breaking promises and disappointment

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I know this post shouldn't be coming up after all the long promises I made about hiatus and social rehab that I go every quarterly except it didn't happen this time. Whole lot of reasons to it, wouldn't go into the detail as I'm composing another piece of crap for something. Delhi University has managed to make my average-piss off day to above average-piss off day courtesy their new exams date sheet that is rumoured to kill the winter vacation from first a month to 15 days to 6 days now. They might as well call us to college during Christmas. We'll have the ever enthusiastic Western Music Society playing some carols for us during the forever fucked assembly.

Meanwhile, scored an opportunity to go judge an interschool western music competition, where my aunt teaches. It was well worth bunking one full day and listening to cheerful faces play some of the most overhyped tracks of all times. The school just couldn't give itself better than that to welcome and honour us. Somethings are better felt than to be explained to bunch of bots out there who come across this page from all parts of the world (India, more like it).

Anandi had asked me to put up my paper (which is now a reject) on the blog. Since there is nothing better to speak about and my mind's filled with rant-crap that I am puking out on the otherside I'd hurry up with the paper. There are couple of typos and whole lot of errors and I can't seem to place the edited version so I'm signing off with the unedited paper.

Imagine: The Utopia

Proposing a Utopian vision of the world with one the most controversial and widely discussed song of all times, John Lennon’s “Imagine” is one of his best. Imagine simply means forming a mental picture of something not present. The song is by far one of the most misinterpreted songs ever written. It’s played so often at the processions and peace marches that most people only hear what they want to hear. The common thread that binds this is the belief that this song is truly advocating peace and love in the world. How? That is the controversial question we will deal in this paper.

Complete lyrics of the song Imagine

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 that 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 that 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


Writer: John Lennon

Producers: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Phil Spector

I believe Lennon used musical sleight of hand to sell this as peace anthem but this is not limited to just that. John Lennon left behind a legacy of music and myths that fascinate and intrigue us. Sure there’s The Beatles, but there’s also the notorious Yoko Ono, the battles with the Nixon administration, and no shortage of outspokenness and political incorrectness. From claims of being “bigger than Jesus” to naked album covers, it seems Lennon was surrounded by controversy at every turn. Much, if not all of this was self-imposed.

For better or for worse, John Lennon was the darkness of The Beatles. It was that darkness combined with the light (literally and figuratively) of Paul McCartney that balance the collaborative genius that was Lennon/McCartney, or McCartney/Lennon. For every All You Need is Love there is a Run For Your Life, and for every “Strawberry Field” there is a plea for “Help”. Yes John Lennon spoke out against war, and urged us all to “Imagine” a better world, but he also struggled with anger management issues (like assaulting female news reporters) and Heroin addiction, while being guilty of mocking handicapped and disfigured children, and being – at best – an intermittent and absentee parent to his first son Julian. It is also my strong opinion it was Lennon’s actions (and particularly his inactions) that sealed the breakup of The Beatles indefinitely.

Yet every person has a duality, it’s just that John Lennon seemed to be Ying and Yang personified and on steroids, where polar and contrary forces interconnect and in John’s case to great extremities which were clearly apparent. Good and Evil, light and darkness on an amplified scale and ever under the scrutiny of the media microscope. Lennon was a brilliant entertainer however he was vulnerable, as many have been, to great but flawed ideas for society.

As soon as the Beatles were history, John Lennon began to make history with his painfully honest and political songs. The 1970 "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band" album was a case in point. Besides the two songs exploring the loss of his mother, and one of the two most beautiful melodies to be found on any Beatles or non-Beatles record, "Love" (the other was "Oh My Love" on "Imagine ). “Imagine” was originally inspired by an instructional poem in Yoko's book Grapefruit with things like "Imagine the sky crying..." or "Imagine you're a cloud.”. She helped him write the song but was not credited for the assistance. “Imagine”, the song, was unquestionably Lennon's finest moment. Its lyrical and conceptual clarity shone sunlight of vision upon the violent world around us. It urged us to imagine a world sans property, religion, nations and urged for living in peace. It postulated an economic order in which both greed and hunger would be impossible. What he left behind truly is the utopian imagination that still exists in a million brains refusing to be silenced.

“Imagine” is a humanistic song par excellence, denying human the place they often accord themselves in the spiritual universe, and instead relegating them to their material and exquisitely beautiful home of Earth. This Lennon does to urge his fellow men and women to unite in creating a world fit to live upon, one without countries, war, religion, or private property.

His dream did not concern with building an “ideal state”. He did not claim that if you don't have religion then there will be no wars. The interpretation according me to would be his plea to forget about everything for one minute. The human mind does not stop thinking even when we are asleep. All he wanted was everyone to imagine a state of mind so simple that it can be imagined by everyone. For this purpose, he calls himself as a “dreamer” and by this anthem of peace hopes that someday all of us will join him in this dream of just imagining that we have no one to impress, no one to worship. Imagining about world peace where we can look at someone with different society and accept that social behaviour by not generalizing anyone for what they are. He wanted people to stop fighting over these topics, which make us stereotypical. He believed in humanity and not various religions specially which involved religious practices.

In the first verse, he talks of contradictories “heaven-hell” which exists in human mind. His idea is to live for the moment thus by appealing to reject the notion of rewards seeped from heaven and pains of hell from the imagination. Our mistakes should not let us down as there is no hell and there is always time to make the change that is required to make this world a better place. He sustains the idea of “living” in the world rather than “surviving”.

Rejecting the ideas of heaven-hell bring us to second verse where he appeals to the individuals to walk beyond the concept of “countries” and the idea of “religion”. The spirit of patriotism comes between the oneness of the human beings and they forget that they are all the same inside whether they are black, white or brown on the outside. This along with the various religions creates a barrier between the world members. The life should be well spent minus the advent of separating things.

Final verse talks about living equally without any sort of division of land. He sees this by removing individual possessions so that the world can be divided “equally” amongst everyone. This phrase gives an overview of how life could be like it love flowed between all the people residing and that too together. There would be no rush to acquire property as the world is open for everyone.

If everyone joined John in the dream of this song, the world would truly be as one, evolving to this state of individuality and away from the one which also brought about their fear and suffering, but once they realize their oneness with the Universe, while they are still aware of their own being, a special spiritual race will evolve.

A lot of people confuse this song with communism and that’s when they say he talks about “no possession”, “no religion”. Hippie word took up with his personal carrier when he started doing LSD and it was concluded that these hippie ideas will not help the world in any which way. Peace and a united world isn't communism - it is universal love and it is more relevant than ever. The song, in my opinion, is about freedom. Lennon isn't saying that God doesn't exist in the song, he simply is asking us to "Imagine" a place where we could be free to believe or not to believe any god or religion, and by extension, a place where we wouldn't have to worry about others imposing their own moral or religious views upon us. He also sings about a place that is free of war and poverty, a place where people are free to freely live life in peace and pursue their interests, hopes and dreams. However it is misleading to support that John Lennon supported or admired the Communist Dictatorship. The song (that claims) is about the whole world living as a commune, where no one owns property, no one has faith, and everybody gets along because there is no self-interest. Lennon is advocating communism and by standing up and saying that you love this song, you are also advocating communism. How many million people did Stalin and Mao kill in the name of communism when Lennon propagated so much about giving peace a chance? I think this song is widely misunderstood by many as a promotion of anarchy and atheism, which it is not. If you actually think about it, this song fits Anarchism a lot better. Communism still divides areas as countries. Anarchism is the complete lack of government or political system, which means only geographical areas, not politically defined areas. Anyway, that's not what this song is about anyway. This song is just asking people to think. It seems like nobody thinks anymore, everyone just accepts their life and what they are told. Just live your life, and allow others to live theirs.

What Lennon does with “Imagine” is set up an idea for a Utopian society, where we will need nothing to kill or die for. Whenever people want something really badly, some people will be willing to die for it. So what this means is that the wishes of the people have been fulfilled if there is nothing to "kill of die for". Furthermore the song does not specifically refer to individuals. If you look at the context you will find Lennon is talking about wars, not beliefs. When countries live in peace with each other nobody has to kill or die for their country. Without religion nobody has to kill or die for their religion. Thus Lennon's message in this section is actually that of peace. The line "You may say that I'm a dreamer" represents this perfectly as what it establishes is that Lennon thinks that people will think his ideas to idealistic or to perfect, thus a Utopia. One has to realise these lyrics are based on socialist utopian ideas and that they can never be living in a world without borders. There has to be some sense of personal responsibility and recognizing God as the cosmic power.

According to a popular theory floating on the internet, the Utopia already exists and for Lennon this is The United States of America. This is the nation where people pursue their ideas the way they want to, they are free to make decisions and take chances. In this process, he also raises the question as to how badly can America possibly do if it’s the idea place to live in? So he sings about the desired change that USA needs than what it is at the moment. It poses to be a capitalist threat to all the other nations of the world. Those who dare to oppose face the threat to be attacked at any moment. America at the moment is a power house concentration of all wealthy and powerful nations and rest are simply attacked or declared crazy. This song can be claimed as a human cry to show the tragedy that such an ideal state has drifted away from its principles. This song is a strong political message that is sugar coated in a beautiful melody. Lennon realized that the softer approach would bring the song to a wider audience, who hopefully would listen to his message.

Another concept that co-insides with Lennon’s Utopian idea is “Bagism”. It was his and Ono’s concept of a peaceful world. If everyone wore a bag over them, then there wouldn’t be anything to hate about them because all of them would be dressed up in the same “Bag” than any other fancy couture. Their idea of world was where no one looks at your lifestyle, the colour of your skin or your gender to judge you, just like everyone was covered with a bag. Lennon is quoted as saying this, “What’s Bagism? It’s like...a tag for what we all do, we’re all in a bag ya know, and we realised that we came from two bags, I was in this pop bag going round and round in my little clique, and she was in her little avant-garde clique going round and round, and you’re in your little tele clique and they’re in their...ya know? And we all sort of come out and look at each other every now and then, but we don’t communicate. And we all intellectualize about how there is no barrier between art, music, poetry... but we’re still all - I’m a rock and roller, he’s a poet... so we just came up with the word so you would ask us what bagism is, and we’d say WE’RE ALL IN A BAG BABY!”. This theory on “bagism” is a stepping stone to “Imagine” as it was preceded by his famous “bed-in’s” with Yoko which was basically his idea of love and peace during their honeymoon and was made public.

Critics would say that he sings “Imagine no possession” in a palatial house in the video but the crude reality is that he earned that palatial house for himself by making music over a long time. He did not commit heinous crimes neither did he believe in the capitalist ideas prevalent in Liverpool (his native place). By someone saying they are offended because it's anti-religious, they are just proving that Lennon was right in a way. They don't like the song because they think he meant harm to them, and their opinions. Cynics are of the view that this song is called “Imagine” because they know it can never be put together, just like Utopian idea. There is no question the song is radical and that he acknowledges it. Lennon himself said, “’Imagine’ is a big hit almost everywhere — anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic, but because it is sugar coated it is accepted. Now I understand what you have to do: Put your political message across with a little honey.”” Some speculate that this song contains backwards messages. With a keen ear and large imagination, you can barely make out the words "people war beside me" when reversing the line "Imagine all the people."

John's message is just to imagine this utopia, and maybe if we all work towards imagining it, it will come true. The title of this masterpiece is “Imagine”. Most of the people debating on this topic forget that. Imagine. Simple as it can get. “Imagine no possessions”, no heaven or hell, no religion, etc. Imagine it. The song is not saying this is how it should be but rather how life could be. I don't think John would have wanted us to be fussing over what it meant and contradicting one another's views however misguided or whatever one may think. That was not his point. "Imagine all the people living life in peace." Can't we all just sit back and think about what this song is saying? This is exactly why Imagine cannot come true because if we fight about little things like a song's lyrics interpretation, then what hope is there for us? Imagine is one of the best songs ever written and John Lennon truly was a man of hope and genius.

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