Sun 9 Jun 2013
Remember the New Age movement? In the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, it was a whole subculture “drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational psychology, holistic health, parapsychology [clairvoyance], consciousness research and quantum physics.”
Or so Nevill Drury effusively wrote in The New Age: Searching for the Spiritual Self, Thames and Hudson publishers, London, 2004.
Well, the paradigm has apparently shifted, as Lynn and I discovered Wednesday while driving through the San Geronimo Valley.
Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in Lagunitas.
In front of a sign threatening $1,000 fines for littering the roadside, someone had dumped a large pile of rubbish. The contempt for the county sign was so blatant I assumed the culprit was some anti-social moron, and we stopped so I could snap a few photos.
Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View in a discarded basket leans over Writing Spiritual Books in a nearby trash bag.
When Lynn and I then took a look at what was in the refuse heap, we were startled by what we saw. Along with bedding, a table lamp, women’s clothes, and cosmetic bottles, there were numerous New Age books.
Among the books in one cardboard box were New Age Tarot: Guide to the Throth Deck and a volume about “Universal Peace… Within and Without.”
Lying on the ground was Freud and Man’s Soul by Bruno Bettelheim, “the author of The Uses of Enchantment.” The latter book, by the way, argues that children’s fairy tales help us understand the meaning of life.
In short, we had found an amazing trove of enlightenment or psychobabble, depending on your paradigm. But in either case, how in the world could someone who’d read all these “touchy-feely” tracts feel right about dumping them beside a public road?
The closest I personally ever came to the New Age movement was to buy a few Windam Hill records by pianist George Winston, guitarist William Ackerman, and others back in the 1970s.
Ackerman, who once owned the record label, hated the fact its music was frequently described as New Age, which to him meant wimpy. Before becoming a record label executive, Ackerman had dropped out of Stanford to work as a carpenter, and to emphasize he was no wimp, he one day growled to an interviewer, “I’d like to find the guy that coined the phrase New Age and punch him in the nose.” Or words to that effect.
I’m more pacific. I’d merely like to see the New Age apostate who dumped the trash beside the road caught and fined $1,000. But is there any chance of that happening? Actually it just might — if we are to believe county government. At the bottom of the “$1,000 Fine for Littering” sign are two small, yellow stickers warning that the site is under video surveillance.
I’m now waiting to see whether the surveillance videos are produced with scientific technology or with New Age parapsychology. The problem with clairvoyance, of course, is that it doesn’t hold up in court.