In the sleepless hours of the night—morning really—I am reaching for things to listen to. I’ve run through a lot of audiobooks, but the other night I picked up the end of a lecture series on Russian History.

Other than my own country I have spent the most time in Russia. I lived there for a year and a half, shared meals, laughter, and lots of worried and doubts. It changed my life. I was eager to finish the Russian history lecture.

The second to last lecture started by talking about the Sixties in the Soviet Union. The iron grip and terror of Stalin was past. The obsessive push to be a communist and comrade was getting weaker.

The ‘60s in America had a music revival and the Vietnam war to protest. The 60s and 70s were full of consciousness raising and re-examintations. The soviets had a War in Afghanistan first.

They even got pundits together to talk about what just happened with that whole Stalin thing The Soviets had a folk music thing too. They started to pass around a word “Lichnost”—the Russian word for “person.”

Personhood. Individuality. After decades of uniformity and lockstep indoctrination in the Soviet mission, the soviet people wanted to chill out and have a good time with family and friends. To enjoy themselves with what made them happy.

I even learned of a wildly popular ballad called “My Arbat.” The Arbat is a street in Moscow which holds an open market. Around here we would call it a swap meet or a flea market. In opposition to the tight control of goods that the Soviet government.

The lyrics say “ My arbat—my religion—” A strong pushback against conformity and toward personal taste and individual preference. A return to acoustic guitar music, to individual preferences and allow for a single perspective.

That was 50 years ago. It was a spirit that swept throughout the world.

In the dark hours of the morning, it struck me again. Right now in my own country I am feeling a resistance to the conformity of opinions and actions. There has been a tightening of acceptable opinions, and I have had things erased off my social media by the tech lords.

I am longing for more personal connections—for individuality and family. It is meaningful to see where this has happened before, and how things might move in a different direction. People have been here before and come out of it. I am looking for the way to connect to the arbat of ideas and personal tastes again.

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