What is a “Hippie” anyway?

I travel the country in a van with my best friends playing music. I practice daily meditation. Yoga. I carry essential oils with me everywhere (though I’m not a fan of patchouli). I have a copy of the Tao te Ching on me at all times. I have a Let It Be-era Ringo Starr tattoo and listen to Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Mama and the Papas and Bob Dylan on vinyl. I end most conversations with “peace” and a long hug. I’ve worn Birkenstock sandals my entire life. I spend my summers at music festivals. I always have facial hair. I voted for a democratic socialist… twice. Am I a modern-age hippie?

I usually don’t concern myself with labels (is THAT a hippie thing?) but for the sake of this quarantine article and due to my life in the music scene as both a musician and a fan/participant, I thought a little self-reflection would do me some good.

In order to figure this out, hippie should be defined. This alone is a struggle.

Merriam-Webster: a usually young person who rejects the mores of established society (as by dressing unconventionally or favoring communal living) and advocates a nonviolent ethic

dictionary.com: (especially in the 1960s) a person of unconventional appearance, typically having long hair, associated with a subculture involving a rejection of conventional values and the taking of hallucinogenic drugs.

I have a feeling hippies wouldn’t go by dictionary.com to define themselves.

I took to social media to get more information and opinions from people who know me and some who grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s.  My friend Betty said:

“Having been a young woman (and self-identified hippie) in the ‘60s and ‘70s, we lived carefree of all responsibility, we freely loved each other, and we partied like rock stars. We thought we had all the answers to life’s questions (probably LSD-induced conclusions).”

I met Betty on the road with my band when she and her husband opened their door to us and housed us out of the kindness of their hearts after meeting at our show. Asking to sleep on someone’s floor, and them letting you. V hippie. “However, I would no longer consider myself a hippie,” she said.”Now I’m a Jesus freak.” PLOT TWIST. 

My friend Benny: “It’s just a word. As a ‘60s-‘70s young man, it was often a derisive term used to discriminate against those of us that were anti-war and looking for a new social, political and economic order. The answer depends on if you consider the term to be tied to a period of time or not.”

New social, political, and economic order. I’m into it. 

When I asked if he considered himself a lifelong hippie, he said: “Yes. As are my lifelong friends, although “old hippie” is probably more accurate!” 

Am I just a young hippie then? Is modern age or Neo even needed?

I asked him straight up: “As someone who has known me 15+ years, would you consider me a hippie if time period wasn’t a qualifier?”

“I definitely would.”

If you’re reading this short self-examination, chances are you’ve wondered if you are a modern age hippie yourself. Or maybe you already self-identify as one. Our scene is full of free love, nonconformist tendencies, and the search for joy.

The famed photographer Steve Schapiro says in his book Bliss: Transformational Festivals & the Neo Hippie: “While hippies in the ‘60s were reflecting a period of social change, the hippies of today reflect a human desire for happiness”. 

“Schapiro, famous for his photographs of the ‘60s – including Haight-Ashbury and the hippies of that era – documents the hippies of today and their lives in and out of transformational festivals. With a specific focus on a subculture of the current hippie counterculture known as “Bliss Ninnies,” these individuals are focused on meditation and dancing as a way to reach ecstatic states of joy. The book features images from festivals across the country and provides an overview of a new contemporary hippie life within America. The ‘60s are still here. You just have to find where.”

BLISS NINNY. I’m learning so much. 

What does all of this mean?

Nothing, duh.

We are defined by our actions, not labels. What is most important to me is how we treat each other, how we treat our planet, and how we treat ourselves. With peace, love and respect. That sounds pretty hippie. To be honest, I find myself using the phrase “hippie dippy bullshit” a lot when describing my actions and tendencies to friends in a self-deprecating manor.

One of my high school students randomly told me: “You’re, like, one of the most hippiest people ever!” My dad says on a sliding scale I’m about 75% hippie. So, am I a modern-age hippie? I’m gonna cop out and say I don’t know and I don’t care. I don’t limit myself to labels, man. Besides, to quote one of my favorite artists, Ben Folds: “The more you know you know you don’t know shit”. I think I’ll stick to that. I don’t know shit. 

The real question is — ARE YOU A WOOK?