Next week, I’m headed to Yellow Springs, Ohio. It’s a little town nestled amid the cornfields, and famous for resident comedian Dave Chappelle, Antioch College (Rod Serling was a graduate), Young’s Jersey Dairy, and among other things, a long standing liberal mentality common to those counterculture commandos known as Hippies.
I always wanted to be a hippie. Like many who were too young to be totally immersed in the hippie culture of the sixties, I’ve sometimes thought I was born a decade too late. The hippies had a lot of good ideas, but (stereotype alert) it’s difficult to make continual progress in changing the world when you’re stoned. So much easier and more comfortable to sit back and enjoy the colors instead.
There was the idea of free love, which was an amazingly fabulous idea to most any horny teenager or young adult in the pre-HIV days. Unfortunately for that idea, people figured out that loving your neighbor is a great concept, but having sex with your neighbor (and her neighbor and his neighbor) without boundaries is typically not.
End the war? Great idea. Don’t know why no one thought of it before. But wars will be with us as long as humans hate, miscommunicate, and protect their interests. I suspect it will be a while before all that stops.
Then there was the idea of communes. Where you live in community, share resources, and actually interact with your neighbors on a daily basis . To a great extent, the hippies were right about that one. Which brings me to another famous characteristic of Yellow Springs: the Antioch Writers Workshop (www.antiochwritersworkshop.com).
It’s not a commune as one might typically imagine. People aren’t farming or cohabitating or sharing the chores. It IS a community…a group of writers who come together for a week to learn and grow in the craft, share ideas and experiences, and generally enjoy the refreshing realization that there are like-minded people all over the place.
And for me, that has been powerful stuff. Life-changing stuff.
I’ve attended the workshop several times over the years (with years in between visits). The first time, I was at the beginning of believing in myself as a writer. I felt like I had come home…like a fish in an aquarium who had somehow found the ocean. A new world opened for me. I was astounded and amazed that there were all these people who, like me, embraced the joy, the struggles, the triumphs, and the sheer delight of loving words and writing.
Being immersed for a week in this community of writers changed my life. Its very existence gave me permission to celebrate and enjoy my passion for writing. I think many artists and want-to-be artists need someone or something to affirm this in themselves. Too often, our dreams have been beaten down by parents, teachers, and other authority figures who, though mostly well-meaning, extinguish the spirit of creativity in us through negativity, unbelief, and what they think is best for us. A week in community with other artists is mighty in its ability to help undo all that.
People need people. More specifically, people need people who allow them to be themselves. Lawyers tend to spend time with other lawyers, firemen spend time with firemen, alcoholics spend time with other alcoholics. Writers and other artists are no different. Writers need relationships with other writers.
We all need the relationships that are born and thrive when we are around those who are wired the same way. Community changes lives.
I think the hippies were right on about that. Groovy, man, groovy.