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Peace and love

The critic and me

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Peace and Love

Sun, sleep, then a stroll in a pedestrian precinct where a group of Christians, the women wearing long modest smocks, the men bearded and sandaled, were dancing in circles, while nearby, oblivious, a lone guitarist was playing a ‘Chapman stick’ (multi-stringed guitar) with a beatific expression. And everywhere skateboarders, serious joggers, everyone high on something, including belief.

After staring at the dancing Christian group for some time, musing on their apparent happiness - the woman playing the flute (the one musical instrument to which I am allergic), the young men with hair just long enough to tie back, the young women with blushing complexions and long skirts – I decided to go to their bus, parked just around the corner, and find out more.

The buses (there were two) were old hippy buses, decorated in flower-power style, but the occupants were older and had grown-up children. It transpired that they were in fact vintage hippies who had found God. “We live together and share everything”, they said, “including our happiness”. It all sounded good and there was something touching about the idea of the peace and love generation having hung in there and found a purpose…that is, until I read their literature. I was surprised to find extreme Christian moral fundamentalism, with articles about the sanctity of marriage and the family, with the man firmly at its head and the woman’s role being to submit to his authority. “Man is the head of the woman as Jesus is head of the church” they wrote. What is the meaning of the confusing metaphor being evoked here? That all men are embodiments of Jesus and all women somehow amorphously the body of the church?

I was reminded of the puritan roots of immigrant America, and the longing, which seems profound, for religious belonging, even from ex-hippies who must once have valued freedom of a different kind.

In Santa Monica, following a breakfast with Christopher Sheppard, I was also struck by the prevalence of dog culture. Dog parlours, dog walkers, people running with their dogs (one man on rollerblades with rear-view mirrors attached to his sunglasses, his two dogs each wearing jaunty pink neckerchiefs), people carrying their dogs, people talking to each other through their dogs. (“Have you two met?” I overheard, then realised it was two dogs who were being introduced by their owners.) At first glance, the USA seems to have finally overtaken the UK as pet fanatics.

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Walking the dogs

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Christopher in Santa Monica

Text © Sally Potter. All pictures © Adventure Pictures unless otherwise indicated