The Grateful Dead and Philosophy: Getting High Minded about Love and Haight

By Steven Gimbel | Go to book overview

3
The Everyday Miracle of
the Occasional Community

JOHN DRABINSKI

Only a god can save us.

—Martin Heidegger

We must love one another or die.

—W.H. Auden

When someone wants to make fun of the Grateful Dead, the barbs inevitably take aim at Deadheads. You know the parade of stereotypes, many (if not most) of which are often true: stoner, dropout, smells bad (or good, if you like patchouli and sandalwood), druggie, free-love anarchist, aimless, and so on. One can surely debate whether all or any of these are actually vices. Most are usually quite fun and generally life-enriching which is a good distance toward becoming a virtue in my book. But my concerns here are not with the ethics of the Deadhead scene and its accoutrements; rather, I want to pose something quite opposed to the mocking stereotypes: that the Deadhead scene is actually an enormously important space of hope, especially when posed against the worst excesses of modernity. By “modernity,” I mean that peculiar form of life most of us currently inhabit, a form of life dominated by crushing uniformity, familiarity, and repetition, all of which impair our ability to think about community. What would it mean to think about the freak show that was the Grateful Dead parking lot as an occasional redemption of modern life? How might this occasional character of redemption be an example of how, in the increasingly sterile, inhuman space of daily life, we can carve out meaningful

-27-

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