03/11/2015 02:03 pm ET Updated May 11, 2015

Really Bad Advice From The Woodstock Era


People over 50 years old are inundated with humorless articles about retirement planning, the woes of aging and FDA-approved drugs with scary side effects. Having a sense of humor about any of this can be difficult for people that age, because they lived in an era when everyone believed that utopia was just around the drug-fueled corner. Unfortunately, no amount of singing and swaying to the music made that utopia materialize.

If you believed that you were about to be drafted to fight in Vietnam, you might have had good reason to "love the one you're with" instead of taking the time to fall in love with someone. But for other people, such as your boyfriend for example, "love the one you're with" didn't work out so well for him if he wasn't the one you were with that night.

"Turn on, tune in and drop out" might have worked for Timothy Leary, but it wasn't a good retirement plan for people who do not enjoy eating Ramen noodles and living in a tent in the woods in their old age. Apparently for Timothy Leary, at any rate, it was also possible to author dozens of books and reap tons of money while also turning on, tuning in and dropping out. He just forgot to let everyone else know.

"All you need is love" might have been true when you lived with your parents and didn't have rent and utilities to pay. Eventually, it became helpful to have an income, access to health care, a car to drive and maybe enough discretionary income for a meal in a restaurant. So all you need is love and a paying job, to be more accurate.

Jim Morrison delved deeper into the sage wisdom of the era. He claimed that "There can't be any large scale revolution until there's a personal revolution, on an individual level. It's got to happen inside first." But then he died young. So much for the revolution.

Ken Kesey noted that "You're either on the bus or off the bus." Master of the obvious, that guy. But we know what went on in that bus and if it was still going on today, the bus would be a hybrid and the LSD would be organic and there would be no smoking allowed.

"One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small." Jefferson Airplane had no idea how rampant the pill popping would become. Today, there's a pill for every real or imaginary thing that ails you. Pills for little boys who don't act like quiet little girls in school. Pills for middle-aged people who have just realized their childhood dreams are not going to come true. Pills for folks who hate their doughy midsections. And some of the most powerful pills make you want to take more and more of them which really only pleases the shareholders of the company that manufactured them.

The songs of the Grateful Dead were full of bad advice about how a friend of the devil could be your friend too and something or other about boxes of rain, but the truth is I never really understood any song they ever wrote. Janis Joplin, on the other hand, was less obtuse. "If someone comes along, he's gonna give you love and affection, I'd say get it while you can." Not exactly advice any of us would tell our daughters but then again, Janis didn't have children.

"Make love, not war" was sage advice from the Woodstock era even though some folks discovered years later that the two were not mutually exclusive. "Give peace a chance" was a keeper, however. We should resurrect that one.