Aquarius, where have you gone?
When the moon is in the seventh house
and Jupiter aligned with Mars,
then peace will rule the planets
and love will rule the stars.
This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius...
July was hot, very hot, and our town was struggling to recover from the results of the third flooding in as many years. Walking wounded dazed homeowners trudged through the murky brown waters that covered the streets. Gallows humor was the order of the day, mingled with the sentiment that enough is enough and wondering if it was time to leave. As the week went on, the human spirit revived and one heard, “It is not so bad this time; we know what needs to be done.” The activists amongst us pontificated and harangued about global warming and the villainy of developers whose quest for the might buck leads to building in area where no man should tread.
Walking into shops, one heard proprietors lamenting the loss of business from flooding and the fact that tourists were scarcely to be seen. Some businesses closed their doors, hopes of establishing themselves gone, knowing that the pensions invested were lost. Signs started to appear which read, “Awaken the entrepreneurial spirit” and were meant to capture those new to the dream of being self-employed.
Let’s go back a few years to the millennium that was harked with so much hoopla and optimism. Such optimistic prognostications long ago dissipated. In their stead came wars; September 11, 2001; and the bloody streets of Beirut, Haifa, and Baghdad. Infrastructures were destroyed, tempers frayed, children became war casualties, never to cross the threshold into adulthood.
My thoughts wander back over the decades and I am left wondering, Whatever happened to the Age of Aquarius? Some say that we, the ideologues, the Boomers, were a naïve generation and, of course, that has more than an element of truth. It was an ego-centered era: we were not to trust anyone over thirty until we ourselves reached that milestone. Who were we to think that we, born into post-war affluence, could change the course of history and save a ravaged planet by putting flowers in the barrel of a gun? Steadily, amidst our ranks grew the scourge of drug addiction, freezing icons Joplin, Hendrix, and Morrison into that time and place. Random violence perpetrated by a wizened guru on the Hollywood elite one grim December night in 1969 brought the decade to a close, leaving us wondering, Whatever happened to the Age of Aquarius?
Our generation soon passed that dangerous milestone of none we could trust and those of us that survived were soon to be forty, fifty, and now sixty or close. The 1970s found me living in California, often in the company of friends that I had met during the six years I spent in Berlin. Several are filmmakers in the heyday of the New German Cinema. One particular friend, who was known as “the German cinema's greatest marginal filmmaker,” had befriended one of the groupies that spent months sitting outside of the courthouse where the Manson trial was held, a grim reminder of what we had just been through as a society.
A group of us were living together at the Chateau Marmot in Beverly Hills (where, in 1982, comedian John Belushi died, after injecting a "speedball" of heroin and cocaine). I must admit to feeling frightened when Werner, a friend, suggested stopping at the Lompoc Correctional Facility where Charles Watson, the Manson family member responsible for the murders, was being held. The prison was a minimum-security facility that housed many sixties icons, including LSD guru Timothy Leary who had been convicted of marijuana possession. We did meet Watson and I, as the English speaker, translated much of the conversation with this Texas athlete, cum murderer, cum minister of Abounding Love Outreach.
Further on down that road called life, a strange disease reared its ugly face. Little was known, just some obscure information. I vividly remember a gay friend and prolific playwright virtually singing up Greenwich Avenue, “We have our own disease.” It turned out not to be so funny as friend after friend died and with them a legacy of the past. Thanksgiving was spent at Beth Israel Hospital on the AIDS ward. Whatever happened to the Age of Aquarius?
Perhaps we were wrong and the unbridled optimism that we predicted in an Age of Love and Peace was a miscalculation. Perhaps rather than Aquarius another prophecy is being fulfilled. There are those who certainly believe so: evangelicals see the Second Coming of Jesus as imminent. Hindu philosophy professes the Kali Yug, or Age of Kali, a period of rapidly advancing darkness marked by chaos, corruption, and decay. Not until the world is cleansed by fire will the cycle repeat itself, restoring balance.
Perhaps the Age of Aquarius was a figment, a moment of time in the bizarre imagination of group of Greenwich Village misfits. Sadly, benign misfits do not ordinarily rule the world that has been left to warriors who kill in the name of peace. And we of that generation have grown older, our legacy timeworn. Maybe the young will understand, try to change things, speak out. Hopefully, there are enough of us left to pass the baton and some out there willing to pick it up and show us that “peace will rule the planets and love will rule the stars.”