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Peter Coyote: The Counterculture and its Relevance to Society Today

Wed April 17th 2019, 12:30 - 1:30pm
Lane History Corner
Building 200, Room 002 (Basement)
564-570 Lasuen Mall
Stanford University
Peter Coyote: The Counterculture and its Relevance to Society Today

Please join us for a talk by the celebrated actor, author, and Zen Buddhist priest Peter Coyote.

He writes:

The counterculture has been widely distributed as a meme for indulgence, license, and excess, and to be sure those were flavors in its stew. What’s less known is how the counterculture was part of a long history of transcendentalism in the United States, and the degree to which it was the petri dish that germinated many significant social movements of the past half-century:

  • the Women’s Movement;
  • environmentalism;
  • organic food production;
  • alternative medicine (acupuncture, homeopathy, naturopathy, herbalism);
  • and alternative spirituality (Vipassana, Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, Wicca).

These contributions represent deep cultural change. They are not the frothy whitewater of current events. However, there are deep lessons from unintended consequences of the counterculture that are particularly pertinent to the theater of protest and the shaping of political debate and strategy in current electoral cycles that will be stressed.


About the Speaker

Peter Coyote began his film career at 39, after living nearly a dozen years in the counterculture during the 1960s and 70s. Since then, he has performed as an actor for some of the world’s most distinguished filmmakers, including: Barry Levinson, Roman Polanski, Pedro Almodovar, Steven Spielberg, Walter Hill, Martin Ritt, Steven Soderberg, Diane Kurys, Sidney Pollack, and Jean Paul Rappeneau.

In 2006, he had a major role in three televison series: The Inside on Fox-TV, the 4400 on USA Channel and played the Vice-President to Geena Davis’s President on Commander in Chief for ABC-TV until the show’s end.  In 2011, he starred as the District Attorney in the new version of Law and Order – LA. In 2000, he was the on-camera announcer of the Academy Awards Ceremony, taking the heavy-lifting off co-host Billy Crystal’s shoulders for all the detailed announcements of the broadcast which played live to an estimated one billion listeners. In 2007, he was prominently featured as an old boxing promoter in Rod Lurie’s “Resurrecting the Champ” with Samuel. L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett, and also as Sally Field’s disreputable writing teacher on the television series, “Brothers and Sisters.” He recently completed a six hour series called The Disappearance which is due to air this year.

Mr. Coyote has written a memoir of his counterculture years called Sleeping Where I Fall which received universally excellent reviews, appeared on three best-seller lists, sold five printings in hardback aAfter being released by Counterpoint Press in 1999, it was re-released in November of 2010 and has been in continuous release ever since. It is currently in use as a source text for Sixties Studies in a number of universities. An early chapter from that book, “Carla’s Story, won the 1993/94 Pushcart Prize for Excellence in non-fiction. His new book, The Rainman’s Third Cure, released in April, 2015 is a study of mentors and the search for wisdom and he is currently readying a new book for publication in 2021- The I Behind the Mask: The Lone Ranger and Tonto meet the Buddha.

Mr. Coyote is well-known for his voice-over work, and has done numerous documentaries and TV specials, including the nine-hour PBS Special, The West. In 1992 he won an Emmy as the “Host” for a nine-hour series, called, The Pacific Century which also won the prestigious duPont-Columbia Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism.

 In 2010 he recorded the12 hour series on The National Parks for Ken Burns and has recently completed the voice-work on Mr. Burns most recent series—a 16 hour special on The History of Country Music. He won a second Emmy for his narration on The Roosevelts, and has also done Prohibition, The Dust Bowl, and an 18 Hour series on Vietnam with Ken Burns. Mr Coyote and Mr Burns are currently readying a long series on Ernest Hemingway.

In 2011 he was ordained as a Zen Buddhist priest and in 2015 received “transmission” from his teacher, making him an independent Zen teacher. He makes his home on a farm in Northern California, and considers working on his 1952 Dodge Power-Wagon his longest lasting addiction. He has 40 fruit trees and loves to make jam and walk with his two dogs.

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