Flower Child

Photograph © Peggy Kornegger
“If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.”
—Scott McKenzie

I went to San Francisco. And yes, I wore flowers in my hair. I was one of those young beaded, bell-bottomed kids who moved to California in the late 1960s, drawn by the irresistible call for “Love, Peace, and Flower Power.” 2017 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the famous San Francisco “Summer of Love.” Hard to believe that that much time has passed. In some ways, I still feel the same inside as I did when I left the Midwest for California, suitcase packed with utopian dreams. I still have those dreams. And I’m still a flower child at heart.

During 1967’s Summer of Love, it didn’t really matter where you were—that powerful energetic vibration affected you. In Michigan, I was preparing to leave for six months studying in France, but San Francisco was where I longed to be. All summer, I stayed up late into the night painting psychedelic posters and listening to Dylan, Donovan, and the Beatles. My longing continued right through the fall and spring at school in Europe (a French version of Scott McKenzie’s song seemed to be playing everywhere). Finally I reached the promised land in 1968. Was it all I hoped it would be? Yes, and more. It wasn’t exactly utopia, but it was a beginning. It brought me new adventures, new friends, and inner transformation, and that was just what I wanted.

Photograph © Peggy Kornegger

The key component was the Dream. All of us who headed west in those years were dreamers, free spirits awakening to a global movement for universal love, peace, freedom, and radical change that is still streaming live through this world today. California was/is a state of mind, the psychic birthplace of possibility, of expansion outward beyond limitation. I was one of so many who undertook that journey. Some lost their way, but others, like me, are still journeying, still choosing love over fear every day of our lives.

California has felt like “home” to me for most of my adult life. Even though I grew up in Illinois, it is on my return trips to California that I begin to cry when I look down from the plane and see the landscape and ocean beneath me. I loved my years there. It was a time of transition, from small-town girl to flower child/activist in the larger world. I was a beginner, innocent in many ways, learning about life, love, poetry, politics—and figuring out who I was within all those frameworks. Of course, like others of my generation, I never wanted to be just one thing, live just one place, so after a few years on the West Coast in the late 1960s and earlier 1970s, I moved to the East Coast for graduate school. San Francisco called me back once again for several years after that, but then I returned to Boston. Since then, I visit California; I don’t live there physically.

Still, my soul is somehow timelessly connected to California. Perhaps I lived there in a past life, in addition to those key years in the 60s and 70s. Now, when I return, I stand looking out at the Pacific Ocean, and my mind quiets, my spirit rests. My heart recognizes “home.” The home that transcends time and place and links up with something intangible in the universe, in myself. The home that I found among those sweet youthful souls with visions of a better world—the “gentle people with flowers in their hair.” I will always be one of them.

“If You’re Going to San Francisco”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7I0vkKy504U

It’s All About Love, Always

Photograph © 2017 Peggy Kornegger
A few weeks ago, I watched the four-part series “When We Rise,” about the recent history of the LGBTQ community in the U.S. and the fight for our basic human rights, including marriage equality. At the end, I felt emotionally exhausted, like I had relived the last 39 years of my life. I lived in San Francisco in 1978 at the time of the California Briggs Initiative to ban gay/lesbian schoolteachers, thankfully defeated, and the shooting death of gay city supervisor Harvey Milk. In 1981, I moved back to Boston, right before the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, which would take the lives of thousands of gay men. Every year I took part in the AIDS Walk to raise money for those with AIDS, and I lost dear friends on both coasts to this terrible disease. In 1987 and 1993, I marched on Washington for LGBTQ rights and freedom, and each year there was a Pride March in Boston (in June, to coincide with the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York). Those were years of great sadness and loss, and yet the love in our hearts and the hope that together we could bring about change kept us going.

In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same sex marriage, and the movement for marriage equality continued to gain momentum. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act), and in 2015, it ruled in favor of same sex marriage nationwide. My partner and I, who had been together for 31 years, married in 2014, with family and friends celebrating with us. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, the national consciousness had shifted significantly toward love and inclusiveness over bigotry and hatred. We all had gotten so used to living with secrecy, fear, and the threat of violence that when acceptance appeared, it was almost shocking—extremely emotional and powerful for each of us. But it had not really been sudden; years of activism and private and public “coming out” had brought about the change. The rainbow lights shining across the country on national monuments, as well as the White House, reflected the magical new reality we were all experiencing.

However, today in 2017, a new administration, accompanied by a conservative backlash, is already beginning to whittle away at our hard-won gains, beginning with transgender rights. LGBTQ community members are currently the top target for acts of hatred in the Boston area. We are not done. Freedom, equality, and justice for all people are ideals that must be lived and upheld every single day. We do that by not giving up, by not allowing outrage or depression to overrule the universal compassion and kindness in our hearts. Intolerance still exists, but we are here to live our love, and we won’t stop. Not now, not ever. The music of our hearts and souls will carry us forward. As songwriter Holly Near wrote after Harvey Milk was killed: “We are a gentle, angry people, and we are singing, singing for our lives.”

Photograph © Peggy Kornegger
I have changed in so many ways in the last 39 years, yet the core of me remains the same. I too am here to live love in the world. When I am meditating alone or in spiritual circles, when I am marching in demonstrations, when I am speaking my truth, I am centered in that love. A living prayer for love that includes friends and strangers alike around the world. Our hearts and souls link us together into one family. We are all connected, we very diverse humans on planet Earth, reaching out for freedom, equality, and the right to self-expression. In the deepest part of our being, we are not so different; we all want similar things in this life. Ultimately, it’s all about love. Always.

In Memoriam: Gilbert Baker, who in 1978 created the first rainbow flag in San Francisco, died last Friday, March 31, at the age of 65. That first hand-dyed and hand-stitched rainbow flag became the international symbol for LGBTQ pride and freedom.

Faith, Hope, and Clarity

Because of the current tumultuous political events in this country and worldwide, we need to hold a clear positive vision in our hearts of a more peaceful, compassionate world so that we don’t lose hope. In this week’s blog, which is a video instead of a written article, I talk about the importance of maintaining faith, hope, and clarity in our day-to-day lives. (See other recent videos of mine at Videos on the menu above.)

Unmaking Enemies, Unraveling Fear

Photograph © 2017 Peggy Kornegger
Photograph © 2017 Peggy Kornegger
We are living through adversarial times in this country. People want to blame others for whatever they believe is wrong with their own lives. Immigrants, gay people, outspoken women—choose one or all of the above, and you have an instant “enemy.” It’s a behavioral pattern that can be traced back through centuries of human relationships on this planet.

Political groups—whether liberal or conservative; left, right, or center—have historically often based their identity on a perceived common threat or enemy—usually another group of people who epitomizes everything they think is bad or wrong in the world. Within small social groups, sometimes even families, people tend to single out one individual as problematic or unlikable. Religions founded in love often don’t extend it universally. Even heaven has been imagined as a place for some and not others (“sinners” are condemned to hell). Why do we do this? Why do we include some and not others, even in the afterlife? On the face of it, it seems ridiculous, an exercise in absurdity, as if humans could somehow control their own ultimate destiny—and who shares space with us on the journey.

We don’t begin our lives that way. As young children, we model our thoughts, feelings, and behavior after the adults who are close to us. The lyrics about racism in the song “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” express this well: “You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late—before you are six, or seven, or eight—to hate all the people your relatives hate.” Each of us receives that conditioning to one degree or another, wherever we are in the world. For some of us, mistrust and hatred become a way of life, and it dominates everything we say or do. Surely there must be a way out of this vicious cycle of hostility and aversion, based in fear of the “other,” that we are seeing so much of now.

What if we flip the paradigm and make a conscious effort to create a radical shift in this old conditioned behavior pattern that shows up everywhere, within us as well as outside of us? Awareness and intention can interrupt the toxic cycle of otherness, of “us” versus “them.” Let’s “unmake” enemies in this world by unmaking them in our own minds, our own families, our own social networks, and our own communities. Muslims are currently being targeted, along with a whole long list of others accumulated over the years. It’s time to intervene and make friends with those who the haters tell us to hate. Time to choose love instead of fear. Compassion instead of blame (for the haters as well, whose hatred often stems from their own self-hatred).

Just for a moment, imagine what the world would be like without enemies, without anyone to point a finger at and blame for the world’s ills. What if we were all friends, all family? Actually, anyone visiting from another planet would assume these tall two-legged creatures were all related—we look remarkably alike to an outsider. We’re the ones who make up things to distinguish ourselves from one another: skin color, eye shape, religion, politics. That’s how countries started. Separation, boundaries. Then petty grievances gradually turned to wars, and we forgot who we really are, that we who were born on Earth all came from the same vast energy source or consciousness (God, if you will), and we will return there. When we’re on our deathbeds, it all falls away. Nothing matters but the love we’ve shared.

Can’t we just do that now? Pretend we’re dying (because we are) and just love one another. Just love one another. Until the word enemy falls out of use completely, and universal friendship and cooperation is the only accepted behavior. Let’s agree to live love instead of hate, in every moment, every thought, every action. What else could possibly matter as much? Especially now.

 

Beyond Roles, Beyond Gender—Who Are You?

Photograph © 2016 Peggy Kornegger Gabriel Dawe, Plexus A1
Photograph © 2016 Peggy Kornegger
Gabriel Dawe, Plexus A1
We are alive at an amazing time on this planet. In spite of efforts by those desperately trying to patch them up, there are widening cracks in the old paradigms, and everything is shifting. Culturally constructed identities are dissolving, and infinite possibilities are opening up. Within the last few decades, movements for social change have shifted our very assumptions about what it means to be human. We have become aware of gender stereotypes and behavioral polarities that ultimately do not benefit anyone. Relationships between men and women have changed as men embrace their vulnerability and women embrace their strength. Narrow, constrictive definitions of gender roles and of gender itself have been called into question, and consequently we are all evolving into more expansive, more authentic whole human beings.

I grew up in the Midwest in the 1950s and 1960s, a “girl” as it was socially defined then. Yet, there have always been ways in which I did not exactly fit the mold of acceptability. I wore dresses and played with dolls, but I also wore jeans and climbed trees. I had crushes on boys, but girls were my best friends. In college in California, I embraced a flower-child/activist identity, wearing beads, bell-bottoms, and long Indian-print dresses as I took part in peace marches and student sit-ins. Once again, my love relationships were with men, but my closest friends were women. In my mid-20s, I became active in the feminist movement in the Boston area and eventually came out as a lesbian. I cut off my long “hippy” braids and wore colorful T-shirts, jeans, and artsy earrings. As a lesbian, I consciously chose relationships that were not defined by gender roles but by equality, balance, and celebration of each other’s uniqueness.

Today, I have been with my partner Anne for 34 years, married for the last 2. She and I have been able to share our lives and work through individual differences (and “imperfections”!) without the constraints of role expectations. Together we’ve seen the evolution of the LGBTQ community and the greater world around us over time. The wisdom and truth of “Love is love” has gradually entered the collective consciousness, and that has changed all of our lives. None of us are the same as we once were. Yes, homophobia, transphobia, and violence against those considered “different” still exists, but there has also been a shift to more acceptance of difference, of diversity. Minds are opening because of heart connections, because of a deeper recognition that we are all family on this planet. New possibilities for individual expression and equal relationships now exist for all people because of those who continue to shatter the old paradigm, just by being themselves.

To me, those individuals who consider themselves gender-fluid, gender-nonconforming, or non-binary are on the cutting edge of human evolution now. They stretch me the most in my own perceptions. By refusing to accept labels that perpetuate polarity (male, female), they inspire us all to ask: “Who am I beyond roles, beyond gender?” Indeed, who am I, as a human being, as a human soul? Really, the simple sacred truth “I Am” is the most accurate description of each of us on a soul level. The soul is infinite, eternal. Our human identities are temporary and not boxes that we have to fit into. The LGBTQ community has opened the door to life outside the boxes. We as human/divine beings are unboxable, indefinable, and infinitely expansive. And that is exactly why we all incarnated at this time: to embody limitless luminous rainbow consciousness as a species, as a planet. The entire global community of human souls is part of this extraordinary evolution of light within light. Every single shining one of us.

“I am not the color of my eyes.
I am not the skin on the outside…
I am not my age
I am not my race
My soul inside is all light…
I am light.”
—India.Arie