While I suspect my parents never thought of their progeny in these terms, I am a child of the Summer of Love. If not by my folks’ reckoning, then by the calendar’s, their No. 1 son was born into the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. But my parents were no hippies: They never owned a copy of Surrealistic Pillow or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, they voted for Goldwater in ’64, and I still have their “Nixon’s the One!” buttons from ’68. Rather than pining to join the Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park, they were excavating a basement and raising a family. Even so, regardless of our politics, we are all a product of our times.
First memory: improbably early in life. A night in late July 1969, my father and I watching Neil Armstrong hop along the surface of the Moon, the astronaut skipping over soil that he would describe as having the consistency of powdered charcoal. I took my own small steps to the screen door and looked up at the white orb in the black sky and thought, I don’t see any men up there.
That moment offered intimations of a vision that seemed both wonderful and true: a future gleaming with possibility, replete with interplanetary travel and devoid of poverty and disease. Certainly before the century was out, we would have cars that could fly. I’m still waiting.
In the meantime, we find ourselves four decades on from 1968—one of those watershed years in the histories of peoples across countries and continents, a year of deferred dreams and once-unimaginable nightmares coming to pass—from Prague to Memphis, from My Lai to the Ambassador Hotel in L.A., from Mexico City to the streets of Chicago. With this issue of SCM we find ourselves turning the lens of the kaleidoscope upon the past—to ask, among many other questions, of that year and of the decade in which it was so many ways the climax: How did we get from there to here? And we rediscover, in looking back, a new sense of what could be done in art and music and—this being a university—in a campus and institution transformed.
Thrillingly, in 2008, we also find ourselves looking forward to a future that some intrepid Solar Decathletes from these parts seem quite capable of helping build, starting now. Recently, over a plate of drunken noodles, one of those young Santa Clara engineering students described to me the experience of walking onto the National Mall in October and seeing the houses arrayed before him in the National Solar Village. The scene, he said, was like something out of “The Jetsons.” Which, of course, brings us back to flying cars.
Keep the faith,
Steven Boyd Saum