Message of Lennon’s Imagine very relevant today

Edgar O. Cruz - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – With global entertainers overly occupied with twerking, tweeting and therapy shopping, an unknown musician arrived outside Bataclan theater in Paris in a bicycle and sat down on a mobile grand piano painted with the peace emblem. Jihadists murdered and maimed scores of innocent concertgoers there during an Eagles of Death Metal show.

As hundreds of mourners gathered to offer flowers, candles and prayers, he then delivered an instrumental rendition of John Lennon’s Imagine. Its poignancy resonated the imagined perfection it espouses: “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.”

With its declaration of a utopia that is free of religion, government and materialism, Lennon would have loved to sing Imagine himself if alive today. Embodying his peacenik ideals, it turned the best-selling single of his solo career and registered as a most performed song of the 20th century, turning into a global peace anthem.

Overly idealistic to the point of impracticality, Lennon sang out to the world that the elimination of religion will remove the world’s main divides. This makes him universally current in the light of the conflict that followers of certain religions impose upon the earth.

Its gentle left-wing polemics only match the ambivalent attitude of its forerunners: Revolution and its original but slower version, Revolution 1, except their aural counterpart, Revolution No. 9, is more indicative of subject; the gobbledygook of Give Peace a Chance and Come Together; and the romanticized denial of war in Happy Xmas (War is Over).

Imagine’s make-believe concept was lifted from Yoko Ono’s book of fantasy instructional poems, Grapefruit, such as Cloud Piece that reads: “Imagine the clouds dripping, dig a hole in your garden to put them in.”

But the theme of Imagine was derived from Lennon’s own composition, God, a track in his emotionally bare album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. He renounces the concept of a universal creator/ruler as a result of undergoing Primal Scream Therapy.

Its God as “measure-of-pain” thesis included the rejection of the Bible and Jesus among other Western and Eastern philosophies, political figures, pop idols including the Beatles. He caps it by declaring, “I just believe in me / Yoko and me / And that’s reality.

Curiously, it does not name-drop Prophet Mohamad or the Holy Koran. The Cerebral Beatle naturally gravitated towards esoteric and political subjects. He might not have found Islam hip or iconic enough but he is right about religion dividing people.

Due to troubles related to his drug conviction, Lennon and Ono tried to stay in the United States by creating Nutopia. An imaginary country that lives up to Imagine’s aspirations, Nutopia is complete with a white flag and an embassy at their Dakota Mansion residence. As its ambassadors, they were supposed to enjoy diplomatic immunity.

Take this in the light of viral video of a French father telling his five-year-old son why they were offering flowers at a Bataclan memorial: “It’s to fight against the guns.”

Lennon’s “imagine” strategy on how to to deal with international disparities might seem outdated 44 years but the truth how flowers can fight guns rings valid more than ever.

Ambassadors Lennon and Ono might not have played the Nutopian International Anthem, Nutopia’s three-second anthem of silent track, but its mind game inspires all is possible, how continuing to dream leads to reality.

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