50 Years of Peace and Love?

I wasn’t there. I’ve always regretted that. It would have produced some epic memories.

In August 1969 the big cultural event was Woodstock., a mammoth music festival happening just a couple hour’s drive from my home in Montreal. I didn’t even ask my parent’s if I could go. I knew the answer was “no.”Woodstock poster.jpg

There is no doubt I was too young, and unprepared for what I would have experienced there. Still, it was a major social milestone and I missed it.

I wasn’t tempted by the various anniversary shows since, including the ones this year. I’ve been to a lot of music festivals. Conditions are variable at best. There are better ways to see your favorite bands. And trying to recapture the past is more likely to produce disappointment.

The recently released commemorative Woodstock album was more of a temptation, albeit a small one. I used to own the two albums from the movie, (or was it three?) though I didn’t pick them up on CD when I switched from vinyl to that format. So, I was a little tempted by the new three-disc set I saw in the stores last week.

It was the box set that tempted me more. Every note from the three days of the 1969 Woodstock festival, plus stage announcements. That would be a wild thing to have. Thirty-eight discs. And an $800 US price tag. I just couldn’t justify that. And really, how often would you listen to it?

All the anniversary hype has me thinking about Woodstock and the social changes we have seen over the past fifty years. Woodstock was supposed to usher in a new era of peace and love. Those hippies who gathered in Max Yasgur’s field wanted to change the world. They did – they became stockbrokers. A generation of promise lost its direction.

It was inevitable of course. Those in the hippie movement didn’t realize their dreams were air castles, built on sand. Peace and love are noble ideas – as long as you don’t ask “why?” If you rely on human nature, you have a problem. We’ve seen that for a few millennia, but don’t always seem to understand, so we make the same mistakes repeatedly. We still have dreamers, trying to do it on their own, successful at first before they crash and burn due to human nature.

Still, there was promise at Woodstock. Show me any American city of 500,000 people today that is as law-abiding as that crowd was for three days. Nobody was shot or stabbed. Conditions were abysmal due to weather and overcrowding, but that brought people together, it didn’t drive them apart. But that spirit only lasted three days.

The lesson of Woodstock is that we can’t be good on our own. We can try, we can hope, we can dream, but eventually our inheritance as fallen humans bears fruit.

In her song “Woodstock” Joni Mitchell talked about getting “back to the garden.” We search for Eden – but the gate is closed.


So where are we, fifty years after Woodstock? Is our society kinder and gentler? Have poverty and racism been eliminated? Why not?

Maybe it is time to look at who we are, to look at why we are, and discover through Jesus a way to re-establish a relationship with our creator. Only them will we truly be able to get back to the Garden.


  1. Also too young, although I suppose I was there in spirit.

    A year later, myself and a friend made a beeline for the theatre after the film was re-cut and re-classified, from R-rated to the then AA rating.

    So much happened in the three years from 1966 to 1969. Music — the songs themselves — became the ‘internet’ of that time period and was the catalyst for accelerated social change.

    1. Yeah, I also saw the film as soon as it was released.

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