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William Edgar


"Why All This?"

Rediscovering the witness of Hans Rookmaaker.

In retrospect, romanticism about the 1960s is overstated. Alongside George Harrison's sermons on Sergeant Pepper about being "all one and life flows on" and Timothy Leary's League of Spiritual Discovery (lsd) we must set the addictions, the deaths, and the wasted lives from Haight Ashbury to suburban New York. Alongside the anti-establishment flower power of the hippy movement, the confused lives in the communes. Alongside the Pax Americana, the brutal Realpolitik of American engagement in Vietnam. Alongside the social programs and the war on poverty, the political assassinations in America and student barricades in Paris.

Although things would eventually return to some kind of normalcy, the 1960s represented a sea change, from the relative social conformity of the years after World War II to a multi-layered, conflicted culture, an unprecedented polarization between Left and Right, new and old, rebellion and conformity. Earlier voices in the 1950s had pushed the envelope, from the Juvenile Delinquents saluted in The Blackboard Jungle to Elvis' risqué gyrations and Chuck Berry's celebration of teenage identity, but the full flood of defiance came in the next decade. Elvis joined the army, and rock became profligate. Hopeful Abstract Expressionism gave way to cynical Pop, Op, Neo-Dada, and Happenings. Cary Grant and Doris Day were replaced by Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman. Ozzie and Harriet were no longer everyone's pop and mom. Things were at best confusing. At worst they were dangerous. The arts were both descriptive weathervanes and prescriptive prophesies.

At the center of those times, a rather lost young man, a jazz pianist by night, a sophomore music student at Harvard by day, made his way up the mountain toward Villars, Switzerland, stopping in a tiny village called Huémoz, where his life would be forever changed. After a long journey I became a follower of Christ. The people I met there, and their message, became the network undergirding my new-found ...

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