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The spirit of the times.  Watercolor ink drawing. Julie Seyler.

The spirit of the times. Watercolor ink drawing. Julie Seyler.


Zeitgeist is a fabulous word. Not only does it begin with the letter Z, but it rolls off the tongue, and has a definition worthy of punditry. In broad terms it means, “the spirit of the times.” An iced, dry martini with a single olive is a zeitgeist moment of the early 21st century. Let me revise that – that was more likely a zeitgeist moment of the mid-1950s. Chocolate martinis, dirty martinis swimming in olives, and pomegranitinis define now.

These meanderings make me hark back to what defined the zeitgeist of the ’70s, when we later-50-year-olds, approaching 60 year olds, and dare I say it, already approaching 70 year olds, were the generation shaping the zeitgeist. Today, that generation, “us,” is the soon-to-be-demographic definition of “senior citizen.”

We all react differently to being on the right side of 50. I have come to refer to this new/next stage as no longer being in Kansas a la Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz.” I straddle the fence, desperately clinging to youth, and slowly accepting the fact that I am no longer in any way “young.” And this leads me to ponder: What was the spirit of those times – the ’70s?

Everyone has their own memory bucket, but for me, I hear slogans: “Sex Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll;” “Make Peace, Not War;” “If he’s old enough to fight for his country, he’s old enough to vote.” There were movements: The Black Panther Movement, the Peace Movement, and the one I glommed on to – the Feminist Movement. I was a devotee of Gloria Steinem, but am ashamed to admit that I never read Betty Friedan’s book, “The Feminist Mystique.” For me, the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade balancing the interests of the mother, the child, and the state in determining the legal right to have a safe termination of pregnancy was a cause for celebration. (Of course I am flabbergasted that anyone could even conceive of a desire to overturn that decision. It boggles the mind. But that’s another blog.) That’s my partial list of the world around me between 1968-1977.

It all seems so safe and innocent, although my mother reminded me that those years were also characerized by a great deal of violence. I’d forgotten the race riots and Kent State and the utter devastation of lives wrought by the Vietnam War.