Chapter 2: Back to the Garden

bitten apple
Derek Mathers photo

Before media arrived to transform the growth of social movements somehow the musical gathering known as Woodstock gained momentum. Even though Joni Mitchell wasn’t there, she captured it in her song Woodstock by talking to her then boyfriend Graham Nash who did attend, and by watching television footage. Released in 1970, two other versions of her song came out that year, one by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young:

Well, I came upon a child of God, 

he was walking along the road

And I asked him, “tell me where are you going?”

This he told me: 
Said, “I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm,

Going to join in a rock and roll band

Got to get back to the land 

and set my soul free.” 

We are stardust, we are golden,

we are billion-year-old carbon

And we got to get ourselves

Back to the garden

Ever feel like that? If we could just get back to the garden before sin entered the world everything would be okay. All pain and suffering would disappear and we would love each other and our creator. Utopia, right? When tragedy strikes and God doesn’t appear to be doing anything about it, the Woodstock song hits the mark. A whole generation was not keen on being conscripted to fight the unnecessary war that was Vietnam. They were compelled to set their souls free, whatever it took to do it.

The protest movement of the late 60s and early 70s also came about because hypocrisy was rampant. The perfectionism demanded in the 50s and 60s led to elders looking one way in public while behind closed doors they were something else entirely, all the while admonishing their children to get in line and keep the illusion alive. Succinct Malvina Reynolds captured this in her song Little Boxes, which later highlighted the TV series Weeds, about a family behind the lookalike doors who definitely wasn’t living the perfect suburban life.

Then along came a movie in 1990 that puts the paradox before us. The original concept was about a nasty man who gets together with a foul-mouthed hooker, an older woman whom he doesn’t love but uses. She’s an addict and when he leaves her he throws her to the ground and gives her money which she throws back at him. The producers of this script, originally called $3,000, realized such a film would never be the megahit they wanted. Disney bought the script and hired writer/producer/director/actor Garry Marshall to direct it and work his magic.

Now Marshall was a great guy—his work continues to make people laugh. He developed sitcoms like Happy Days, Mork and Mindy, and Laverne and Shirley and of himself he said, “In the education of the American people, I am Recess.” And sometimes we need recess to rest from relentless bad news. We know when Marshall takes a script with two unlikeable characters, it will be transformed and it is. It becomes Pretty Woman and ends up making 465,000,000 dollars worldwide.

Maybe you remember the transformed version—down and out but beautiful prostitute gets picked up on the street by wealthy but repressed good-looking businessman who runs a nasty company. Through a series of incidents, the two fall in love and rescue each other—one from a lack of opportunities and the other from an inability to live fully. We can imagine their lives together, charmed and beautiful, as they ride off into the sunset turning their backs on their former lives and, in essence, going back to the garden. Deep sigh.

But as the garden story goes, when Adam and Eve ate the apple sin entered the world and our lives were forever changed. Maybe if it had been you and me in the garden, we could have withstood the temptation. Likely not. This event became the basis for the concept of original sin. The Woodstock crowd says it sucks as a premise for the world and we must wind back time to before the apple was chomped on. The fake perfectionism of the 50s and 60s furthered the discontent. The popularity of Pretty Woman suggests we would rather believe in a fairy tale than be confronted with unpleasant truths. Is it any surprise that historically many have chosen to believe glossy fake histories of our nations rather than face the darkness of slavery, oppression and the human hearts that formed them?

Our bus travels through stormy roads to try to understand the concept of original sin.

 

Cal said, “Abra, I’ve killed my brother and my father is paralyzed because of me.”
            She took his arm and clung to it with both hands.
            Cal said, “Didn’t you hear me?”
            “I heard you.”
            “Abra, my mother was a whore.”
“I know. You told me. My father is a thief.” 
"I've got her blood, Abra. Don’t you understand?” 
“I’ve got his,” she said.

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

 

Off the Beaten Path:

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young sing their version of Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock: https://youtu.be/oKv6Q3Iah1Y

Woodstock overview: https://youtu.be/czFr_kJCdKQ

Malvina Reynolds sings Little Boxes: https://youtu.be/ridovIfoWdA

Weeds overview: https://youtu.be/aimnmPSVy7c

The Cinderella ending to the movie Pretty Woman: https://youtu.be/r05Yea1EXns

The story of Adam and Eve: https://youtu.be/ZKujG5U8Dmo

John Steinbeck’s East of Eden is available as a novel and movie. East of Eden movie overview: https://youtu.be/zMd7Li98DAw

John Steinbeck’s East of Eden centres around the story of Cane and Abel: https://youtu.be/n_2COSYnps4