Top 10 Quotes By Ken Kesey That Helped Launch the Hippie Movement

When Ken Kesey’s landmark novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was published in 1962 is was immediately met with critical and commercial success. The novel served to take the ideas of the Beat writers (Jack Kerouac, Alan Ginsberg) into the next stage of the counterculture, which would eventually become the Hippie movement. The counter cultural icons of the mid to late 1960s (Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Rolling Stones) were just getting started when One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was first published.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest tells the story of one man’s struggle to find sanity and humanity in a mental hospital. The main character, Randal Patrick McMurphy, tries to shake the patients out of their complacency and give them a reason to live; however, the authoritarian head nurse is determined to preserve the status quo, and uses subtle forms of coercion, shame and intimidation to keep everyone and everything in check. The legacy of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is that it created a link between the Beats and Hippies because it told a compelling story that served as a perfect metaphor for society and the conflict between individuality and conformity.

Here are 10 quotes from Ken Kesey on how to channel rebellion into art.


“Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.” – Ken Kesey


“You can’t really be strong until you see a funny side to things.” – Ken Kesey


“People think love is an emotion. Love is good sense.” – Ken Kesey


“Listen, wait, and be patient. Every shaman knows you have to deal with the fire that’s in your audience’s eye.” – Ken Kesey


“You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” – Ken Kesey


“I’d rather be a lightning rod than a seismograph.” – Ken Kesey


“Nowhere else in history has there ever been a flag that stands for the right to burn itself. This is the fractal of our flag. It stands for the right to destroy itself.” – Ken Kesey


“Take what you can use and let the rest go by.” – Ken Kesey


“To hell with facts! We need stories!” – Ken Kesey


“You’ve got to get out and pray to the sky to appreciate the sunshine; otherwise you’re just a lizard standing there with the sun shining on you.” – Ken Kesey

Author: Phil Zavackis


Phil Zavackis is a freelance writer living in Toronto. He has recently finished a screenplay titled ‘105 Degrees & Rising’, which is about the Fall of Saigon in 1975.




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