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Dick Gregory on Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh was born in 1890, on May 19, and passed on September 2, 1969.
Dick Gregory wrote this remembrance for the Quicksilver Times. He first came to the nation’s attention as a “no-holds-barred” comedian mocking bigotry and racism. However, long before that, he served as a civil rights activist. As such, the Los Angeles Free Press often placed him in its pages. Afterwards he was a social critic, writer, conspiracy theorist, entrepreneur and, occasionally, even an actor.

Taylor Camp: Free Expression in Community

Diane’s house by John Wehrheim

“The great challenge of adulthood is holding on to your idealism after you lose your innocence.” —Bruce Springsteen
If we keep our little flame alive, our first feeling of enthusiasm of who we are, without the influence or intervention of others, we will prevail.” —Patti Smith

One morning I walked into my local, non-corporate coffeehouse, deep in thought, fully intending to hunker down and work on my book. A mix of millennials and Boomers were hunched over their laptops doing status updates. Then I saw a friend focusing on his project in the prime window space. After I settled into a spot in the other room, this character came over. The conversation led to the Big Question, and my recent apostasy from a 25 year church membership pushed into that unresolvable riddle: The meaning of life, of my life and the world. We are similar in age and like me, he has forged a new mission after a traditional job/career. He works daily on a mathematical formula that explains the laws of the universe. We engaged in an hour-long conversation on his theories. Then I asked him point blank, “Joe, what is your purpose in writing this paper?” He flubbed around and finally said, “I need to do it.”

Believing that there are no accidents and each path offers value if we can see it, I realized that our conversation led to my dominant question those days: “How do we find meaning in life and sustain a vision, after we have experienced fifty or sixty years and the inevitable disappointments and reality checks?” The topic had been taunting me for a couple weeks. It rose to the surface again a few weeks later, when the manager of a B & B in Maui where I was staying mentioned a recent documentary film about Taylor Camp, a ‘back to nature’ commune in Kauai, Hawaii in the ’70’s. Memories of my first time in Hawaii came forward, it was a time when the hippie culture’s idealism offered quick solutions to life’s basic issues of work, community, war and freedom were sought at Taylor Camp.

In 1976, I accidentally found Taylor Camp while driving around Kauai in a rented camper with my girlfriend. We had escaped to paradise. In love and free of jobs, school, and home—we found heaven on earth. One day a young guy of my tribe knocked on the door of the camper and offered to sell some marijuana. Ahh… total satisfaction. I bought a bag and he invited me to the camp that evening.

The communards welcomed us to their feast and celebration, even though we were complete strangers. We were of the ‘tribe’—young people looking for an alternative to the disillusion and hypocrisy of the post-hippie, post-Vietnam 1970’s America. They shared home-grown dinner, lilikoi and vodka punch, and cannabis (or as we used to say ‘grass’). The evening evolved into a big campfire celebration complete with singing, guitar playing, and drumming. Always a documenter, I made an audio recording of the free-form sing-along, and drum circle. When it ended, I purchased a large quantity of their home grown herbal products. I played that cassette once at home, but then it disappeared forever. Unfortunately, I also lost/forgot that joyous night of spontaneous celebration of life and community.

Fast forward about 35 years to the B & B on Maui. The proprietor’s comment woke up something in me, like a zombie, I opened the doors to this recovered memory. Slowly, I stumbled on an understanding of what my young spirit could teach me for this time of life. Today, I am as free as I was at 25, perhaps freer because the economics of the next month or year or decade are handled. I reflected on that moment at Taylor Camp and felt a deep, hidden yearning I have carried all these years. On the surface it may be seen as nostalgia for youthful freedom from responsibility or perhaps the urge for community or belonging. But for me, it also represented a call to adventure of the unknown, the fresh, the novel and the uninhibited.

Many threads weave through this long-ago experience but for me they all point to the ultimate question, the one that most people have at some time in their lives and the one that my mathematician friend at the coffeehouse is tackling. What is this life all about? How can I revive my sense of purpose in life? And how do I ride its roller-coaster?

The answer is always personal. Eventually, we form our own opinions and solutions to the Question.  It may be in religion, work, pleasure, or family. After sixty, it seems more pressing since the above ‘have tos’ are eliminated and the time left is more limited. My mathematician friend asserted he finds meaning when “the inner self no long feels separate from its experience.” A moment in time at Taylor Camp back in the day was like a floodlight shining on a glimpse of meaning for me . . . free expression in community.

Inner Journey: 

Recall a time when you happened upon a fun and exciting event. Did you jump in and participate? Or did you leave?

What is your opinion about living simply in community? Does it repel or attract?

Action Steps:

Retrace your ‘lost’ youth, and go to a place where you experienced a lot of fun, community, and expression.

[Ed.s’ Note:  RW Klarin’s memoir/ self-help book—Living the Dream Deferred (2015)

is wide ranging as he visits (and, in many cases, re-visits) places and people that were part of an era that is too important to forget – enjoy his journey!]

John Phillips – Remembers Ravi…

John Phillips, Rock Musician remembers Ravi’s sense of simple joy in 1967

“The afternoon concert [at Monterey Pop Festival] belonged largely to Ravi Shankar and his hypnotic, meditative ragas. …
Ravi gave one of the most remarkable performances I have ever witnessed. Within the past year, the exotic sitar sound had wafted into the mainstream of rock. I had visited Ravi at his family’s home in L.A. and discussed paying him for his music school in Delhi. I met his wife, his sisters, and their children. They were the most gentle people. We ate curried dishes with our fingers. Incense burned throughout the simple, modest house in the Hollywood Flat. It was unpretentious and suburban and about fourteen people lived in it.
When Ravi visited 783 [Bel Air Road], we stayed up and cut some demos of us jamming together. Ravi exuded a simple joy when playing and he seemed blessed by supernatural stamina and discipline.”

from Papa John: A Music Legend’s Shattering Journey Through Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll, by John Phillips (Dolphin Books/Doubleday, 1986)
Provided by Dana Cook, Contributor to the Los Angeles Free Press.
RW Klarins’ ‘Remembrance’ of Ravi is Ravi Shankar’s Magic Carpet of Passion and Youth

Ravi -Shankar, 7 April 1920 – 11 December 2012

Ravi Shankar’s Magic Carpet of Passion and Youth

Pandit Ravi Shankar 2012

We work in the dark, we do what we can, we give what we have, our doubt is our passion, and passion is our task— the rest is the madness of art.-—Henry James

Most people are so busy knocking themselves out trying to do everything they think they should do, they never get around to do what they want to do.-—Kathleen Winsor

The familiar, high pitched voice welcomed the audience in his clipped Indian/English accent with self-effacing humility about how we may not recognize him now with his long white beard. At 91, he was thin and walked with a cane and assistance, but once seated in the familiar cross-legged posture with his hands wrapped around the sitar, he exuded passion and energy with skill undiminished by time. Then, weaving his spell with his sitar and the familiar sounding but unknown to this listener, ragas of India, the crowd of thousands instantly became still and silent.

A combination of concert, spiritual pilgrimage, and reunion of the tribe, the recital at Disney Hall in Los Angeles, seemed to be a miracle. Twice postponed, it stretched the mind that this unlikely musical avatar of the Sixties still played concerts. And played very well.

George Harrison studying sitar with Ravi

He and his ensemble sat on carpets that we magically rode to a place that crossed the veil into the timeless, the eternal, and the unity of life. In the Sixties, he opened a door to his world and with the support of his since passed friend, George Harrison, helped a generation to discover world music. Never compromising in his fealty for authentic, classical Indian music, he enthralled us with his devotion and humor. On the Concert for Bangladesh album, the crowd applauds early on and he says “I hope you enjoy the concert as much as you did the tuning.”

During this concert I kept having flashbacks to 1967 and his concert at the Hollywood Bowl that I attended as a teenager.  At that concert, patchouli incense and cannabis sweetened the air and the transcendent mood. At the new Disney Hall in downtown L.A. (minus the fragrances and supported by an ensemble half his age), Raviji was just as vital and relevant as then.

Ravi Shankar became more than a musician. That performance was more analogous to a saint or guru, but with no schtick (no hugs, no workshops, no obtuse philosophy), just his music. His depth of commitment to his art transcended the music. It exemplified the message of gurus, peace, harmony, and presence. He attracted an eclectic crowd with ample measures of old and young yogis in Indian prints, traditional dress suits and heels, and multi- generational Indian families dressed in saris and kurtas.

Ravi’s daughters: Anoushkar & Norah Jones

Ravi’s music attracts individuals who step beyond the mainstream and into one of the rich tributaries of world culture. Stronger than his music was Ravi’s powerful passion. Undimmed by age and now seasoned by 75 years of performing, the music explored the etheric realms. His joy was infectious as he egged his musicians and the audience to new heights. He clearly lived to share his music and that passion taught much about a life well lived. His silent gift was his devotion to craft and art.

Seeing, hearing, and experiencing Ravi Shankar reminded me of sharing one’s gift. It propels me now that I am in the last third of life, to uncover and then pursue an interest until it becomes a passion. A passion can become one’s life purpose and as in the case of Raviji, his passion was a benediction for the world. Overtly, Shankar played music but the covert gift is the experience of harmony, self-expression, peace, and unity.

A career counselor, Richard Leider, surveyed older adults to find out what makes them happy. He discovered that the prime factor is a sense of purpose and service in their lives. But many don’t know how they can contribute. Uncovering and pursuing gifts and interests later in life can be our service and legacy. A talent not developed may deprive others of a rich legacy. But even more problematic, we maybe denying ourselves of the fulfillment that comes from living with passion at 91 or 81 or 61.

I strive to drill down, discover, practice, and give away my gifts. Then, like Ravi Shankar, perhaps I’ll receive the boon of a life well-lived.

Inner Journey:

Dive into your memory to recall a former passion that you gave up many years ago. Did you get bored of it or did you quit in frustration or some other reason?

Action Steps:

If you were stumped on the above questions, try this for a few days: Before falling asleep, ask your unconscious to reveal a hidden passion.  Do it, and give it a fair chance, no less than ten weeks of regular practice or experience.


[Ed.s’ Note:  This, like other essays found in RW Klarin’s memoir/ self-help book—Living the Dream Deferred (2015)

brings many of us back to a time that is too interesting to forget.  I’m adding to this piece the advert for the 1967 concert RW mentions… it’s in our Musical Notes section.  Before going, consider doing  the Inner Journey and Action Steps.  They are like the books’ format and can help move you forward on your own mission. Or maybe you’ll want to do them as you listen to Ravi play at our LAFPMusic FB Page.]


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