Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “hippies”

An Orthodox hipster?

A few weeks ago I came across a Facebook group called Ask an Orthodox Hipster.

I’ve always had a yen to be a hipster, but I don’t think I’ve ever made it. I suppose the closest I got was a wannabe.

What is a Hipster?

My Concise Oxford Dictionary c1964 doesn’t have it, though I’d been using the word for at least four years before I bought the thing.

But my Collins English Dictionary (Millennium Edition) has:

  • hipster n 1 slang, now rare 1a an enthusiast of modern jazz 1b an outmoded word for hippy
  • hippy or hippie n, pl -pies (esp. during the 1960s) a person whose behaviour, dress, use of drugs etc., implied a rejection of conventional values.

It also gives hippy as meaning having large hips, which is why I prefer the spelling hippie for the other meaning.

Nowadays, however, hipster seems to have come back into fashion and is no longer outmoded, but probably about ten times as common as hippie.

I suppose the term hipster was first popularised with that meaning by Allen Ginsberg in his poem Howl:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,

And after a few weeks as a member of the Ask an Orthodox Hipster group I can see that yes, it is a place for those burning for the ancient heavenly connection to ask questions.

Christian World Liberation Front, Berkeley, California, 1970

And even before the Internet took off, other Orthodox Christians have had a kind of hipster missionary outreach, or started a hipster ministry and then were drawn to Orthodoxy, such as Fr Jack Sparks of the Christian World Liberation Front.

From here on, this gets personal, so quit now if that’s not your thing.

I discovered that the Ask an Orthodox Hipster group differs from other Orthodox groups on Facebook, in that people do not seem to be angry, or attacking each other. If someone asks a question that people can’t answer, they don’t denounce the question as stupid and the questioner as stupid for asking it, they just pass on to the next thing.

I’ve also found that quite a lot of the questions are ones that I have already answered, at least to some extent, in blog posts I’ve written over the last 10-12 years, and if they aren’t, the question is also sometimes a good prompt for a new blog post.

And this perhaps can provide me with a useful occupation for retirement.

Before retiring one thinks of all the things one could do if one had the time, but one does not have time to do when one is working. Many of the things I hoped to do when I retired had to do with Orthodox mission and evangelism, and visiting Orthodox mission congregations and helping them along by teaching and training their leaders and so on. But they are fairly widely scattered, and visiting them costs money. And I think well, I can’t afford to get the car serviced this month, because I have to pay the doctor, or the dentist, so maybe next month. But next month the car not only needs a service, but also a new battery. And the month after that something else is broken, and the price of petrol keeps going up.

But helping people with answers to questions asked on the Internet requires no physical travel, and can actually reach much further, all over the world, in fact. So I think this Orthodox hipster business could be quite fruitful.

We still continue to visit the mission congregations at Atteridgeville (35km west) and Mamelodi (18km East) on alternate Sundays, but travel farther afield will be much more rare physically, but not necessarily electronically.

 

 

It’s cool to be hip but not hip to be cool

A couple of days ago there was some discussion about the following article in some Usenet newsgroups. I was interested in it because of the use of the word “hipster”. It seemed to be used with a meaning very different from the meaning I understood.

I’m interested in words and how they are used, partly because it used to be my job as an editor for several years, though it would probably be truer to say that I got into the job because of my interest in language and usage rather than the other way round.

Anyway, the article was The Daily Cardinal – Song causes local hipster to self-destruct:

MADISON, WI—Tens of twenties of Madison’s hippest are gathered in mourning this afternoon following the news of the tragic death of local hipster Charles “Wayne” Duchene, 22, who died a horrific and most likely cliche death late Monday evening at a Foo Fee Foe concert.

Duchene’s body was found in a puddle of his own PBR at approximately 11:15 p.m. Monday night at the entrance of The Dank Bank, an obscure venue located just off the Capitol Square.

Now this is a student publication and it’s obviously satire, but they have to be satirising something. I had to ask about PBR, which I at first took to be one of those three-letter abbreviations for various medical conditions that hypochondiacs sprinkle their conversations with and expect the rest of us to understand. It transpired that it did not stand for something like Personal Bodily Refuse, but was an allusion to a local beer, though I gather many people who know the brew think there is little difference, but more of that later.

So what is a hipster?

As I understand it, a “hipster” was orginally a jazz fan, and especially a fan of “cool” jazz, a “hip” or “hep” cat.

In Beat Generation circles it was extended to mean someone who was hip to the lies of mainstream culture, and who disaffiliated from it and rejected its values, who did not get over excited over the things pimped by the advertising industry and so on, who was detached from all the frenzy about brands and fashion. That was the essence of “cool” in those days.

As Lawrence Lipton put it in his book “The holy barbarians” (Lipton 1959:150):

The New Poverty is the disaffiliate’s answer to the New Prosperity. It is important to make a living. It is even more important to make a life. Poverty. The very word is taboo in a society where success is equated with virtue and poverty is a sin. Yet it has an honourable ancestry. St. Francis of Assisi revered poverty as his bride, with holy fervor and pious rapture. The poverty of the disaffiliate is not to be confused with the poverty of indigence, intemperance, improvidence or failure. It is simply that the goods and services he has to offer are not valued at a high price in our society. As one beat generation writer said to the square who offered him an advertising job: ‘I’ll scrub your floors and carry out your slops to make a living, but I will not lie for you, pimp for you, stool for you or rat for you.’ It is not the poverty of the ill-tempered and embittered, those who wooed the bitch goddess Success with panting breath and came away rebuffed. It is an independent, voluntary poverty.

So the hipster, or the beat, had a cool and detached attitude to the frenzy of the striving for success in mainstream society.

“Beatniks” were groupies or wannabes. The word was coined by a journalist by analogy with “sputnik” — beatniks were those who were in orbit around the beat movement, but were not central to it.

By the late sixties “hipster” had got shortened to “hippie”, and while the hippies were successors to the beats as a countercultural movement, they were a little less cool. To be “cool” suggested being detached, laid back, not excited by the constant changes of fashion and the striving for success. It was the role of a passive and cynical observer.

Hippies were more active, and more positive in trying not merely to disaffiliate from mainstream culture, but to try to create an alternative to it, an alternative culture and an alternative society.

But the impression I got from the article that sparked off this post is that the writer was using “hipster” in an entirely different sense, to mean something almost opposite from what it meant in the 1950s and 1950s.

I wondered how widespread that usage is — can anyone explain the writer’s usage, and do they share that understanding of the word today, and how did it get to mean almost the opposite of what it meant 50 years ago? “Cool” seems to have changed its meaning a lot in the last 50 years, so I wonder if “hipster” has likewise changed, so that it no means nearly the opposite of what it did back then.

I watch “Top Gear” on TV, and there they discuss what constitutes a “cool” car, and it is clear that their idea of “cool” is very different from mine. My 1961 Peugeot station wagon, with rusty door panels and empty cold-drink cans rolling around on the floor, bought cheap from an open air used car lot where a rickety wooden shack was the “office”, bought on the “zero maintenance” plan, was my idea of a “cool” car, but I doubt very much if the “Top Gear” people are using “cool” in that sense.

Another thing that illustrates the change in the meaning of words like “cool” is Levis jeans. They were cool back then and they are regarded as cool now, for entirely different reasons, and for entirely different values of “cool”. When I bought my first pair of Levis there was only one shop in Johannesburg that sold them, imported them from the USA. It was not advertised and nor were Levis. You learnt about it by word of mouth. It was also a decidedly unfashionable shop in a decidedly unfashionable part of town, Jeppestown, which seems to have escaped the gentrification that has transformed other run-down suburbs. Levis were the opposite of fashionable, tough working clothes that one bought a couple of sizes too big because they would shrink to fit. No one with any fashion sense would be seen dead in Levis. How have the mighty fallen!

But the guy whose death was described in the article in question sounded anything but “hip” to me, the very opposite of “hip”, in fact. So I still wonder what the writer meant by “hipster”, and whether other people understand “hipster” in the same way, and can explain what they mean by it.

To get back to PBR briefly, the Urban Dictionary defines it as:

PBR
abbreviation for pabst blue ribbon beer, which is simultaneously the best and worst beer ever brewed. it is typically on special at bars for twelve cents a pint. also doubles as a laxative.

Pabst Blue Ribbon is a lot like the band Bright Eyes,
Hipsters love it, but everyone else thinks its liquid shit.

Hipsters again. It’s got to mean something in Wisconsin that is different from what it means in the rest of the world… or does it?

Perhaps I should retreat into the past, to when I was a wannabe hipster, and a wannabe beatnik (and if a beatnik is a wannabe beat, then a wannabe beatnik is a wannabe wannabe). My twenty-year-old self went to visit Brother Roger, an Anglican monk of the Community of the Resurrection, whom I regarded as the authority on all things hip and cool (he lent me books by Jack Kerouac, and the Lipton book I quoted above, and many others besides). So I wrote in my diary for 23 June 1961

… later went to see Brother Roger. There he sat, outside the priory in jeans and sweatshirt, on the library steps, luxuriating in the sun studying Lipton’s Holy Barbarians. Studying, yes, truly it is the text book, and he said that he had a book by Clellon Holmes, The horn, about a jazz man, and he says it in that zestful rapturous way of his, which makes me think he gets the utter limit of enjoyment out of everything he does. “It’s wonderful,” he says, “simply wonderful.” And when he says it you know he really means it. He told me about what he is going to say at Modderpoort, and he isn’t giving them Bloy this year, but Jean somebody. The Observer calls him the poet of evil, who has spent half his life in jail, and is something of a misanthropist and hates society, patron saint of the Beats. He gave me a play for the AYPA, by Charles Williams, called House of the octopus, and there was a boy there called Abel, a black boy studying for his matric, and says he is a cat and loves jazz, and Bach, and plays a clarinet which got broken. So I talked a bit to Abel and found he lives in Orlando where he goes to AYPA meetings and is staying at the priory during the vac to study. He is a nice cat, a hip spade cat.

The AYPA was the Anglican Young Peoples Association, a youth organisation with branches in various parishes. Modderpoort was the venue of the annual conference of the Anglican Students Federation, where Brother Roger was going to read his paper about the Jean somebody, who was actually Jean Genet (that was the first time I’d ever heard of him), and you can read his paper, Pilgrims of the Absolute, here.

Yes, I’ve written about this stuff before, sorry if anyone was bored, but I suppose those who have seen it all before wouldn’t have got this far anyway.

Palin, Pentecostals, and Pacifism

Sub Ratione Dei has some interesting quotes and comments on how Pentecostalism seems to have changed over the last 80 years.

Palin, Pentecostals, and Pacifism:

It is true that there are exceptions such as the excellent Pentecostal Charismatic Peace Fellowship but it is revealing to note that in the space of one century the predominant, and nigh on exclusive view, has turned from pacifism to holy war (I don’t see how Palin’s remarks can be interpreted in any other way).

When it started, Pentecostalism was pretty countercultural, and sociologists noted that it tended to attract marginalised people. As time has passed, however, it has tended to become more respectable, and this seems to have been accompanied by a move to the right, politically. I wonder if this change in outlook was, consciously or unconsciously, part of an attempt to become more accepted and acceptable in society?

Now, however, there seems to be a strange inversion. On a pagan newsgroup someone said of Sarah Palin, “Since she an ‘pro life’ anti – abortionist i assume she also favors the death penalty.”

Why should it be possible to assume that?

In another forum someone accused Sarah Palin of being a “Jesus Freak”. My initial response was, “She’s too young”. The Jesus Freaks appeared on the scene 40 years ago as the evangelical Christian arm of the hippie movement. Hippies were called “freaks” by straight society, as an insult, but the hippies adopted the term as a badge of honour, and the Christian hippies were likewise nicknamed “Jesus Freaks”, and were distinctly countercultural.

But to return to the specific question — why is it that 80 years ago one could expect Pentecostals to be inclined to pacifism, but now people can safely assume that they will be warmongers, and that the only life they are pro is unborn humans?

If you look at the bottom of this blog, you will see that it is part of the Christian peacemakers blog ring. That means there should be a post on the topic of peace once a month, and this is it.

People Power Granny: Can Intentional Communities be the Answer to this Messed-Up World?

In the past we have had some Synchroblogs about utopian communities and new monasticism. Here’s a story about a utopian intentional community that started over 30 years ago and is still going strong.

People Power Granny: Can Intentional Communities be the Answer to this Messed-Up World?:

One good example of an intentional community that left the rat race but not the world is the Farm in Summertown, TN. Started in the early 70’s by a ‘family’ of hippies, this community today still is alive and well. But in its 30-plus years of operation, members have gone out into the world to help the suffering, have provided training for the re-birth of midwifery, have created a watershed protector of their local river and have introduced kids in the cities to life on the farm. This community speaks out against illegal wars and other injustices. They have incorporated the internet and other new forms of communication to get their messages out to the world. As a matter of fact, residents of the Farm are often leaders in the world fighting the Powerful.

If you’ve ever thought of joining an intentional community, or are living in one now, you can find more resources on this site.

People Power Granny: Can Intentional Communities be the Answer to this Messed-Up World?

In the past we have had some Synchroblogs about utopian communities and new monasticism. Here’s a story about a utopian intentional community that started over 30 years ago and is still going strong.

People Power Granny: Can Intentional Communities be the Answer to this Messed-Up World?:

One good example of an intentional community that left the rat race but not the world is the Farm in Summertown, TN. Started in the early 70’s by a ‘family’ of hippies, this community today still is alive and well. But in its 30-plus years of operation, members have gone out into the world to help the suffering, have provided training for the re-birth of midwifery, have created a watershed protector of their local river and have introduced kids in the cities to life on the farm. This community speaks out against illegal wars and other injustices. They have incorporated the internet and other new forms of communication to get their messages out to the world. As a matter of fact, residents of the Farm are often leaders in the world fighting the Powerful.

If you’ve ever thought of joining an intentional community, or are living in one now, you can find more resources on this site.

The unrespectability of our religion

I was transcribing some of my old journals this morning, and came across what I had written when I was 19 in response to reading about Leon Bloy.

When I got home I finished reading Leon Bloy and marvelled at his faith and devotion. He had been prepared to live nearly all his life in poverty — nay, in destitution — for the sake of Jesus.

Like Clement of Alexandria, like St Francis of Assisi, he gave up all for love. “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God.” The beatniks are looking for what St Francis was looking for; they are after the absolute values of God rather than the relative values of this world. “A saintly clergy means a virtuous people; a virtuous clergy means a respectable people; a respectable clergy means a godless people.”

Christians must never become respectable. Respectability is the curse of true religion. The slavish following of convention and the mediocrity it leads to, or springs from, are the enemy of all true Christianity. People become indistinguishable, they merge into the mass of the respectable, conventional mass of unthinking semi-morons that people this globe; they have no variety, and variety is the spice of life. They are tasteless, “and if the salt hath lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?” Most Christians do not take their faith at all seriously — in one sense — they are prepared to live with it, but only just. They will not live for their faith, and certainly will not die for it. Saints were too unconventional, too unrespectable, to be imitated. People pay lip service to the examples of the saints, But if anyone should try to follow their example he is denounced, and they say, “Religion is a good thing, but that is taking it too far.” The person against whom such an accusation is levelled has probably just begun to take religion at all seriously. Christians are a lot of hypocrites people say, but if they try not to be hypocrites, then they are fanatics. The unrespectability of our religion! (Journal entry: 17 August 1960)

That was over 40 years ago. I had been introduced to Leon Bloy by Brother Roger, of the Anglican Community of the Resurrection. Bloy’s ideas were more than 60 years old then, and yet they seemed equally relevant to the 1960s. And now I keep reading about similar ideas in emerging church circles, including such things as urban monasticism. I look back at and cringe a little at the teenage arrogance, and wonder if our generation turned out any better than those we so self-righteously denounced.

Things have not changed much since then, it seems. A recent survey shows that most Christians in many countries see themselves first of all as citizens of this world rather than as citizens of the kingdom of God. Our citizenship is in heaven, says St Paul, but most have other gods. This is perhaps not so surprising in Russia, where atheism was the official state-sponsored religion for two generations, but it is a little more disturbing in other countries.

There also seems to be an anomaly in the case of the USA, where a higher proportion said that they saw themselves as Christians first, and citizens of their country second. But I wonder — I suspect that many of those who said that would respond to their country’s recent wars of aggression in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq by saying “My country, right or wrong”.

Hippies

This is the kind of thing I usually post in my LiveJournal, but since I haven’t been able to think of much to say here recently, I thought I’d post it here as well.

Faerie-Child

You are 40% experimental, 31% feral, 54% spiritual, and 10% square!

Well done! You’re a faerie-child. You always stand out from the crowd by the way you dress, but unlike the Feral, not by the way you smell (unless it’s the smell of sandalwood, jasmine, and ylang ylang). You’re not particularly into free love and mind-expanding substances, but you are a free spirit, who believes that there really are magick and miracles in the world.

The hippie world needs you because you bring a little magic into their lives.

If you believe that opposites attract, you probably find yourself around Ferals. If you are more inclined to enjoy the company of those with similar attitudes, then other Faerie-children, as well as the Alternate, Neopagan, and Mystic are for you.

The other categories are Raver, Treehugger, Ful-blown Hippie and of course, the Non-hippie

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

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You scored higher than 99% on experimental
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You scored higher than 99% on feral
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You scored higher than 99% on spiritual
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You scored higher than 99% on non-hippie
Link: The what kind of hippie are you Test written by pragmaticdreams on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

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