Ode to Woodstock From Someone Who Attended
When most people think about Woodstock, what comes to mind is "sex, drugs and rock & roll." Look beneath the surface and the real meaning of Woodstock emerges. "Sex, drugs, and rock & roll" was merely a symbol of something quite remarkable that was occurring during the 1960s in general and at Woodstock in specific, that is as profound today as it was back then. This IntegrityWatch blog post unlocks Woodstock’s lost messages about integrity! (You can also listen at the end of this article to Dr. Gruder being interviewed on the radio about Woodstock. And if you’re a member of the media you’ll find in the box toward the end of this article a link to information about interviewing Dr. Gruder on this topic.)
I was fifteen when my parents sent me to the original Woodstock Music & Arts Festival was held in Bethel, New York, on Max Yasgur’s farm in the Catskills. Yes, you read that right. My straight-laced parents sent me to Woodstock at the tender age of 15.
Why did they send me? It’s actually a rather sweet story. When I was a teenager a large part of my life revolved around performing music and drama. For a couple of summers while I was in high school my parents were kind enough to send me to a wonderful camp for the performing arts in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachussetts called Roaring Brook. Before the summer of 1969, the camp’s director, George Nassar, sent a letter to all of the parents announcing that there would be an optional field trip to a music and arts festival in upstate New York. My parents naively asked me if I wanted to go. I naively said yes.
When August 15 arrived and Woodstock got under way, my dad was utterly horrified as he watched the live television coverage. He told me later that he couldn’t believe what he had sent his son to, and that if he could have helicoptered in to pull me out of there, he would have. To this day, I’m glad he couldn’t. Woodstock was one of the most important experiences of my young life.
When most people think about Woodstock, what comes to mind is "sex, drugs and rock & roll." And for understandable reasons. I had gone only for the rock & roll. Really. I arrived at Woodstock a drug-free virgin and, believe it or not, that’s how I left there too. (One of the things that many people seem to have forgotten about Woodstock is that hippies weren’t the only people who attended.)
Woodstock quickly became something far more than rock & roll to me. It became a transformational experience. Not because of the sex, the drugs, or even the over-the-moon-extraordinary rock & roll (well, except for Joe Cocker who was so stoned he could hardly perform). Woodstock touches so many of us to this day, and in ways most people can’t quite name, because of the largely untold story about what the "sex, drugs and rock-and-roll" cliche symbolized.
Look beneath the surface and the real meaning of Woodstock — the meaning that it took me decades to finally make sense of — emerges. "Sex, drugs, and rock & roll" was merely a symbol of something quite remarkable that was occurring during the 1960s in general and at Woodstock in specific.
Drugs symbolized the thirst for self-exploration that sprang up in the 1960s in contrast to 1950s conformity. Sex was a symbol of attempts in the 1960s to discover what love was beyond the primarily obligation-based version of marriage that existed before then. And the social activism lyrics in many rock-and-roll songs symbolized the belief that ordinary citizens could positively influence the world, in contrast to the 1950s expectation that people remain blindly loyal to authority and the status quo.
Self-exploration reflects our core drive of authenticity — our innate desire to be who we truly are. Love reflects our core drive for connection — our innate need to bond with others. And social activism is an expression of our core drive to have impact — to influence the world around us. I call these our three core drives because they are evident in the youngest of children — they seem to be hard-wired in us.
At Woodstock I witnessed these three core drives (authenticity, connection and impact) coalesce in a city of a half-a-million people. We were expanding the boundaries of self-discovery, of love and of our capacity to positively influence the world — individually and collectively. This was the magic of Woodstock!
But the lost messages from Woodstock go even deeper. As odd as this sounds, Woodstock was a microcosm of a little-recognized evolution during the 1960s toward a more complete version of integrity. Yes, you read that right: integrity! You see, our core drive of authenticity requires self-integrity. Our connection core drive requires relationship integrity. And our core drive to have a positive impact on the world around us requires societal integrity. This is the three-dimensional vision of integrity that started to be birthed in the 1960s (even though we didn’t know it at the time), and that a temporary city of almost a half-a-million people embodied at Woodstock. We need three-dimensional integrity today more than ever, and yet this more complete vision of integrity still remains far too elusive for far too many people.
The classic movie, Easy Rider, starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson, came out the same year as Woodstock was held. Over the years since then Peter Fonda has repeatedly been asked what he meant when he uttered one of the movie’s most famous lines: "We blew it." He recently answered this way: "We look outside the window today. The air is bad, everything has gone south; it’s all gone to hell in a hand basket. We all had this idea you could get rich and you’re free. And that’s wrong."
Woodstock’s message wasn’t that the key to freedom — or happiness — was getting rich. Despite the fact that there’s everything RIGHT about building financial independence, wealth is NOT the key to freedom, sustainable happiness or life fulfillment. As a life fulfillment formula, wealth falls way short of the mark. In fact, having adopted wealth as our society’s life fulfillment formula is directly responsible for our current economic meltdown and the raging integrity deficits that we so deeply suffer from today.
The Woodstock life fulfillment plan was quite different from the Easy Rider life fulfillment plan: over the course of three days, half-a-million strangers demonstrated the magic that happens — internally, in our relationships, and among us as a society — when we live in alignment with all three of our core drives of authenticty, connection and impact. This was Woodstock’s life fulfillment formula. This was Woodstock’s secret integrity formula. This formula is as important and valuable today as it was then. Perhaps more so.
Few of us had adequate words to describe all of this at that time because this emergence was an organic process rather than something that we consciously pre-designed. In truth, it took me decades to fully understand that we were birthing a new formula for life fulfillment and integrity during the 1960s. One that revolved around our three core drives. Natural developers subsequently taught me as a psychologist about how we can live in alignment with our three core drives to successfully attain sustainable happiness without sacrificing social responsibility.Wanting to offer this forumla to as many people as possible is a big part of why I wrote my six-award-winning book, " The New IQ: How Integrity Intelligence Serves You, Your Relationships and Our World."
Not nearly enough of us have yet internalized and lived our lives according to Woodstock’s life fulfillment and integrity formula. In my experience as a psychologist, those who have tend to be happier today than those who instead subscribed to the Easy Rider life fulfillment formula that has torn apart our society. Want to attain sustainable happiness without sacrificing social responsibility? It’s not too late to start embodying the Woodstock life fulfillment and integrity formula. The New IQ is the road map for getting there.
Are you a member of the media who is interested in this topic?
Interview the Woodstock attendee who went on to become a highly regarded
Click here for details and to arrange.
Listen below to Cory Wood interviewing Dr. Gruder about Woodstock’s lost messages on KZMT-FM (one of almost two-dozen interviews he has given on this topic alone during July and August of 2009)!
This Woodstock interview was selected by EZhelp.org as one of their four "Best of 2009" shows: