The Plight of the Aging Drop Out
The Moving Saw
She stopped curling her hair and grew it long, relaxing with the natural look. She cooked rice and beans, grew vegetables in her city garden, and invited a long-haired ex-teacher on welfare to shack up with her. He attended political rallies and went south to march for Civil Rights while she happily stayed put and paid the rent with her paycheck from Lena’s, a small jewelry and pottery shop stocked with the works of local artists.
When his father died, they used the inheritance to buy land near a village that was a center of alternative ways to live, talk, eat, and worship—or not—outside the system. There were Celtic Wiccan groups, Native American sweat lodges, co-housing ventures, Zen Monasteries, yoga studios, and walks where a guide identified wild plants and their uses for food and medicine.
They took a couple of LSD trips and regularly smoked grass, occasionally eating peyote or mushrooms. They enjoyed the way these psychedelics loosened them from their worries, opened their hearts, and renewed their vision of truth, one they could never fully express but which made them smile agreement at one another. Until that really bad trip where they got so mad at each other over the way she ran her hands through her hair, they almost broke up.
He went to work as a carpenter, a trade that allowed him to keep his long hair with its message: I am not a banker, not an establishment man. I am not oppressing American citizens or ripping off the poor in Third World countries for cheap labor. He refused to build square houses and took jobs that included solar panels, composting toilets, and other earth friendly features. His own house was an earth berm structure set deeply into the southern side of a hill, with solar panels on the roof and additional panels in the garden that sent energy to a row of heavy duty batteries in the back of the house.
They birthed their children at home in the presence of midwives, fed them mother’s milk and the best organic foods available, and home-schooled. They built lasting friendships with other off grid, home schooling families. They grieved when their best friends broke up.
The children grew up. Curious about the world they had missed—TV, movies, gymnastics and Nintendo—they faded back into the still standing social structure, leaving the old folks alone off grid. Meanwhile, the environmental and human rights causes the couple had supported were worse off than before. Society seemed to be going downhill. The monster of capitalism had not fallen into dust from the weight of its own lies but was somehow still keeping on. The air and water, even in the countryside, was increasingly polluted. Everyone had to install filters and air purifiers, if they could afford these expensive items. Gone were the days when you could retreat from society and believe that all would come out right in the end.
Although they counted themselves among the most aware of the general population, more aware then their own children, the couple had to admit there was still much they did not know. In spite of the psychedelic trips, they did not know how creation worked or who made it work. More to the immediate point, they did not know who had pulled the puppet strings on a succession of American presidents—for it was obvious each had not been free, once in office, to keep campaign promises. Above all, they did not know how to make other people more aware, how to get others to refuse a co-opted government and culture, how to bring peace to earth. They did not agree with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters that the correct method was to spike everyone’s cool-aid with LSD, for such a method would have pre-empted the free will of the people. And what was truth if not what was observed by the person with his own courage?
In their youth it had seemed clear that they would easily live to see a world that worked as a good world should. Now, in their sixties and not having saved their children, they wondered what it had all meant. What had gone wrong that there should still be global warming, after all the warnings, and oil spreading throughout the Gulf of Mexico because of the careless, callous attitudes of those who made decisions? Who were they, the decision makers? What was their special brand of craziness? It was like the cartoon of a man sitting on a limb while he saws it off at a point closer to the tree than where he is sitting. The world was perched there with the maniac. All could see the saw moving up and down. But they could not see who sawed.