Last year, I travelled to Scotland to see a friend who had been living there for the last ten years or so. This was, sadly, the first time I had gotten up there to see her and so she took the opportunity to show me around her new(ish) home town.
There was a lot to see. She lives in a military town called Helensburgh and being on the coast, there’s a lot of naval history. A beautiful row of boutique stores, restaurants and bars line the waterfront and the backdrop of the mountains creates a stunning aesthetic.
But there was one thing she showed me that the people of the town didn’t seem quite so enamoured with; a hippie commune. She explained that people weren’t in awe of how this commune had taken over but I think that much of this displeasure was through a lack of understanding.
I think in life, it pays for us all to gain a better understanding of how other people live. Perhaps then, we might not be quite as judgemental. So, I decided to take a closer look at and answer the question: what is a hippie commune?
According to those that live on hippie communes, these are plots of land with either one large home or several small homes. People with similar ideas and beliefs come to live here to share everything.
But of course, there’s a lot more to understand, keep reading to see just what goes on in a hippie commune and how life is for these people.
Understanding Hippie Communes
When we think of hippies, images of peace and love from the 1960s might be one of the first things that springs to mind. Yes, there is a lot of truth in this image since the hippy culture became popular in the 60s and 70s as a way of rejecting the normal cultural rules of America at the time. But the same values and ideas have lived on in one way or another.
Hippie communes are, as I described earlier, plots of land where a group of people come to live and will share everything. When I say everything, I do mean pretty much everything. These people share values, ideas and beliefs but they’re also more than happy to share things like chores, cooking tasks, paying bills and hard labour.
That’s right, living on a hippie commune isn’t all about sitting in the grass singing kumbaya, although that’s what the movies would have us believe. No, on hippie communes, people learn to live off the land and work hard to ensure that the hippie commune thrives.
Making A Living
Of course, in modern day communes, there is a need for financial backup. However, most people coming to live in the commune would try as best as they could not to have a job outside of the community. Usually, this isn’t possible. Unless the person already has serious financial back up, they would need to go out into the wider community to earn a living.
That said, once the commune was established and thriving, there was less need for actual jobs as with crops and animals, the commune would as good as feed itself. What’s more, most communes back in the day would make art or crafts which would be sold to fund the day to day running of the community.
Moreover, each person within the commune has his or her own role. This could be cooking, gardening, general maintenance, farming and many others. It would depend on the skills you have as to the role you would play. So, everyone works together to ensure things run smoothly and efficiently.
Sharing The Love
And this is where it gets really interesting. People living on the hippie commune don’t only share work, food, homes and other things; they share each other. The concept back in the day was known as free love and, without getting too detailed, involved sharing each other's bodies as long as it was consensual. In modern hippie communes, the idea is based more around the notion of polyamory which is something that a lot of people outside of communes are open to in this day and age. This typically works by having a main partner but then sharing their love with others if they feel compelled to do so.
What About Modern Hippie Communes?
All of the things I have talked about so far come from the ideas of a traditional hippie commune. Truth be told, most communes have the same values and ways of running today as they did half a century ago.
If there are any real differences to what people back in the day would have experienced compared to today, it’s quite minor. For example, modern hippie communes might have running water and gas and electricity supplies from the main grid. Although, there are still plenty of communes around the world that still rely on the good old fashioned methods of relying on the land.
One of the main reasons for this is so that the commune is as eco-friendly as possible. Where there are energy supplies, you’ll find that these are only used when really necessary and things like wood burners are much more common.
Other than this, a lot of hippie communes might make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. Things are much simpler and that’s something that a lot of modern people welcome.
What Are The Notions Behind The Hippie Lifestyle?
If the idea of moving to a hippie commune has ever crossed your mind, then you’ve probably wondered what life is actually like. Yes, we can consider the work ethic of these people but the notions behind the hippie lifestyle run much deeper.
For starters, especially back in the day, people would move to a hippie commune and relinquish everything they owned. Since one of the general ideas of this lifestyle was to rebel against consumerism, having any real worldly possessions went against this. There is an idea that, by giving up these goods, you would become more spiritually free. Is this something I agree with? To a degree, yes. We spend a lot of our lives worrying about buying the latest designer clothing, having the best smartphone, owning a breathtaking home. These ideas fill our minds and take away from the simpler things; the things that really matter…loved ones, food, making memories. So, yes, I can see the appeal.
What’s more, hippies believe that there is a lot of waste in the world. They’re not wrong! In fact, there was once a member of one of the first ever hippie communes, Drop City, that talked about the fact that their commune could live off of the waste of the general population, there was that much of it! Despite not having material possessions or huge amounts of wealth, most hippies are filled with the love and joy that comes from making the most of life.
This is likely where the next hippie idea comes into play; feeling close to one another. In the general population, many people go through life on their own. Even if you have a family that you live with, how often do you all spend quality time together? And when you do, aren’t there disagreements and trivial issues that get in the way?
Hippies embrace the idea of being close with one another, supporting one another and making life revolve around each other rather than just existing alongside one another. Within a hippie commune, each person would form a bond with other members of the community. This bond wasn’t just to do with the fact that they shared the same space but ran much deeper, creating true connections with their fellow commune members.
There was, back in the day, also the idea that every person was equal. There shouldn’t be division according to aspects of who you are and this idea remains largely the same today. The only major difference is that modern communes realise the need for some kind of leadership so many do have a person, or people, in a position of authority.
Hippies And Drugs
If you ask pretty much anyone what hippies spend their days doing, they’d probably tell you that they’re sitting around taking drugs. There is an unfortunate stereotype of the druggie hippie but for the most part, this probably wasn’t quite as extreme as most of us would think.
Yes, hippies did, and do still take recreational drugs but they’re not doing it because they view themselves as delinquents. Instead, hippies were taking drugs as a way of opening their minds to new ways of thinking. Substances such as LSD and cannabis were drugs of choice for hippies and many believed that they allowed them to reach a higher state of consciousness. For all intents and purposes, they were using drugs for spiritual release and not for the mere fun of it.
But if you look at the level of drug use within hippie communes over the years, you’ll notice that there is a decrease. In the beginning of the movement, drug use was prevalent as these people attempted to reach their spiritual goals. However, over time, they’ve come to rely on drugs less and less as their way of life has allowed them the spiritual freedom they’ve long been searching for.
We live in a world filled with more than 7 billion people. While many of us live a conventional lifestyle, there are those that choose to live differently. A lot of us are guilty of looking at these people and passing judgement without first understanding how and why they live their lives.
There is a lot of stigma attached to being a hippie or living on a hippie commune but when you look more closely at the ideals of these communities, it actually becomes crystal clear what they are trying to achieve.
Yes, their way of life might be different to the norm but who is to say that it’s incorrect? In fact, the more I think about it, the more I start to believe that they might be the ones who’ve got it spot on and we’re all victims of authority, consumerism and the chains of modern life.