look for some kind of reason for it, then that in itself is an excellent reason. Because with all those people there could be real chaos and that's not what we're on this earth for, you know we're on this earth to make a paradise."
He pauses almost wistfully. "To put heaven on earth," he says. "That's what it's really all about."
The statement smacks sufficiently of oratory to generate applause, and with it the unspoken understanding that the symposium is over. For the next half hour there is general milling about and chitchat, and plenty of buttonholing of Lynch-family members by small groups of church members who wish to enlarge their knowledge in specific areas.
By midnight all is silent. The Unitarians have gone to their homes, the Lynches to theirs. Though consensus has surely not been achieved, nor, for that matter, sought, the harmonious interchange of information about two disparate ways of life has been refreshing and valuable.
And, if anyone has bothered to keep score, it is perhaps mildly significant to note that, if any swaying of ideology at all has taken place, it has been in the direction of the Lynch way of life, and not the other way around.