The New Age, they say, beginning. Atlantis, they say, rising. And we, the reincarnated Atlanteans, gathering, as any family before a celebration, or a storm.

I remember when we dressed in silks, all hair and bells and sweet hallucination, and the bird that rose in our chest we called freedom, and let fly. It was the demand air made of us, and we made a fashion of the wind, sweeping, gliding, curving it to our needs. We rose to meet the moon, not in the rocketships that were soon to imitate, though sadly, the grace of our passage, but on the wings of our own perception, all fresh eyes and ears, and minds ripe for it found God. But we didn’t reckon on the dark side, the lifeless atmospheres and the colds of space, and the price was paid.

In the Haight Ashbury, the hippies buried their own dream, but that was still more conceit, embarrassment at the rips in the fabric, the blindings by acid and dryhumps in the name of love. The beat went on. If the music was a little deadlier, less pretty, perhaps it was more truly American, and what were we after, after all, but our birthright? If the liquid turnings of the revolution had gone dry in their bearings, if social justice had (once again) become a pretense for the meanest trickery, perhaps we simply needed to hunch closer to the mirror. From the first, ours was the only face that needed changing, and that, only in the way we saw ourselves. We had been to the moon. No blame, then, that Earth’s greater gravity, and the tugging of traditions not yet fully understood, pulled us home to a different exploration.

But the skies have been our promise, and not just the moon but the stars, and not just the stars but infinite space.

I used to wonder whether Altamont would be a footnote to Woodstock or the other way around. Jagger, the music, the whole electric air — that, and the violence of the Angels, were inseparable. The myths we create consume us in the end. If, with our music, we had let loose a kind of heaven, it was already beyond us, and to regain it required another dedication. Nakedness and hallucination had taken us only so far. So, too, our hackneyed politics of confrontation. We, were, after all, human. Perhaps a little more sensual and, if the lessons of the moon were truly learned, hopeful, but also, probably, a little more naive and spoiled by quick success than the rest of our family — by which I mean (and trust we always did) the workers and the artists, the timid and the brave, all the fools who fail and those who try their best and still fail, I mean the real Woodstock nation, every last soul of us, fallen Angels included.

We learned a little about food, and a little less about religion. Now the East West Journal runs ads for expensive organic peanut butters, natural soaps and meditation cushions. For $500, you can study in the Bahamas to become a yoga teacher. You don’t need to be a guru to know which way the wind is blowing. Coin has always been exchanged for answers; in God, indeed, do so many spiritual advisers trust. Still, perhaps that’s not the sin we once supposed. Those who can, cook at home. Others get it in restaurants. It’s not a question of right or wrong, but of taste.

Which is, perhaps, what we’re coming to understand — that the kingdom isn’t won by trading off value for value (privacy for communalism; prudery for looseness; caution for adventurism) and dressing up new belief as revealed truth. Belief, even in non-violence, creates its own violence, because we defend what we know to be so. The flight from revealed truth, from all those closed frontiers of the mind that Europe had come to represent, was the gesture of another generation, two hundred years ago. Blood has washed the land. Greed became a truth, and envy and racism, and too recently to easily forget (or dare to) a President was found feeding on birds, and the sky grew a little darker.

But the skies have been our promise, and not just the moon but the stars, and not just the stars but infinite space. Perhaps, from the ashes of our own expired dreams, the New Age rises now, above the corpses of the Kennedys and the foul air of our towns, above (who dares to believe it?) every conceit of history (read, myth) and all the sly guesswork of myth (read, history). Rising now, like Atlantis, or whatever sunken continent we are ready to discover, as birds, ready at last to leave the nest, discover sky.