Above us only sky

Twenty-nine years ago, one of the greatest artists of all time was murdered (or assassinated – I’m not big on conspiracy theories, but frankly this type of thing happened too often and always to inconvenient people).

No matter how many times this song has been used and abused by the media, if you listen to it without the fashionable cynicism that so many people have bought into, it remains heartbreakingly beautiful. No-one has ever managed to talk about the ideals of peace and equality and freedom of thought in a clearer way. No book of philosophy, no political tract, no grand speech has ever achieved the beauty and perfection of Imagine.

Lennon was a real humanist: not a fanatic there-is-no-god-and-genes-are-everything type, but someone who saw and understood that what matters above everything else is the here and now, and how we treat each other. But he wasn’t just an idle idealist, and none of his songs are abstractly idealistic – not even Imagine. No, he sang to us about how we can build a better world, a world with a different economic and political system, and with different cultural and philosophical values; not a perfect world, but a world in which everyone can seek their own path, in which we do not fear gods and emperors, in which we do not worry about heaven or hell, but in which we do our best to be kind to each other today.

This is not an impossible dream. It is a dream, but it is an achievable dream. We can’t change the innate problems of being a sentient being with emotions and desires – we can’t eliminate loneliness, or jealousy, or anger – but we can build a society which allows us to live differently. We have built parts of this society before, in the many aeons of the world. We can do it again.

That’s what Imagine is about, and that’s why it’s still so powerful: because we can easily imagine this world.

What is now proved was once only imagined.
– William Blake

I hope some day you’ll join us…

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7 Comments

  1. PAK

     /  December 9, 2009

    Why would you want to eliminate anger, or even jealousy and loneliness for that matter? No emotion is intrinsically good or bad, that comes from the meaning you make of it and the actions you choose to take because of it. Anger, when it is anger directed at something real, especially is a wonderful thing, without which humanity would cease to be a fraction of its former self. If you could see hypocrisy and sycophancy winning over integrity and real work and not get angry, then these things would fester and grow into the travesties that are modern political parties, churches and what-have-you. And as they did, your better world would only slide back into the poverty and misery of ages worse still than ours. And even regardless of the social consequences, what kind of life would it be for the individual if there was nothing to ever struggle against? I know anger isn’t a central emotion in a lot of people’s lives, but is for enough that a world without it would be a worse world.

  2. Sarah

     /  December 9, 2009

    People don’t seem to understand you CAN be both an idealist and a realist.

  3. Why would you want to eliminate anger, or even jealousy and loneliness for that matter? No emotion is intrinsically good or bad, that comes from the meaning you make of it and the actions you choose to take because of it. Anger, when it is anger directed at something real, especially is a wonderful thing, without which humanity would cease to be a fraction of its former self. If you could see hypocrisy and sycophancy winning over integrity and real work and not get angry, then these things would fester and grow into the travesties that are modern political parties, churches and what-have-you. And as they did, your better world would only slide back into the poverty and misery of ages worse still than ours. And even regardless of the social consequences, what kind of life would it be for the individual if there was nothing to ever struggle against? I know anger isn’t a central emotion in a lot of people’s lives, but is for enough that a world without it would be a worse world.

    I certainly wouldn’t want to eliminate anger altogether. No, that’s a part of what makes us human. But perhaps irrational anger – this is something that it would be nice to get rid of. But even in a perfect society, it’s likely to stay – even if in diminished form.

    As for jealousy – well, I think jealousy is a bad thing, but it often proceeds from much better feelings. Would a world without jealousy be better? Quite probably. Is it likely to happen? No, because we’re human. But perhaps we can build a world where we’re not driven by jealousy on so many levels.

    Finally, loneliness – yes, I would prefer a world in which no-one was lonely for long periods of time. But it’s part of who we are, part of being intelligent, and it will stay that way. But we can build a world in which there is support for the lonely, and in which loneliness doesn’t occur for absurd reasons.

  4. JM

     /  December 9, 2009

    I know this guy. He lives as a courier in Hamburg.

  5. I know this guy. He lives as a courier in Hamburg.

    That he does, my friend. That he does.

    (This is an in-joke. And a very funny one, too.)

  6. PAK

     /  December 13, 2009

    I just listened to “Imagine” again. It really is amazing how the short snatches of it repeatedly played by the media have managed to practically re-write the song. Because it’s so over-used, no-one ever actually listens to it in its own right (like how no-one reads Shakespeare or Dickens because they’re rammed down our throats in school). And because it’s never the most obviously socialist parts of the song that are used in public, you really have to wonder how many people have actually ever heard what the song is about. I know John Lennon’s this massive cultural icon, but I’ve only just realised how little I’ve ever listened to him, and I practically live in the sixties.

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