Tuesday, July 25, 2006

In which I elaborate on item 94 from my 100 things list. . .

. . .and risk sounding like a pompous know-it-all. The purpose of this post is not to let you know how wise I am and shouldn't you all start thinking the same way I do. No, the purpose of this post is to reveal myself by expressing an opinion. An opinion you may or may not understand or agree with (or even care about.) You will, however, come away understanding a little more about how I think, and thus, come a little closer to knowing me, Mary.

94. I cannot stand John Lennon's song Imagine. I think it has the stupidest lyrics EVER.

That may sound like a harsh statement. And I guess, if push came to shove, I would have to admit that the lyrics probably aren't the stupidest ever. Don't get me started on that "I like big butts" song. However, because Imagine is so iconic, I think the lyrics bother me more than another song which might have similar sentiments.

Before I get too far into this, let me make the following disclaimer: I have nothing against John Lennon. He was an excellent singer/songwriter/musician. His music has had a tremendous impact on the world. I love the Beatles yeah, yeah, yeah! I just happen to dislike the lyrics of this particular song.
I first became bothered by this song in 1984 when it was used in the movie The Killing Fields. I was troubled by the idea of imagining "...there's no countries...and no religion too." Initially I thought the song wasn't a good match for the movie. Dith Pran, one of the movie's main characters, fought to hold onto his faith and his life. He fought fiercely and with great determination. He lived hiding his true beliefs and self to survive. He endured hunger and pain. He witnessed horrible atrocities including the indoctrination of children which turned them into killing machines. He saw the killing fields after which the movie is named where hundreds of thousands of Cambodian skeletons were discarded. In the midst of all this, one very poignant scene is Dith Pran's praying at a ruined Buddhist temple. That scene and the idea that in order to have peace, we should have no religion struck a discordant note in my heart.

As the years passed and I would occasionally hear this song, I began to be more and more concerned by its message. This anthem to peace and love seemed to be saying that the only way we could have those things is by not being human. While we can and should always strive to end political conflict, religious abuse, crimes against each other, what I imagine when I hear this song is nothingness... an absence of... a lack.

I believe in John Lennon's sincerity as he wrote this song. I believe this song reflects the conclusions he came to after experiencing life in the 60's and 70's. Perhaps, seeing the unfairness of the world in his time and rejecting so many of the long-held ideas of the earlier decades, he imagined that by doing away entirely with what he saw as the cause of the world's problems, what would be left in its stead would be a paradise where we all would come together "to live as one." And like all the genie stories where someone makes a wish without realizing the consequences, I think the wish of this song, if granted would have had unforseen repercussions: a world with no countries might be a world without diversity; a world with no religion might be a world that never looked past the sky above; a world with no pain might be a world without joy.

Now, decades after this song was written, after experiencing life in the 80's, 90's and early 21st century, I know that I can't and don't want to imagine a world without spiritual beliefs, a world without the hope of heaven and a world without diversity.

And that is why I cannot stand John Lennon's song, Imagine.




Imagine by John Lennon

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

3 comments:

Paul said...

Somewhere back in the late 70s a friend of a friend dared to suggest that the song Imagine was "blatant plug for communism". I listened politely and thought, "oh, whatever, it's still a great song", and mostly forgot about it.

But I never entirely forgot about it, and have long since decided that he was right, but in a narrow sort of way, and I was right in a purely music sort of way.

It's a weird concept how some of the most incredibly genuine, beautiful and heartfelt music ever made can also be among the most stupid.

Regardless which body parts I might give up to write songs or sing like Lennon, I thank God that I am not screwed up in the ways that made such stupidity possible.

One of the great tragedies that the era of Lennon, Woodstock, etc, jammed down our throats was (and still is) the confusion of sincere passion and talent, for really good things like wisdom.

Oh and I'm also thankful for my wife's not-stupidness.

Terri B. said...

Quite honestly, I've never even paid attention to the lyrics of this song until you posted them here! The tune is so beautiful that I completely ignored the words all these years. Those are some of the saddest lyrics I've ever "heard." I appreciate his sentiment for a peaceful world, but his "brotherhood" of sharing and one-ness sounds a lot like nothing-ness. Nothing to believe in and nothing to love. I suppose if we all were able to agree to sit and do and say absolutely nothing forever we would have world peace. Not a world I'm interested in.

bubandpie said...

I so agree with you. Every word.