Friday, October 12, 2012


Last Tuesday, October 9th, was John Lennon's birthday.  I celebrated by posting the "Instant Karma" video on facebook, which produced a pretty decent comment thread underneath, largely thanks to some poignant observations by my older brother.  Here you go, video first:

Ronald "Better recognize your brothers: everyone you meet."

I think Jesus said something to that effect, too. There's a reason I love this man.

Heather 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

Ronald Of course, he also sang "Imagine there's no Heaven, easy if you try, no Hell below us, above us only sky." Not THAT much like Jesus. But they did both sport beards.

Heather And sandals!

Heather Oh, and they were both Socialists

Tara One of my favorite songs and he's one of my favorite people. Thanks, Ron!

Chris Yes, he was a genius. And my favorite wife and child abandoner. Nice touch, totally cutting Julian out of his will like that.

Heather Woah!

Chris hey, I love his music. But the John Lennon "oh, he's SO AMAZING" Cult of Personality weighs on me just a bit. You could go on for a long time about the profoundly shitty things he did to friends, family, colleagues, and business partners right up to his death. As you can for almost everyone of course. But most people also haven't been given this aura of near sainthood that has enveloped Lennon's memory. Just goes to show...don't meet your heroes.

Heather You're exactly right, Chris! It's funny, I think that all the time and don't understand it. But I never knew that about him! What a shithead! Especially doing that to his son!

Chris I hope I'm not perceived as hating on John. I really admire his career, his creativity and his music. But even though he wrote a lot of beautiful lyrics, he was a flawed human being like all of us. I was only objecting to some of those (not anyone here) who wax on at length like he was some kind of mythic, god-like figure. He was not. His life often contrasted with the ideals of his music. That should not be forgotten. It shouldn't unduly detract from his legacy, but it shouldn't be forgotten.

Chris Now, Ron, please don't post anything about Muhammad Ali, or I may get expelled from Facebook.

Heather No, Chris I totally understand. On a much different level, it's how I feel about Columbus Day. People's nostalgia takes over their brain.

Jennifer I don't think you can be a poet or an artist without being personally flawed in big ways.

Ronald Big brother, I'm definitely sympathetic. I posted something about Whitney Houston when she died that got me into a flame war with a clown. Seriously, a guy who teaches clowning to theater students tried to school me on how much everybody loves Whitney, and to observe that she didn't really do much to write home about with her obvious great talent is a mean thing to do.

Trust me, it sucks when a clown is out to get you.

But yeah, people take their celebrities too damned seriously, investing way too much in them, above and beyond any real consideration of the actual work. Really, celebrity isn't even about the work; it's about the fame, which is a sort of modern day equivalent of connecting with the gods on high at Olympus. So the New York Times said "God is Dead," but that was before Jimmy Page and Robert Plant became like Zeus doing it with mortal women.

But going further, the greatness of John Lennon is that he was seemingly trying to battle his own demons with his writing and performing, that he had a strong sense of what an asshole he was and responded, ultimately, by concocting a vision of what the world would be like if we could all get past being assholes to each other. He may not have succeeded in his personal life, but the struggle, I think, was and continues to be inspiring.

That is, it's not the man so much as what he did in the face of his own imperfections. In short, you can't really understand what John Lennon was about if you don't factor in how tortured he was, which necessarily includes what a dick he was, too. I look to that for inspiration, but not as something worth worship.

For that matter, who the hell would want to hang out with Jim Morrison in real life?