Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why John Lennon Was Wrong

Great artist.  Terrible philosopher.
So, as I type this opening line, my Pandora radio station is playing Jack Johnson's cover of John Lennon's famous song "Imagine", a stirring guitar ballad promoting peace, love, and unity in true post-Beatles Lennon hippy fashion style.  Its a beautiful song, and paints such a melodic picture of world peace.  Except, unfortunately, it's wrong.

I play piano (sorta), and own the sheet music to this song, but I never actually sought out to play it, precisely because I had a nauseating, queasy feeling in my gut when I sang the first line, much like the feeling you get when you're a passive witness to something that you'd rather not be a part of.  "Imagine there's no heaven, its easy if you try."  I did try.  Scared the hell outta me, (which made the next line "No hell below us" seem redundant.)

Now I get it, Lennon is advocating for the dissolution of those things that traditionally divide us and prevent us from being one united worldwide hug-fest, or at the least, a world in which I don't shoot at you for doing something that I don't particularly like.  Lennon's dripping with good intent, but as far as his lyrical message goes, he's shot himself in the foot.

So pristine you want to vomit.
Why?  Because killing heaven kills the best of man.  When I say Heaven, I don't mean some picturesque, idyllic  pastoral scene that always ends up looking like a My Little Pony castle you can never escape.  I mean Heaven in a sense closer to (ironically enough) the very thing that Lennon is describing:  The absence of everything that divides us.  Which is why his song doesn't make sense:  You're describing a heaven, and in the same fell swoop, trying to abolish heaven.

Heaven reflects the absolute best in man.  Every burden, every sin, every lie that man every adopted is gone, forgotten from every record.  Heaven, even in the distance, makes man want to be better. Because we see the faintest glimpse of heaven, I want to be the best man I can be.  Because I see heaven in the distance, I'm discontent with the dysfunction in myself and in the world.  I'm willing to seek a better world, even fight for it against those who would seek to hinder me.  Because I see something that's true, I'm willing to defend it against lies.

If you separate heaven from man, you'll find that he has no purpose, no "raison d'etre."  And I'm not even talking about life after death, although heaven only seems to make sense after death. I'm talking about Heaven in the sense that its the place where everything and everyone is finally as it ought to be.  To say that there is heaven is to say that there is some redeeming quality within us, something that makes us worth saving, something that makes believing in goodness worthwhile.

I want a world like Lennon describes, believe me, I do.  But without heaven, it simply can't be done.  Man is fallen, such a thing is rather obvious.  If it weren't, there'd be no point in Lennon writing this song in the first place.  Before we unite into Lennon's perpetual Woodstock, we need to address the reason why we are not, and have not always been, united in Lennon's perpetual Woodstock.  What makes us to choose to shoot at each other rather than hug and hold hands?  Why are we fallen, and why should we get back up?  When we've answered that question, we'll find heaven.  We'll understand why we fell and why (and how) we need to get back up.  Heaven gives us purpose and destination.  It gives us a model by which we can shape our world, here and now.

Mr. Lennon, I know you're dead, but, please, do your vision and your species a favor.  Don't kill heaven, embrace it.

No comments:

Post a Comment