A couple of weeks ago, over Thanksgiving dinner (was it really two weeks ago already?!), we were sitting around the table, working our way toward a tryptophan coma, when my cousin made a comment about the shirt I was wearing.
“John Lennon, eh?” he said.
“Yep,” I replied. I mean, what else could I say? He had nailed the fact that I was wearing a gray t-shirt with a likeness of the former Beatles’ face on it, in addition to a peace sign and lyrics to Imagine. I lifted another forkful of turkey to my mouth, naively thinking the conversation was over. It was not.
“It’s no wonder hippies adored him. That song is nothing but a Communist manifesto.”
Now, my cousin is a good guy. An interesting person. He is a world traveler, fluent in Russian, and knowledgeable about a wide variety of topics, ranging from politics and veganism to Breaking Bad and the Wu Tang Clan. But this assertion was pure blasphemy! Lennon was all about peace and love, and would never subscribe to the ideals of Communism.
“Where did you get that idea?” I asked, truly befuddled.
“It’s right there in the lyrics. He advocates a classless society free of possessions, where everybody shares in the wealth and nobody goes hungry.”
Hmm. I hadn’t thought of that before. You say that like it’s a bad thing, I wanted to add, but there was at least one flag-waving veteran sharing a spot at the table, so I let the matter drop. The truth is, I thought my cousin was missing the point of the song, and was grasping at straws trying to make the lyrics fit the unintended message.
And then I googled the song. Turns out John Lennon himself said, “‘Imagine’, which says: ‘Imagine that there was no more religion, no more country, no more politics,’ is virtually the Communist manifesto, even though I’m not particularly a Communist and I do not belong to any movement.”
Whoopsie. How about that! Looks like I owe my cousin an apology for doubting him.
And yet, though it may hint at a hammer-and-sickle mentality, I prefer to view the song as Rolling Stone describes it: “22 lines of graceful, plain-spoken faith in the power of a world, united in purpose, to repair and change itself.”
How can that be a bad thing?
To some, “Imagine” is an unachievable Utopia, overly sentimental and melodramatic, asking the listener to abandon political systems while adopting one similar to Communism, hypocritical because a millionaire rock star is asking others to imagine a world without possessions. I suppose those arguments contain at least a hint of validity, but when I listen to the song, I hear an idealistic plea for peace and love and racial harmony. And I ask myself, once again…
How can that be a bad thing?
There is one lesson to be learned here, regardless: I really need to start paying attention to lyrics more.
Although, sometimes I do. I once worked for a company where the head of Human Resources – a strict and proper middle-aged white woman – was inexplicably wandering down the hallway, singing The Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar.”
“You do know what that song’s about, don’t you?” I asked her.
“Umm…” she said, and stopped dead in her tracks.
“It’s got nothing to do with baking cookies,” I said. “Try interracial oral sex.”
At that, she turned beet red. Cocked her head to the side, and I could tell she was mentally repeating the lyrics to herself. And then she turned even beet redder.
Doing the Getting
I finally got started on my Christmas shopping. I’ve always been a bit of a procrastinator, preferring to wait until after Thanksgiving, but this year I got an even later start than usual. Is it really mid-December already?! At the same time, I have fewer gifts to purchase, now that my kids are all grown up. Sniff. I pretty much already knew what I was getting everybody who matters anyway, so it was simply a matter of doing the getting. All online, of course. You don’t think I’d actually venture out to a store, do you?! That’s just crazy talk.
This year, the holidays have been a juggling act. I suppose that’s natural once you’re newly married, and your world suddenly expands to include a whole lot of people who you never had to factor into the equation before. We’ll be traveling to Seattle next weekend to visit Tara’s mom, then Christmas Eve with my aunt and uncle (and hopefully my kids), and Christmas Day with my parents. Three days after that, we’re hitting the road for Nevada, where we’re planning on spending a week visiting a whole bunch of other family members and friends. It’ll be a whirlwind trip, with overnight stays in Ely, Tonopah, Las Vegas, and Elko, but I’m pretty excited about the whole thing. And hoping to see snow! Last week, Ely’s temperatures dropped to -20. There’s no telling how cold it’ll be this year, but just in case, I’m stocking up on long johns. Better safe than sorry, you know?
Have a great weekend!
- John Lennon – Imagine! (netnewsledger.com)
- Imagine – John Lennon (lifeplustimes.wordpress.com)
- A Day to Celebrate Lennon: His Best Works, and Thoughts from Yoko (wnyc.org)
- Lennon ‘Bed-In’ sign to go to auction (time4sleep.co.uk)