Hippie Hollow and Quaker Worship
True hippies celebrated the human body and the senses. Dropping acid, smoking pot, or just meditating could erase the boundary between the body and the world. The body could flow into the world. The world could flow into the body. To use a metaphor from Rumi, the Sufi mystic, a drop of water can be absorbed by the ocean; but simultaneously, the ocean is absorbed into the drop.
Taking off your clothes in the presence of others—nudism—is one way to free body and soul from social strictures; and that freedom is best experienced in an outdoors natural setting. For hippies and UT Austin students in the 60’s, Hippie Hollow—a remote area of Lake Travis and invisible from the road above—was almost the only safe place to communally bare all.
Hippie Hollow’s origins are shrouded in legend. Knowledge of the place was passed on by word of mouth; and—as far as I can tell—the earliest mention of Hippie Hollow in the Austin American-Statesman is a 1971 article about a woman who was seen “…floating nude, face down on a raft” and subsequently charged with disorderly conduct. Those charges were dismissed, presumably because—in Texas—nudity is only criminal when the perpetrator is recklessly trying to offend (or arouse) another person in a public place.
As an open secret, Hippie Hollow remained an undeveloped spot in the 60’s and early 70’s. In 1985 a gradual process of improvement was begun; and today there are restrooms, drinking water, and even a trail designed for disabled persons. It’s the only clothes-optional public park in Texas.
I can imagine myself visiting in the pre-developed, “hippie” past. In my mind’s eye, I see myself innocently splashing around in the water. Suddenly, a park ranger from the twenty-first century shouts, “Hey, you! What are you doing down there?” Of course, I’ve never been to Hippie Hollow, I don’t swim; and in the 60’s I was afraid of fully dressed people, let alone naked ones. Regardless, it would have been an enriching experience to visit the place and commune with nature just like the hippies of old.
It’s interesting to note that Quakers of the 17th century sometimes went naked “as a sign.” George Fox even encouraged the practice to symbolize that at death people are stripped of earthly wealth and success. Still, even in the 17th century, the practice was scandalous.
We modern Quakers keep our clothes on, but we should bare all spiritually. In Meeting for Worship, we’re supposed to drop our self-defenses and open our naked souls to God or Spirit. In Worship Sharing, we should be vulnerable and remove the psychological barriers between our inmost selves and other people. If we’re primarily concerned to project a sanitized image of ourselves, we’re really playing a public relations game and allowing fear to block our spiritual progress. No one can see our soul, our “true self,” nor can we see into the depths of another’s being. Only the naked truth will allow love to flourish.
Human beings need connection to one another. In pre-historic times such connections were necessary for physical survival. Hunters needed to co-operate to bring down a Mammoth, and the meat had to be shared with the whole group so that it wouldn’t go to waste. Reciprocity ruled. If I share my food today, you’ll share your food tomorrow. If you gather berries today, I’ll take care of your children while you’re foraging. Tomorrow the roles may be reversed. Human connectedness and sociability were built into our genes.
True religion, then, the search for “spiritual food,” is a communal enterprise. We seek God together, not as solitary individuals. In 1652 George Fox saw “a great people gathered,” the operative word being “gathered.”
Anyway, click HERE for the official website of McGregor/Hippie Hollow Park.
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