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A LOT OF PEOPLE are talking about the Underground these days. It seems that once you've put a name to something, you have the power to understand it and to dissolve its strength into a variety of solutions ready to receive it. So it goes for the Underground. For the sociologists, it's a "subculture" with all sorts of appendages like new values and relevant commentaries. Hollywood and "Seventeen" magazine parade the "now-generation" and we get scene after slick page of how to be with whatever it is. Evidently, the Underground has made it: shunted off into its own little strata, it is now in the position to be analyzed, ranted against, profited from, scaled with the boundaries between those who know and those who don't.
Despite the vast quantities of premeditated bullshit there is still something there. Along with the music, and the dope, and the books that get passed around, there comes a feeling that goes much deeper than the outward signs of a particular lifestyle and forces the people involved to look away from the millennia as promised by Madison Ave. It promises something better. It is an answer to the angry helplessness of living in a jungle of machines you can't understand and of mass-produced ideas that are flung at you like cat-calls. Gather the feeling more closely about you; you can find pleasure in all the things that can't be processed, marketed or sold, you can find your own reasons for enjoying the things that can.
The feeling is fragmented now. It comes up in a song, a conversation, a book a friend tells you to read. The fragments are held together by the knowledge that others are trying as you are trying, and together you look for a way to make it whole, to make it something in which everyone may participate. Society fears a lifestyle different than its own, and so the experiments go underground where sympathy lets them grow into one.
The people that are trying to create such a way cannot be relegated to a subculture which focuses on their separateness and shuts them off from appreciating all that is available and may be useful to them. In a subculture the only reaction can be a defensive one, fearful of any challenge that might threaten their own solidarity. Instead, people must be made aware of their total environment and of all its possibilities. For them, and for others trying to understand what they are out to do, there is a book. It is a coming together, not only for those who think they're with, but for those who would like to know what it is.
THE BOOK is called "Whole Earth Catalog-access to tools." It comes out in two issues, Fall and Spring, with four supplements. Its purpose is described in the book's preface:
We ARE as gods and might as well get used to it. So far, remotely done power and glory-as via government, big business, formal education, church-has succeeded to the point where gross defects obscure actual gains. In response to this dilemma and to these gains a realm of intimate personal power is developing-power of the individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested. Tools that aid this process are sought and promoted by the Whole Earth Catalog.
The Catalog is divided into sections, as most catalogs are. In Whole Earth they are Understanding Whole Systems, Shelter and Land Use, Industry and Craft, Communications. Community, Nomadics, and Learning. Whole Earth is a large book and opens up places you never thought of entering. The section on Understanding Whole Systems, for example, gives you a collection of things concerned with getting to know man better as a phenomenon living among and taking part in an infinite number of other phenomena. You really begin to appreciate yourself when you find out some of the ways interesting people are looking at you and the world. For more specific information about the business of living, go to Shelter and Land Use and Industry and Craft.
Information on every kind of tool and trade and new idea is listed, from organic gardening to Moog synthesizers. It tells you where to learn about hitch-hiking, tantra art, the domain of man, and altered states of consciousness. You hear of magazines that give you earth beauty and ones that give you "practical information on two-strategies of survival if national affairs get funny: Hiding and running." There are toys, lists of schools filled with the ecstasy of education, books that teach you how to make a whole environment out of any environment from commune to suburb. The reviewers of the products talk to you, not at you, and respect the things they are reviewing, whether it be Kalibab Boots or Marshall McLuhan.
In the end, however. Whole Earth Catalog is a tool. Wander through it, admire it, be sure to use it. The worlds resting in its pages are wide open for those ready for the adventure, but it will be worth nothing if it is not allowed to function as it is designed. It is a good thing: let it lead you on to better things.
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